Ethylene Glycol-Based Coolants Are Extremely Toxic to Pets

By November 18, 2015 Guides


Ethylene glycol, the main ingredient of most engine coolants is an extremely toxic chemical which can be deadly if ingested. It takes just a drop or two to kill a cat or small to mid-sized dog. Pets most often come in contact with this deadly chemical through leaks and spills of ethylene glycol-based coolants.

The Risk of Ethylene Glycol Poisoning in Pets

Ethylene glycol-based coolants pose a serious danger to dogs and cats. As mentioned above, they contain a highly toxic chemical and ingestion of even the tiniest amount can be deadly. To make things worse, it has been shown to be very appealing to both dogs and cats due to its sweet taste. This means that they are highly likely to drink or lick it if coming across a spill or leak in your garage, driveway or the road.

Since many people change their car’s engine coolant in fall, the risk of ethylene glycol poisoning increases during the fall season.

Signs and Symptoms of Ethylene Glycol Poisoning in Pets

Ingestion of ethylene glycol-based coolant can quickly become deadly, while signs and symptoms of poisoning often develop within minutes. They include uncoordinated movement, lethargy, vomiting, abnormal thirst or urination, bad breath, muscle spasms and seizures. If left untreated, ethylene glycol poisoning can lead to kidney failure and ultimately death.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested ethylene glycol-based coolant, it is of key importance not to wait for the animal to develop symptoms of poisoning. Instead, take your pet to a vet immediately to neutralize the dangerous chemical and prevent it from causing potentially fatal kidney damage.

Treatment of Ethylene Glycol Poisoning in Pets

Treatment of ethylene glycol poisoning depends greatly on severity of the symptoms but above all, it depends on the amount of time that has passed since ingestion of the chemical. If the pet is taken to a veterinarian within hours after ingesting ethylene glycol, the vet will probably induce vomiting in order to remove the toxin from the body and administer activated charcoal to inhibit further breakdown of the toxin. The vet may also decide to administer an antidote such as intravenous ethanol infusion or fomepizole (4-methylpyrazole).

Ethylene glycol poisoning usually also requires hospitalization and intensive care, especially if the animal has signs of kidney damage. In the latter case, aggressive treatment may be required to save the pet’s life.

Prevention of Ethylene Glycol Poisoning in Pets

Since ingestion of ethylene glycol-based coolant can be deadly for your pet(s), you are highly recommended to take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of poisoning to the minimum by:

– Immediately cleaning up any spills and leaks

– Regularly inspecting your garage floor and driveway for coolant leaks

– Making sure that stored/disposed coolant is out of reach to pets

– Keeping your pet away from areas where he can be exposed to ethylene glycol-based coolant like the road, and other people’s garages and driveways

– Consider using less toxic antifreeze/coolant that doesn’t contain ethylene glycol.


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