Antifreeze is one of the most common poisons in dogs because it tastes very sweet and they enjoy the taste. It contains ethylene glycol which in itself isn’t too poisonous, but in the body it is changed to a very toxic chemical which destroys the kidneys. A dose of around 5ml per kilo in dogs is usually fatal. Antifreeze poisoning usually occurs in colder climates, however some decorative snow globes contain a small amount of antifreeze. If they break and the dog licks up some of the liquid, that may be enough to poison him.
The early signs of antifreeze poisoning are due to the ethylene glycol itself, and include depression, head tremors, vomiting, excessive drinking and staggering. These appear within a matter of hours, and may not be very severe. Sometimes owners don’t notice there’s anything wrong in the early stages of poisoning.
Your dog may appear to recover, but in the body the antifreeze is being converted to the more poisonous chemical. This will cause kidney failure within 1-3 days, with symptoms of vomiting, mouth ulcers, coma and reduced or no urine production.
Diagnosis is difficult; your dog can have blood tests to check for ethylene glycol but these are only useful within 48 hours after your dog has drunk the antifreeze. Blood tests can suggest antifreeze poisoning, but are not specific. .If you can tell your vet that your dog has been exposed to antifreeze, he is able to start aggressive treatment straight away and hopefully prevent worsening of your dog’s condition
To give your dog the best chance of survival, treatment needs to start within a few hours of your dog drinking the antifreeze, before symptoms of kidney failure occur. Your vet will make your dog vomit, to remove any antifreeze from the gastrointestinal tract and stop any more absorption. Intravenous fluids are essential to flush the kidneys, and your dog can be given medication to slow the conversion of ethylene glycol to the more toxic chemicals.
Antifreeze poisoning usually has a poor survival rate. By the time kidney failure occurs, it’s unlikely your dog will survive.
To prevent antifreeze poisoning, you need to be meticulous about wiping up any leaked or spilled antifreeze. The liquid can persist in the environment; if an area has been cleaned of antifreeze and is then dampened at a later date; the antifreeze residue can rehydrate.