Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Dogs & Antifreeze: Should I Go To the Pet ER?

Dogs & Antifreeze: Should I Go To the Pet ER?

Antifreeze is a severe hazard to dogs and can cause fatal damage to their system, even if they only ingest a small amount. Here, our St. Louis vets list symptoms of antifreeze poisoning, and what you should do if your dog has consumed any.

Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

It's a tragic fact that dogs and antifreeze do not mix; antifreeze poisoning kills many pets every year. Antifreeze is a common household hazard to dogs, and poisoning can happen as easily as your dog licking a few drops of this liquid from your driveway after it has dripped or leaked from your car. 

Ethylene glycol is the lethal chemical in antifreeze, and dogs can unfortunately consume a lot of it before its aftertaste begins to take effect. However, it's too late by then; a medium-sized dog would only have to ingest three ounces (or 88ml) of this liquid for fatal damage to their system, including the brain, kidneys, and liver, to occur. 

Ethylene glycol is also used in hydraulic brake fluids. Homeowners will sometimes add antifreeze to their toilet bowls to protect their pipes for the winter, so keep this in mind if you are visiting other homes with your dog - keep them from drinking from the toilet. 

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning 

Common symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in dogs include:

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

Diagnosing Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

If your dog does have antifreeze poisoning, you'll need to bring your pup in for a physical exam right away. Your vet will ask which symptoms you've been noticing and how the poisoning may have occurred. 

Your veterinarian will use diagnostic testing to analyze your pet's stool or vomit, if possible. A urinalysis and chemical blood profile will also be completed to help diagnose the poisoning and expedite treatment. Treatment will be based on your dog's medical history as detailed in your conversations with the vet, so you'll need to be as thorough as possible here. 

Treating Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

We sometimes receive calls from panicked pet owners asking, "My dog drank antifreeze. What do I do?"

Since antifreeze poisoning can be fatal, you'll need to be extremely careful about administering immediate first aid. 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. If vomiting does not occur after your dog has had three doses of hydrogen peroxide, seek emergency veterinary care.

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 kills many dogs who have been poisoned by antifreeze.

Preventing Antifreeze Poisoning

While antifreeze can do devastating damage to your dog’s system, poisoning is preventable. Here are some steps to take today:

  • Close antifreeze containers tightly, and keep them out of reach of your dog’s curious nose.
  • 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 regularly, and have leaks repaired immediately.
  • 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 people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Is your dog displaying signs of antifreeze poisoning? Contact our veterinary team in St. Louis right away for emergency care.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Animal Emergency Clinic is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from St. Louis and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

Contact Us