All you need to know about antifreeze poisoning in dogs


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Antifreeze poisoning is a harmful and potentially lethal condition for dogs which occurs minutes after they ingest any antifreeze spilled or leaked on garage floors. Ethylene glycol is the chemical in antifreeze which gives it this toxicity. It is poisonous even in very small quantities. What makes it even more dangerous is the fact that it has a sweet taste. Animals tend to drink it if the liquid is left unattended in their presence.


There are three stages after antifreeze poisoning:

  1. Within half an hour, the dog starts drooling, vomiting, drinking water and urinating frequently, showing lethargy, walking with an uneven gait and having seizures.
  2. After 12 to 24 hours, the symptoms seem to recede. But the toxin would be silently wreaking havoc on the internal organs during this period. The rapid breathing and heart rate may escape the eye.
  3. After 36 to 72 hours, the illness manifests with renewed vigor. The dog at this stage would have massive kidney failure shown by the swollen kidneys and limited urine production. The chances of survival at this stage are slim.

That is why it is absolutely critical that treatment is begun within eight to twelve hours of poisoning. Even if it is just a doubt, it is better to rush the dog to the veterinarian than take chances.


The veterinarian will examine the dog and listen to the ownerโ€™s account of the series of events preceding the poisoning. In the meanwhile, blood, urine and sometimes vomit and stool samples are also tested to confirm the diagnosis. Ultrasound scan may also be done to see whether the liver and kidneys have swollen, a common response to antifreeze poisoning.


If detected within the first few hours, the line of treatment will be to induce vomiting or voiding to clear out all traces of the toxin before it is absorbed into the system. A drug fomepizole (also called 4-MP) or ethanol may be given in controlled quantities if poisoning is detected within eight to twelve hours. It would work by blocking the metabolism of the toxin into the body. Simultaneously, intravenous injections will be given to the dog to prevent dehydration and bring up the pH of the body.However, if there is excess urea in the blood and very less urine production, it generally indicates liver failure and that the toxin has more or less been completely absorbed. So treatment is given focusing on the symptoms. Peritonial dialysis may be used to remove the wastes body. Recovery at this stage would span over a couple of weeks.The severity of this condition should never be underestimated. The odds of fatality after antifreeze poisoning are very high. So prevention is indeed better than a cure.

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