Ethylene Glycol, commonly known as antifreeze, is a chemical found in motor vehicle fluids such as windshield wiper fluid, radiator coolant, brake fluid, and motor oil. Ethylene Glycol can also be found in snow globes and some wood working products.
The sweet taste of this toxin makes it attractive to curious cats and dogs. Pets who have ingested antifreeze will typically exhibit signs within 1-2 hours, with the initial sign being nausea and vomiting. As the toxin is absorbed into the body, symptoms of the toxin include ataxia (walking as if drunk), increased thirst, and weakness/lethargy.
This toxin can cause a “fake resolution of signs” where they seem to feel better, but the toxin is continuing to cause internal damage.
After about 12 – 24 hours after ingestion, the toxin begins to damage the kidneys and neurologic system. This can result in decreased urine production, renal failure, seizures, and coma. The goal in treatment is to give the antidote as soon as possible, as there is a fairly small window of time after ingestion where the antidote will be most effective. The prognosis is best if the antidote and supportive treatment is given within a 3 to 6 hours post-ingestion. Cats are more sensitive than dogs and will do best if treated within 3 hours.
With immediate access to treatment, the prognosis is often very good. However, the longer it takes to get treatment, and/or once signs of kidney or neurologic damage are seen, the prognosis becomes more guarded and more advanced treatment such as dialysis may be required.
If you are concerned that your pet may have ingested antifreeze, please call us immediately at (720) 699-7766, or come right in.
For a list of household toxins, visit our 24/7 Emergency Service page.