Buddy & Porky’s Pet Health: Antifreeze

Dear Porky & Buddy,

I just heard that antifreeze can be very dangerous to pets if they drink it or even lick up a spill off the garage floor. Is that true? I was going to ask why a pet would be interested in the stuff, but then I thought about some of the other weird things that Buster, my black lab, will try to eat (you don’t want to know the details). So anyway, if it’s true, are there any antifreeze products that are safer than others? What should I do? Obviously, I need to use antifreeze.


Dear Lynn,

Yes it’s that time of year again; well actually it’s been that time for awhile now. And in fact, antifreeze poisoning in pets occurs all year long, as we need it in our cars in the summer just as much.

According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, thousands of pets are exposed to antifreeze each year. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, a colorless and odorless alcohol known for its attractive sweet taste. Pets typically lick it up off garage floors or driveways when it has leaked out for some reason or has been spilled. Even small amounts have deadly consequences—one teaspoon of ethylene glycol can be fatal to a 10-pound cat, while one to two tablespoons can kill a 10-pound dog.

The symptoms of antifreeze poisoning vary depending on how much time has passed and how much the your pet has consumed. At first the animal may act wobbly and unsteady, and develop nausea and increased thirst. As time passes, there are signs of kidney failure, such as lack of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, and eventually failure to produce urine. The best chance for survival is starting aggressive treatment within the first four to twelve hours of ingestion. Once signs of kidney problems develop, the likelihood for recovery is low.

But prevention is the best option. Store your antifreeze in a secure cabinet and monitor your car to make sure radiator hoses aren’t leaking. When flushing or refilling radiators, keep Buster inside and immediately clean up any spills.

“Pet safe” antifreeze products do exist, and they usually contain propylene glycol, which is less toxic than ethylene glycol but can still cause problems. They work, are a little more expensive, and there is no reason not to use them, but you still have to be careful.

If you suspect your pet has ingested something poisonous, please contact your vet immediately.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email:[email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org.