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Antifreeze & Dogs: Should I Go to the Pet ER?

Antifreeze & Dogs: Should I Go to the Pet ER?

Antifreeze is a readily available substance in any home that has a car. This means that pet owners should be diligent in protecting their dogs from the potentially fatal poisoning that could occur with ingestion. Our Lacey vets share the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning and the steps you should take if poisoning does happen.

My Dog Drank Antifreeze, What Do I Do?

Antifreeze poisoning is a common occurrence among dogs and unfortunately also frequently ends in tragedy as many dogs die. You may wonder how your dog could even get into antifreeze. Your dog can easily lick some up off of the driveway after it has dripped from your radiator.

The lethal chemical in antifreeze is ethylene glycol, and dogs can consume a lot of it before its aftertaste starts to take effect. But by then, it’s too late; it only takes less than three ounces (or 88 ml) of this liquid to poison a medium-sized dog and cause fatal damage to their system, including the kidneys, brain and liver.

Ethylene glycol is also used in hydraulic brake fluids. Sometimes, there is also the risk of your dog drinking out of a toilet bowl which the owner has added antifreeze to in order to prevent the pipes from freezing in the winter. So be extra cautious when in other homes.

What are the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning?

Some of the most common symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in dogs include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Fainting
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Weakness
  • Excessive urination
  • Coma

What are the methods of diagnosing antifreeze poisoning?

If your dog shows any of the above signs of antifreeze poisoning you will need to bring them to your primary vet or an emergency clinic as soon as possible to have them conduct a full exam. Your vet will ask about which symptoms you’ve been noticing and how the poisoning may have happened.

We will test their stool or vomit if possible, and complete a urinalysis and chemical blood profile. These tests can help the veterinarian to diagnose the poisoning and expedite treatment. This treatment will be based on your dog’s medical history as recounted to the vet, so you will need to be as thorough here as possible.

How will the vet treat antifreeze poisoning?

Because antifreeze poisoning can easily be fatal, immediate first aid needs to be administered extremely carefully. Only induce vomiting if you are positive your dog has ingested antifreeze. We 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 substances.

A simple hydrogen peroxide solution can be used to do this - only if the poisoning has occurred in the previous two hours. Give one teaspoon for every five pounds of body weight, with a maximum of three teaspoons at one time. The teaspoons should be spaced 10 minutes apart. 

Only do this under the direct supervision of a vet.

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

Vomiting should also not be induced if your dog is having problems breathing, is in serious shock or distress, or is unconscious. Also, whether he vomits or not, your dog must be immediately rushed to your vet, who can safely administer antidotes.

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.

Kidney failure is a common occurrence in dogs that have consumed antifreeze. Kidney damage kills many dogs who have been poisoned by antifreeze.

What are some ways to prevent antifreeze dog poisoning?

Dogs and Antifreeze are never a good mix as they can cause irreparable damage to your dog and their organs. Luckily, this concern can be avoided. Here are some steps to take today:

  • 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.
  • Inspect your car’s radiator on a regular basis, and have leaks repaired immediately.
  • Close antifreeze containers tightly, and keep them out of reach of your dog’s curious nose.
  • Ensure any antifreeze spills are immediately and thoroughly cleaned.
  • Dispose of used antifreeze containers properly.
Did you witness your dog drink antifreeze or are they displaying the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning? Contact your primary care veterinarian immediately for advice, or our emergency vets in Lacey.

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At Olympia Pet Emergency, you can always access our full complement of emergency services without an appointment. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

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