Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

icon May 23, 2024

Antifreeze poisoning in dogs is a serious and potentially fatal condition that requires immediate attention. Understanding the risks, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for dog owners to protect their pets from this dangerous substance. This article explores antifreeze toxicity in dogs, how antifreeze affects them, signs and symptoms of poisoning, and what to do if you suspect your dog has ingested antifreeze.

Antifreeze Toxicity in Dogs

Antifreeze, commonly used in vehicles to prevent engine coolant from freezing or overheating, contains ethylene glycol, a highly toxic chemical to dogs. Even a small amount can cause severe, often fatal, poisoning. Ethylene glycol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and metabolized in the liver to toxic metabolites that cause metabolic acidosis, kidney failure, and central nervous system damage.

Will Antifreeze Kill a Dog?

Unfortunately, antifreeze can indeed kill a dog. The lethal dose of ethylene glycol for dogs is approximately 4.4-6.6 milliliters per kilogram of body weight. This means that even a small amount of antifreeze can be deadly. Once ingested, the toxic effects can progress quickly, and without prompt veterinary intervention, the chances of survival are slim.

What Attracts Animals to Antifreeze?

One of the reasons antifreeze is so dangerous to dogs is its sweet taste, which makes it appealing to them. Ethylene glycol has a naturally sweet flavor, and dogs, being curious creatures, might lick up spilled antifreeze or drink it from containers left within their reach. The sweet taste masks the deadly nature of the substance, leading to accidental ingestion.

What Does Antifreeze Do to Dogs?

Once ingested, ethylene glycol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. It is metabolized by the liver into several toxic compounds, including glycolic acid and oxalic acid. These metabolites cause severe metabolic acidosis, damaging the kidneys and other organs. The kidneys, in particular, are highly susceptible to damage, leading to acute kidney failure, which is often irreversible.

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

Recognizing the signs of antifreeze poisoning is critical for timely intervention. The symptoms can be divided into three stages:

Stage 1: Initial Symptoms (30 minutes to 12 hours post-ingestion)

  • - Vomiting
  • - Uncoordinated movements (ataxia)
  • - Depression or lethargy
  • - Drooling
  • - Seizures (in severe cases)
  • - Increased thirst and urination


Stage 2: Apparent Recovery (12 to 24 hours post-ingestion)

During this stage, symptoms may temporarily subside, leading owners to believe their dog is recovering. However, this is a dangerous period as the toxic metabolites continue to damage the internal organs, particularly the kidneys.


Stage 3: Acute Kidney Failure (24 to 72 hours post-ingestion)

  • - Severe lethargy
  • - Vomiting
  • - Diarrhea
  • - Loss of appetite
  • - Weakness
  • - Seizures
  • - Coma
  • - Decreased urination or complete absence of urination (anuria)

How Much Antifreeze Will Hurt a Dog?

The amount of antifreeze needed to cause poisoning varies with the size of the dog. For a small dog, as little as a teaspoon can be lethal. The general lethal dose is around 4.4-6.6 milliliters per kilogram of body weight. Larger dogs can tolerate slightly more, but any ingestion should be considered an emergency.

Home Remedies for Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

If you suspect your dog has ingested antifreeze, it is critical to seek immediate veterinary care. There are no reliable home remedies for antifreeze poisoning, and delaying professional treatment can be fatal. However, if you cannot get to a vet immediately, inducing vomiting may help to expel some of the ingested antifreeze, but this should only be done under the guidance of a veterinarian or a poison control center. Do not induce vomiting if your dog is unconscious, having seizures, or showing signs of severe distress.

Veterinary Treatment for Antifreeze Poisoning

Veterinary intervention is essential for treating antifreeze poisoning. The primary treatment involves:

1. Inducing Vomiting:
If the ingestion was recent, the vet might induce vomiting to remove the antifreeze from the stomach.

2. Activated Charcoal:
To bind any remaining toxin in the gastrointestinal tract.

3. Intravenous Fluids:
To support kidney function and correct metabolic acidosis.

4. Antidotes:
Fomepizole or ethanol can inhibit the metabolism of ethylene glycol to its toxic metabolites.

5. Supportive Care:
Monitoring and supporting vital functions, including renal support, as the kidneys are often severely affected.

Preventing Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

Prevention is the best approach to protect your dog from antifreeze poisoning. Here are some tips:

Proper Storage:
Always store antifreeze in tightly sealed containers and keep them out of reach of pets.

Clean Spills Immediately:
If antifreeze spills, clean it up promptly and thoroughly to prevent access.

Use Pet-Safe Antifreeze:
Consider using antifreeze products that contain propylene glycol, which is less toxic to pets.

Educate Family Members:
Ensure everyone in the household is aware of the dangers of antifreeze and the importance of keeping it away from pets.


Antifreeze poisoning in dogs is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention. Understanding the risks, symptoms, and treatment options can help you act quickly to save your dog's life. Always store antifreeze securely, clean up spills promptly, and consider using pet-safe alternatives to reduce the risk of accidental poisoning. By being vigilant and informed, you can protect your furry friend from the dangers of antifreeze.

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