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My Dog Drank Antifreeze Should I Go to the Pet ER?

Antifreeze is a frequently encountered hazard for dogs, and even if only a small amount is consumed, it can cause fatal damage to their system. In this article, our vets Portland explain the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning and guide the actions you should take if your dog has ingested it.

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 has dripped from your car.

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 bowls 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:

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

Diagnosing Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

If you suspect your dog has antifreeze poisoning, it is important to take it for a physical exam. During the exam, your veterinarian will ask you about the symptoms your dog has been experiencing and how the poisoning may have occurred. 

To diagnose the poisoning, the vet will use diagnostic testing to analyze your dog's stool or vomit (if possible), complete a urinalysis, and create a chemical blood profile. These tests can help your vet diagnose the condition and begin treatment quickly. 

It is important to provide your vet with a comprehensive medical history of your dog, as this will help them determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

Treating Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

Antifreeze poisoning can be fatal, so immediate first aid must be given carefully. Induce vomiting only if you are sure your dog has ingested antifreeze. It is advisable to call your veterinarian before inducing vomiting, as it can be dangerous in some cases of poisoning where certain substances can severely damage the esophagus.

A simple solution of hydrogen peroxide can be used for inducing vomiting, but only if the poisoning occurred in the last two hours. Administer one teaspoon per five pounds of the dog's 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 attempt to induce more vomiting. If your dog has had three doses of hydrogen peroxide and has not vomited, seek emergency veterinary care.

Do not induce vomiting if your dog is experiencing breathing difficulties, severe shock or distress, or is unconscious. Regardless of whether your dog vomits or not, it is crucial to take your dog immediately to the vet, who can safely administer antidotes.

Activated charcoal can be used as an antidote to stop further absorption of ethylene glycol. 4-methyl pyrazole can also effectively treat antifreeze poisoning if given quickly enough after ingestion. However, there is still a possibility of kidney failure, and your dog may need to be in intensive care.

Dogs that have consumed antifreeze in small amounts may survive, but they will develop kidney failure within days of ingestion. Kidney damage is the cause of death for many dogs that have been poisoned by antifreeze.

Preventing Antifreeze Poisoning

Although antifreeze can cause severe damage to your dog's system, poisoning can be prevented. Here are some steps you can take today:

    • Close antifreeze containers tightly, and keep them out of reach of your dog’s curious nose.
    • According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, propylene glycol is safe. Look for antifreeze with this ingredient, which can prevent your pet from ingesting ethylene glycol.
    • Do not allow your dog to wander into areas where it may have easy access to antifreeze, such as 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.

Is your dog showing signs of antifreeze poisoning? Contact our Portland vets to get your pup back on their feet.

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