Antifreeze poisoning remains one of the most common forms of pet poisoning seen by a veterinarian. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which makes it toxic to dogs. Antifreeze can be found in many household items within reach of a dog, and it takes very little to poison a canine no matter their size. The taste is attractive until the aftertaste bothers a dog. By then, the damage is done. This form of poisoning comes in three stages with different symptoms.
Stage One: Immediate Symptoms
It takes less than 88 ml, or 3 ounces, of antifreeze to poison a medium-sized dog and a tablespoon to cause acute kidney failure. In the first 30 minutes to 12 hours, a dog may exhibit signs of alcohol poisoning as it happens in humans. The dog may walk drunkenly or stagger around, drool, vomit, suffer from a seizure, drink a great deal of water and urinate frequently and copiously. He also may suffer with diarrhea.
Stage Two: Intermediate Symptoms
Antifreeze attacks the liver, kidneys and brain. After exposure, between 12 and 24 hours, many of the symptoms recede or vanish. The dog may appear normal; however, serious damage is being done to the brain and liver. Just because things appear to have resolved does not mean that the dog is safe or out of danger. Taking him to the vet is a must.
Stage Three: Final Symptoms
After 36 to 72 hours have passed since the exposure to antifreeze, a dog will enter the final stage of poisoning. The dog may become depressed and lethargic. He will stop eating. He may drool continuously, have very bad breath, suffer from a seizure, vomit, experience a rapid heartbeat, shake, faint or even fall into a coma. Acute kidney failure occurs in this stage as his organs shut down.
Exposure and Treatment
Treatment for antifreeze poisoning depends on when the dog gets to the vet, and how fast the vet can diagnose the poisoning. The earlier, the better: within eight to 12 hours after ingestion is critical for the dog to survive. Once kidney failure occurs, most dogs die. To prevent antifreeze poisoning, keep dogs away from containers, and make sure those containers are both tightly lidded and out of reach. Clean up spills immediately and check the car radiator for leaks. Other than what goes into the radiator, deicing solutions, motor oil, brake fluid, photography development solution, paint and solvents also have ethylene glycol, so keeping these out of the reach of pets is a necessity.
Dondi Ratliff is a certified secondary English teacher in Texas. Her articles typically cover topics regarding animals both wild and domesticated. Ratliff holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Tarleton State University, a Master of Arts in teaching from Texas Woman's University, and a Master of Arts in English from Tarleton State University.