Antifreeze is a common and deadly hazard for dogs, as it takes only a tiny amount of this potent chemical to cause fatal damage to a dog's internal organs. Our Boulder and Westminster vets describe symptoms of antifreeze poisoning, and what you should do if you see your dog consuming it.

Antifreeze & Dogs

Tragically, large numbers of 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 has dripped from your car’s 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, homeowners 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.

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

Diagnosing 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.

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.

Treatment for Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs 

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.

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 ethylene glycol. 4-methyl pyrazole 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 is a primary cause of death in dogs who have been poisoned by antifreeze.

How To Prevent Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

While antifreeze can do devastating damage to your dog’s system, poisoning is preventable. Here are a few tips to help prevent your dog from drinking antifreeze:

  • 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.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you need urgent emergency veterinary care in the Boulder or Westminster areas contact our Boulder and Northside Emergency Pet Clinics emergency vets  right away. Our experienced team is here to help your pet when they need us most.