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What should I do if my dog drinks antifreeze?

What should I do if my dog drinks antifreeze?

Antifreeze is a common hazard for dogs. It takes as little as 5 tablespoons of antifreeze to kill a medium sized dog. Our Greensboro emergency vets describe the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning, and what you should do if your dog has swallowed antifreeze.

What is antifreeze poisoning?

Sadly, many dogs and cats die each year from antifreeze poisoning. A lethal dose of antifreeze can be ingested by your dog just from them licking a few drops up off of your driveway after it has dripped from your car’s radiator. 

The extremely toxic chemical in antifreeze is ethylene glycol, and dogs are able consume a lot of it before its unpleasant aftertaste starts to take effect. Unfortunately for many dogs, by the time the aftertaste hits them it’s too late. It takes less than three ounces (5 tbsp) of this liquid to cause fatal damage to the liver, kidneys, and brain of a medium sized dog.

The toxic ingredient ethylene glycol is found in other products such as hydraulic brake fluids, as well as antifreeze. Pet parents need to be extra cautious when using these chemicals in areas where pets have access. In colder winter months some home owners will add antifreeze to their toilet bowl to protect their pipes from freezing in the winter. It's important to be aware of this practice if you are visiting other homes with your dog, since many dogs enjoy sneaking a drink from the toilet bowl.

What are symptoms of antifreeze poisoning?

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning will largely depend upon the time when your dog ingested the poison. Soon after ingestion your dog may seem lethargic, stagger or experience seizures. You may also notice that your dog begins drinking an unusually large quantity of water, urinates frequently in large amounts or begins vomitting.

It is not unusual for dogs to appear to begin feeling better a few hours after ingestion, however in a day or two as their kidneys begin to fail their health will very rapidly decline. Typical signs of kidney failure in dogs include depression, vomiting, and sharply decreased amounts of urine. 

If you notice your dog consuming antifreeze or displaying any of the following signs or symptoms of antifreeze poisoning, contact your vet immediately, or contact your closest emergency vet for prompt treatment. It is essential to begin treatment for antifreeze poisoning as soon after ingestion as possible in order to help save your pet's life. The sooner that treatment begins, the greater the chance of survival for your dog.  Sadly, once kidney failure develops the chances of your pet recovering are very slim.

Common signs and symptoms of antifreeze (ethylene glycol) poisoning in dogs include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Fainting
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Weakness
  • Excessive urination
  • Coma
If your dog has consumed antifreeze urgent veterinary care is required! Contact your primary care veterinarian immediately or call the emergency veterinary clinic nearest you!

How will my vet diagnose antifreeze poisoning?

Your vet, or the emergency vet, will require a detailed history regarding what symptoms your dog has and when symptoms began, or when you witnessed your dog ingesting the antifreeze and how much you think they may have ingested.

Tests to diagnose antifreeze poisoning in dogs may include a stool test or vomit test (if a sample is available), and complete a urinalysis and chemical blood profile. These tests will help your vet to diagnose the poisoning and get treatment started as quickly as possible. Your dog's treatment will be based on the medical history you supplied to the vet, so providing as much detail as possible is the key to getting the best treatment possible for your dog.

How is antifreeze poisoning treated in dogs?

Antifreeze poisoning can quickly become fatal! Immediate first aid needs to be administered with extreme caution. Pet parents should only induce vomiting if absolutely positive that the dog has ingested antifreeze. We strongly recommend calling your veterinarian before inducing vomiting, since this can be dangerous in some instances of poisoning as the esophagus can be seriously damaged by some toxic substances.

How do I induce vomiting if my dog has ingested antifreeze?

A hydrogen peroxide solution can be used to induce vomiting in dogs that are known to have consumed antifreeze. However, only induce vomiting if the poisoning has occurred in the previous two hours.

  • Give one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to your dog for every five pounds of their body weight, with a maximum of three teaspoons at one time. The teaspoons should be spaced 10 minutes apart.

If your dog has consumed antifreeze and has already vomited, do not try to induce more vomiting. If vomiting does not occur after your dog has had three doses of hydrogen peroxide, seek immediate veterinary attention.

Do not induce vomiting if your dog is having problems breathing, is in serious shock or distress, or is unconscious. Whether or not your dog vomits, it is essential to seek immediate veterinary care in order for antidotes to be administered which could save your pet's life.

Antidotes may include activated charcoal, which will stop further absorption of the ethylene glycol. 4-methylpyrazole can also be used to effectively treat antifreeze poisoning if given quickly enough after your dog has ingested it. There is still a possibility of kidney failure, so your dog may need to be in intensive care.

Dogs who have consumed antifreeze in very small amounts and don't receive an antidote may survive initially, but will develop kidney failure within days of ingestion. Kidney damage kills many dogs who have been poisoned by antifreeze.

How can I prevent antifreeze poisoning?

Antifreeze can do devastating damage to your dog’s system, but poisoning is preventable by exercising caution when using toxic substances. Here are some steps to take today:

  • Inspect your car’s radiator on a regular basis, and have leaks repaired immediately.
  • Propylene glycol is safe, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Look for antifreeze with this ingredient, which can keep your pet safer from ingesting ethylene glycol.
  • Do not allow your dog to wander where they may have easy access to antifreeze, such as in driveways, garages, streets, etc.
  • Dispose of used antifreeze containers properly.
  • Close antifreeze containers tightly, and keep them out of reach of your dog.
  • Ensure any antifreeze spills are immediately and thoroughly cleaned.

Is your dog is displaying symptoms of antifreeze poisoning? Contact your primary care veterinarian immediately for advice, or our emergency vets at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Greensboro. Our vets are available at any time that you are unable to reach your primary care veterinarian - late nights, weekends or holidays - we are here to help.

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