What to Do When a Puppy Drinks Antifreeze

by Deborah Lundin
    Antifreeze used in the toilet to stop freezing pipes can be lethal.

    Antifreeze used in the toilet to stop freezing pipes can be lethal.

    Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Whether your puppy lapped up a puddle of antifreeze under your car, tipped over a bottle with a loose lid or drank from a toilet filled with antifreeze to prevent freezing pipes, just a small amount of the toxin ethylene glycol in the antifreeze can be fatal. Knowing the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning, and how to prevent exposure, is essential to keep a curious puppy safe.

    Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning depend on how much time has passed since consumption. Within the first hour, symptoms include depression, vomiting, increased thirst, loss of coordination and loss of appetite. As more time passes, symptoms progress to include increased heart rate, heavy panting, severe vomiting, dehydration, loss of motor function and possibly paralysis. Eventually ingestion leads to seizures, coma, kidney failure and death.

    If you know your puppy drank antifreeze, take him to a veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian will administer drugs to induce vomiting. Activated charcoal is given to bind to the antifreeze in your dog’s system and slow absorption. Intravenous fluids keep your dog hydrated. The veterinarian gives the drug fomepizole to stop the liver from metabolizing the ethylene glycol into the toxic compounds, allowing it to pass through the system and out through the urine. These treatments only work for a few hours after ingestion. Once a dog shows signs of kidney damage, it will no longer help. For dogs with kidney damage, dialysis can help the kidneys remove the waste and give the kidneys time to repair. Unfortunately, damage to kidneys is often severe and irreversible, leaving a kidney transplant as the only other treatment option available.

    To prevent antifreeze poisoning, it is essential to keep antifreeze out of the puppy’s reach. Keep the bottle on a high shelf instead of a low shelf or cupboard. Keep your puppy away from areas where antifreeze may have leaked, such as the driveway or garage. Beware of small puddles on the roadside, as antifreeze can leak onto roads may have been dumped in the street. Even runoff from a neighbor’s driveway is enough to provide a lethal dose to your dog. If you use antifreeze to keep your pipes from freezing in the winter, ensure toilet seats are down or close the doors to all bathrooms. Use caution as ethylene glycol also is present in hydraulic brake fluid.

    Another way to prevent accidental ingestion of toxic antifreeze is to replace your current antifreeze with a pet-friendly version. In traditional antifreeze, the toxic component is ethylene glycol. Pet-friendly antifreeze replaces the ethylene glycol with propylene glycol, which metabolizes into lactate and generally is safe for dogs.

    Photo Credits

    • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Deborah Lundin is a professional writer with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field and as a small business owner. She studied medical science and sociology at Northern Illinois University. Her passions and interests include fitness, health, healthy eating, children and pets.

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