Antifreeze poisoning in dogs

Anti-freeze poisoning is seasonal in nature and occurs more often in winter. The compound used for its anti-freeze properties is ethylene glycol. It is present in particular in coolants and car windshield washer products. You will know about Antifreeze poisoning in dogs

Due to its sweet taste, it is palatable to dogs. Ingestion can occur in the event of a coolant leak, for example, or when a container of coolant or windshield washer fluid is left open within reach of the dog.


After ingestion, ethylene glycol first has an irritant action on the digestive tract. The liver metabolizes it. The compounds produced have a toxic action on the nervous system, the cardio-respiratory system, the kidneys, and the acid-base balance in the blood.

Ethylene glycol is a moderately toxic product in itself. But it can ingest in large quantities because of its palatability, despite the current addition of bitter compounds. The poisoning can therefore be very serious, even fatal if the animal does not receive care. In dogs, the lethal dose is 3 to 5 mL/kg. For a 20 kg dog, 60 to 100 mL of pure product can be fatal.


Symptoms appear 30 minutes to 3 hours after ingestion. They are of several types:

  • The first symptoms are digestive: nausea and vomiting in particular. The appearance of vomiting can be quite typical depending on the liquid ingested. Coolants are usually yellow or fluorescent green, windshield washer fluid is turquoise blue. This element can sometimes guide the veterinarian’s diagnosis if you have not seen that your pet has ingested such products.
  • At the same time, or soon after, nervous symptoms appear prostration, motor incoordination, balance disturbances (ataxia), tremors, convulsions. The dog presents a gait that evokes a state of intoxication. At this stage, a coma or even death can occur if the ingestion has been massive.
  • Cardio-respiratory symptoms: increased respiratory rate, even pulmonary edema, heart failure.
  • Urinary and renal symptoms: severe thirst, dehydration, increase in the quantity of urine then decrease, or even stop the emission of urine, presence of urinary crystals, renal failure.
Antifreeze poisoning in dogs

Treatment of poisoning with anti-freeze

The earlier the treatment, the better the prognosis. Contact your vet as soon as you realize that your dog has ingested anti-freeze. If the first symptoms have not yet appeared, he may give him medicine to make him vomit and thus try to limit absorption by the body.

Once the symptoms are declared, hospitalization is often necessary to put the animal on a drip. This makes it possible to hydrate the animal, promote the elimination of the toxicant, and correct any acid-base imbalance in the blood.

Symptomatic treatment is also prescribed: digestive treatment to avoid vomiting, anticonvulsant treatment, treatment of possible pulmonary edema, and renal treatment.

There are specific treatments, antidotes for ethylene glycol, preventing the toxic action of compounds resulting from its metabolism. These treatments will also be administered by infusion and under medical supervision.

The veterinarian may recommend blood and urine tests to ensure monitoring of the animal and clarify the prognosis.

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The prognosis will depend on several elements: the quantity ingested, the severity of the symptoms, the age of the animal, and of course, the precocity of the treatment.

The onset of acute renal failure is often a poor prognosis. In addition, kidney damage is often irreversible.

The prognosis is on the other hand favorable if the condition of the animal improves within the first 24 hours.


The best prevention is to avoid any access to anti-freeze products for your dog and even more generally for any animal. This of course concerns the cans of products kept in the garage. But it can also be a coolant leak on the garage floor or the sidewalk. Diluting the product by washing the floor with plenty of water is generally sufficient to prevent the risk of poisoning.