Dogs Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs this Winter

Published on December 3rd, 2014 | by Debbie Martin


Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs this Winter

Winter poses many hazards for household pets, not least of which are the dangers of antifreeze poisoning in dogs. In many cases, these dangers surround things that dogs eat. For example, the season brings a variety of poisonous plants, which dogs can unwittingly munch on. Fortunately, these plants often taste bad and so discourage animals from eating too much of them.


The worst danger, however, is anti-freeze. Antifreeze is incredibly poisonous. If a dog should ingest it, then irreversible kidney damage will result within hours. Antifreeze poisoning is a leading cause of death in dogs during the winter-time. The substance is particularly dangerous to animals because of its sweetness, which tempts them into drinking it when they encounter puddles of it in the street, and licking it off their paws after they have walked through it.

Why is anti-freeze so sweet?

That such a deadly substance should taste so delicious may seem perverse. The sweetness of the substance is caused by one of its components: an alcohol derivative, known as ethylene glycol.  Ethylene glycol has an extremely low freezing point, which is extremely useful in this application.  For dogs and other pets, however, it is very dangerous.

What can I do to prevent my dog from drinking anti-freeze?

Many dog owners will be horrified to learn of this – and will have some justification at being so. There are several options available, which will help to reduce the chance of your dog ever coming into contact with this deadly substance

Be vigilant

The first step you can take is to be vigilant. Do not allow your dog to drink from puddles near cars while you are taking them out for a walk. Do not allow them to venture where anti-freeze might feasibly spill, such as gutters and beneath parked cars so they do not get it on their paws. Make sure that they get a drink before taking them out for a walk, in order to reduce the temptation such puddles might create.

You should ensure that any anti-freeze kept in your house is stored in a sealed container somewhere well beyond the reach of your dog. Once you have finished with a bottle of anti-freeze, then make sure that is properly disposed of. Wild animals and vermin will often raid bins; if they find a bottle of sweet-tasting liquid, they may be tempted to lick the inside clean.

It would also be prudent to occasionally inspect your car radiator for signs that it is leaking anti-freeze. Leaks are usually evidenced by puddles of greenish-blue liquid forming beneath your car.  Should you notice such a puddle, then you should be sure to get the leak repaired as soon as is convenient and to keep your dog well away from the car in the meantime until the spill is gone.

Anti-freeze is mostly used in cars, but not exclusively. Owners of ornamental fountains are tempted to use it in order to keep the water flowing during the winter. Obviously, this practice is incredibly perilous for any animal that might be tempted to drinking from it. Owners of dogs should therefore avoid this practice – as should anyone whose garden might attract other people’s pets.

Shop for alternatives

Ethlyene glycol is not universally present in anti-freeze; there are varieties available which do not contain it at all. Alternatives make use of propylene glycol instead. This is another alcohol derivative which performs much the same task. The only differences are toxicity and price; it is more expensive than normal anti-freeze but the toxicity of the substance is much reduced. It is even used as an ingredient in some brands of children’s cough medicine.

What should I do if my dog has drank anti-freeze?

If you suspect that your dog has drank anti-freeze, then you should immediately take them to a vet. The first twelve hours are absolutely critical, as it is during this period that the substance will form deadly crystals in your dog’s kidneys.

The tell-tale signs of anti-freeze poisoning are broadly similar to those of being drunk (which is unsurprising, as the active ingredient is alcoholic). The classic symptoms are also unpleasant ones.  Your dog may move in a strange, stumbling manner. They may vomit, or soil themselves. They may even faint. Should any of these symptoms arise, it is vital that prompt action is taken.

Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, dogs who have ingested antifreeze will not survive. For the remainder, the vet will induce vomiting, if your dog has not yet vomited of their own accord.  Following that, your dog’s stomach may be washed, probably with activated charcoal or some other cleansing agent.

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About the Author

Debbie has worked for Beeston Animal Health for a number of years and although generally involved with the marketing these days she has a great deal of knowledge on many things to do with small animals.

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