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What should I do if my dog drinks antifreeze?

Antifreeze is a common hazard for dogs, as it takes a very little amount to cause fatal damage to their systems. Our Mechanicsburg vets describe symptoms of antifreeze poisoning, and what you should do if you discover your dog consuming antifreeze.

What is antifreeze poisoning?

Tragically, many pets die each year from antifreeze poisoning - a common hazard for dogs. It can happen as easily as your dog licking a few drops of this from your driveway after it’s dripped from your car’s radiator.

The fatal component in antifreeze is ethylene glycol, and dogs can ingest a large amount of it before the aftertaste takes effect. But it's too late; it only takes three ounces (or 88 ml) of this liquid to poison a medium-sized dog and inflict severe damage to their system, including the kidneys, brain, and liver.

Ethylene glycol is also used in hydraulic brake fluids. Sometimes, home owners will add antifreeze to their toilet bowl to protect their pipes for the winter, so beware of this if you are visiting other homes with your pet.

What are symptoms of antifreeze poisoning?

Here are some common symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in dogs:

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

How will my vet diagnose antifreeze poisoning?

If your dog has antifreeze poisoning, you will need to bring your pet in for a physical exam. Your vet will ask about which symptoms you’ve been noticing and how the poisoning may have happened.

If possible, we will examine their stool or vomit, as well as perform a urinalysis and chemical blood profile. These tests can assist the veterinarian in determining the cause of the poisoning and expediting treatment. This treatment will be based on your dog's medical history as told to the vet, so be as detailed as possible.

How is antifreeze poisoning treated?

Because antifreeze poisoning can be lethal, emergency first aid must be delivered with utmost caution. Only induce vomiting if you are certain that your dog has consumed antifreeze. We recommend contacting your veterinarian before producing vomiting in some cases of poisoning since some toxins might gravely injure the esophagus.

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.

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 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.

Dogs who have consumed antifreeze in very small amounts may survive, 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?

While antifreeze can do devastating damage to your dog’s system, poisoning is preventable. 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.

Is your dog is displaying symptoms of antifreeze poisoning? Contact your primary care veterinarian immediately for advice, or our emergency vets at Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center in Mechanicsburg. Our vets are available at any time that you are unable to reach your primary care veterinarian. Nights, weekends, or holidays, we are here to help.

Walk-in Patients Welcome

At Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center you never need an appointment to access our full complement of emergency services. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

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