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How to Prevent Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

By Colleen Williams
January 20, 2018 • 3 min. read
dog lying under car

Last updated November 4, lying under car

Whether you’re performing an annual tune-up or just adding more windshield wiper fluid, knowing that automotive fluids can be harmful to dogs and cats is important. Accidental ingestion or exposure can lead to painful side effects and even fatal poisoning, so prevention is key: don’t let your pets have access to any mechanical fluids that you might keep in your garage. Furthermore – know the symptoms of a pet who has been poisoned! Recognizing the signs of poisoning is an important part of being a pet parent.

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

The most common car fluids that dogs regularly come into contact with is antifreeze. Poisoning can cause multi-system organ failure and lead to death if not recognized and treated early. The Humane Society Legislative Fund estimates that at least 10,000 pets are poisoned each year by antifreeze containing ethylene glycol.

Ethylene glycol has a sweet smell and taste that makes it attractive to animals as well as children. Pets may find it leaking onto a garage floor and be tempted to lap it up. Symptoms include:

  • “Drunken” behavior or wobbly movements
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures, convulsions, and tremors
  • Fainting
  • Coma
  • Excessive urination

Diagnosis and Treatment of Poisoning

First, if you believe your dog has ingested a poison like antifreeze, it is absolutely imperative to see a veterinarian. You do not have a ton of time to save your pet’s life, so call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661; they will tell you if you should (and how to) induce emergency vomiting in your pet. Then get to a vet. Remember – do not give your pet medications without first consulting a vet or certified hotline.

The veterinarian will require a detailed medical history and a background of everything your dog came into contact with that day. Full blood work as well as a urinalysis will be performed to test for chemicals, as well as a vomit or stool sample test if possible.

Veterinary treatment of poisoning includes administering antidotes, charcoal or inducing vomiting. Intensive care is sometimes required to prevent kidney failure. Expect an IV and observation period.

Cost of Poisoning Veterinary Care

The total costs for diagnosis and treatment of poisoning run at an average of $500. Pet insurance can cover up to 90% of this bill, depending on your type of plan and if you are past the customary waiting period.

Preventing Foreign Fluid Poisoning

The easiest and most important part of avoiding antifreeze poisoning in dogs and cats is to simply keep fluids out of your pet’s reach. Store antifreeze and other car engine fluids in cabinets or high shelves, and keep them securely closed in a container to thwart curious paws in places where they shouldn’t be. When you do take out these fluids, make sure there are no animals around and clean up any spills or leaks.

If you are using antifreeze in toilet bowls, use child locks to keep the toilet lid down, or make sure bathroom doors are securely closed. Providing your pet with a bowl of water can also keep them from seeking a drink in the toilet! Always keep an eye on your pet for any suspicious or unusual behaviors that last longer than 48 hours.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical diagnosis, condition, or treatment options.

Sometimes we can’t prevent accidents or illnesses, which is where pet insurance comes in. The Healthy Paws plan covers poison hotline charges, as well as those emergency vet visits should the unthinkable happen. Research our dog and cat insurance, and start by getting a free quote today.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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