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Antifreeze Poisoning In Cats & Dogs – Now Even Scarier

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Updated: September 17, 2020

Update on Antifreeze!

With the cooler weather approaching, I want to take a moment to share an important update within the veterinary world and remind you of a common “cooler weather” pet poison.

Is your pet at risk?

  • Do you change your car's fluids at home?
  • Do you have a leaky car that drips on the pavement?
  • Do your pets have access to your driveway or garage?
  • Is your cat an outdoor cat and roams the neighborhood?
  • Does your dog roam your neighborhood?

If you answered "yes" to any one of these questions then please take note. The poison I’m talking about is antifreeze — specifically the ethylene glycol based ones (which includes most of them). It is vitally important that all cat and dog owners are aware of this very common danger to their pets.

Just a lick or two of antifreeze off a driveway, garage floor, or their paw can be enough to sicken, or even kill a cat or dog!

We met someone recently who, as a young man working on his car in his garage, accidentally poisoned his dog. He didn't realize the mess on the floor, car-antifreeze-spill.pngthat was made from the dripping antifreeze, was toxic to dogs (and cats). His dog licked a bit of it and he unfortunately died. This is now many years, even decades, later and this still haunts him. He wishes he would've known. 

Read this brief article to learn more about antifreeze toxicity in cats and dogs, how to recognize if your pet's been poisoned, and how long you have to get them to a vet.

UPDATE FROM THE VETERINARY WORLD: The update is how we vets are able to treat animals with antifreeze toxicity. Earlier this year, the manufacturer of the preferred antidote (remedy for the poison) for treating ethylene glycol poisoning in cats and dogs asked the FDA to pull their approval for the drug — called fomepizole (a.k.a. 4-MP) — because they have discontinued production of the drug. There is still another initial treatment for these cases, but that one (IV ethanol) has its own set of significant potential side effects and complications.

The sheer potency of ethylene glycol as a poison in cats and dogs, along with this change in available first line treatment options, should hopefully encourage you to:

  1. Purchase and use a pet-safer antifreeze (see options below)

  2. Ask your car maintenance facility what they use to top up your engine and insist on a pet-safer option

  3. And also, encourage your friends, neighbors, and family to switch from an ethylene glycol based antifreeze to a pet-safer* propylene glycol based one. Here are some options:
  • LowTox antifreeze by Prestone
  • Low Toxicity antifreeze by Amsoil
  • Sierra antifreeze by Peak

*Note that while propylene glycol based antifreezes are indeed pet safer, they are by no means pet safe. Caution is still needed, but the risk associated with propylene glycol is less.

Topics: Antifreeze, Winter pet hazards

Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

Please share your experiences and stories, your opinions and feedback about this blog, or what you've learned that you'd like to share with others.