Stolley Park
Veterinary Hospital

3020 W. Stolley Park Road  Grand Island, Nebraska  68801  
Phone:  308-384-6272   Fax:  308-384-0984

December Newsletter

Antifreeze Toxicity

Even though last months newsletter topic discussed a poison, I felt that I would risk redundancy because of the importance of this topic. Ethylene glycol or antifreeze toxicity is a timely topic for December because, of course, so many people are preparing their vehicles for winter.

Most people know that antifreeze is toxic to animals. I thought we could review the process of toxicity and what signs might appear. Many times exposure is not known, and by the time symptoms occur it might be too late. Quick diagnosis is key to survival.

Antifreeze toxicity occurs in three stages.
1) Neurologic or First Phase: Clumsiness (ataxia), rapid heart rate, increased water drinking, dehydration.
2) Gastrointestinal or Second Phase: Lack of appetite, depression, vomiting, small pupils.
3) End Stage: Severe kidney failure, inability to make urine.

Antifreeze ingestion must be treated no longer than four hours after exposure. The keys to treatment are oral activated charcoal to bind the poison in the intestines, and an intravenous antidote like ethanol to bind the poison in the blood. Supportive therapy to correct blood abnormalities must also be instituted, and IV fluids are very important to flush the kidneys. Once the kidneys are affected, it is too late.

Prevent exposure as much as you can. Monitor vehicles for suspicious leaks, and keep antifreeze containers away from curious critters. Ethylene glycol is sweet and very tempting to young humans and animals, so caution is critical.

Prognosis for antifreeze toxicosis is grave if not treated within the very narrow window. It is important to inform your veterinarian immediately if potential exposure has occurred, and often we will apply the antidote even if exposure has not been confirmed. It sounds dramatic, but once a pet shows signs, it may be too late to save them.

Please contact us if you have any concerns or questions.