Antifreeze Poisoning

Posted on June 12, 2015

Antifreeze or ethylene glycol can cause serious kidney failure when ingested by a cat or dog.  Only a small amount of the liquid is necessary to be fatal.   It is a sweet tasting fluid that is in products such as; radiator fluids, paints, cleaning products and photo-developing.  Symptoms can occur in as little as thirty minutes, but could take as long as twelve hours.  Signs of poisoning may include vomiting, incoordination, sleepiness, drunken gait, excessive thirst, excessive urination, or dullness.  Even though the symptoms may diminish, a pet can still be in danger of kidney failure.

Antifreeze has been developed containing the less poisonous propylene glycol rather than the more poisonous ethylene glycol.

A specific blood test can be performed to check for ethylene glycol or other abnormalities in the blood.  A veterinarian can also check kidney functions.  As a result of the poisoning, the body may produce crystals, calcium oxalate that present in the urine, the body’s way to try and rid the toxin.  Potassium in the blood can be elevated to levels that the heartbeat will stop.

A veterinarian may try to make a pet vomit if within a few hours of ingestion.  Activated charcoal can bind ethylene glycol that has not been absorbed from the intestines.  Most poisoned dogs and cats absorb the poison too rapidly for charcoal to work.

A veterinarian can give an antidote called Antizol-Vet, which eliminates ethylene glycol through urine.  Veterinarians generally try to give it to dogs within the first six hours and before kidney failure develops.  Cats are more susceptible to the antifreeze and develop kidney failure within 3 hours.  If Antizol-Vet is not available for a cat, ethanol or drinking alcohol, such as vodka can be used.

If kidney failure has developed, a veterinarian can administer intravenous fluids; give diuretics or drugs for stomach ulcers, and other treatment that’s appropriate for a pet.

When kidney failure persists, peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis, a laborious and expensive treatment can be used.  However, once kidney failure is in progress, the prognosis is generally poor.  Treatment results depend on the amount ingested and the speed of treatment.  If the kidney does not heal, it is possible that transplantation may be performed.