Side Effects of Ethylene Glycol Treatment in Dogs

The antifreeze that protects your car's engine can kill your dog.
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The No. 1 cause of accidental canine poisoning is ethylene glycol, better known as antifreeze. The unfortunate pet who swallows antifreeze must quickly receive an antidote to prevent the ethylene glycol from breaking down into more toxic substances. Lifesaving antidotes include preferred but costly fomepizole, which produces no side effects, and inexpensive ethanol, or grain alcohol, which creates life-threatening side effects. The good news is that the prognosis is favorable for dogs who receive aggressive treatment within eight hours of ingestion.

Bad If You Do

Fomepizole has no known side effects, but the dog who receives ethanol may suffer central nervous system depression, elevated blood sugar and inability of the kidneys to maintain body pH. Because of these dangerous, complicating side effects, dogs receiving ethanol treatment typically require lengthy hospitalization to survive the ethylene glycol poisoning and the side effects of the ethanol. Treatment must continue until the amount of ethylene glycol in the dog’s blood is reduced to a safe level.

Worse If You Don't

Untreated, a dog suffering from ethylene glycol poisoning will endure an agonizing death. Within 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion, he'll appear intoxicated. He’ll stagger, drool, vomit, suffer seizures, and drink and urinate excessively. Kidney failure commences after about 36 hours, continuing to deteriorate until coma and death. If you suspect that your dog has swallowed ethylene glycol, contact your veterinarian immediately. If you can’t reach your vet, contact the Pet Poison Helpline 24/7 at 800-213-6680. They’ll charge a fee, but it’s worth saving your dog’s life.