Cats The-Dangers-of-Antifreeze-Poisoning-in-Cats

Published on October 21st, 2014 | by Debbie Martin


The Dangers of Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats

When winter comes, many people prepare their vehicles for the cold weather. Antifreeze is used in the car’s radiator and screen wash to keep the car from freezing up in cold temperatures. However, this vehicle liquid can be very harmful for your pets and owners should be aware of the dangers of antifreeze poisoning in cats.

Cats will typically drink from puddles and other standing water, which can be dangerous if there is any spilled antifreeze on the road near your home. Antifreeze tastes somewhat sweet to cats and so will be drawn to it and will drink more. A mere teaspoon of this chemical can be lethal for cats.

Why Antifreeze is So Dangerous?

One of the main ingredients in antifreeze is ethylene glycol and once this chemical is ingested it is rapidly absorbed into the body. Within hours it will cause serious kidney damage – which is very difficult to treat and almost always fatal. First the toxin causes intoxication and vomiting and then it will start to cause cardiovascular dysfunction, metabolic acidosis and then eventually acute kidney failure. The major metabolites within the ethylene glycol are oxalic acid and glycolic acid.

The toxic component ethylene glycol can be found in other products as well. It is a colourless, odourless, sweet-tasting, syrupy liquid.

How to Keep Your Cat Safe?

The most important thing to keep in mind when you are dealing with such a dangerous material is prevention. You should be very careful where you are storing your antifreeze and if you spill any outside, make sure that you clear it up right away. Make sure that you always keep antifreeze in secure, sealed containers that are clearly labelled and far away from anywhere your pets spend time.

You might want to also have a chat with the other people in your neighbourhood so that they are aware of the dangers of antifreeze. Most outdoor cats roam free, so it doesn’t matter how diligent you are with your antifreeze if your cat finds a puddle in the next door neighbours drive. By educating the neighbourhood, you can keep all of the pets safe!

Any empty containers or dirty rags used when working on your car should be disposed of in a way  that your cat cannot ever get to them. Keep a close eye on your car for any leaks and clean up any spills and drips immediately. Cats can often come into contact with antifreeze when it leaks from the engine of the car to the ground, or when it is spilled onto the ground while it is being added to the engine.

Sometimes homeowners add antifreeze to their outdoor ornamental garden ponds in order to keep them from freezing over in the winter. However you should avoid doing this because it could be very harmful for your cat or any other cats in the neighbourhood that might drink from the fountain.

It is important that you always dispose of antifreeze and any other such chemicals safely and responsibly. If you are not sure how to do this, you should contact your local authority for advice.

You might also want to consider using an alternative to antifreeze. Propylene glycol is a more expensive option, but it is safe for pets and other animals. If you have a cat, or if there are cats in your neighbourhood, consider using this instead.

Antifreeze poisoning can also be very harmful for children as well, which is another reason why it is crucial to be very careful when handling this chemical and not to leave it out. The safety of all animals and children of your neighbourhood is in your hands.

What Are the Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning?

How can you tell if your cat has been exposed to antifreeze? Here are some of the symptoms that they might be experiencing:

  • Acting very lethargic and sleepy
  • Vomiting
  • Appearing to be uncoordinated or drunk
  • Having seizures or fits
  • Having difficulty breathing
  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Short, rapid eyeball movements
  • Head tremors
  • Decreased reflexes
  • Twitching muscles
  • Severe depression
  • Pain in the back and kidney area

These symptoms can appear as quickly as 30 minutes after ingesting the antifreeze. It is important to take your cat to the vet as soon as possible. This is an emergency medical situation for your cat and they need to be treated immediately. The symptoms are almost always sudden and they will depend on the amount of antifreeze the cat has ingested.

What to Do If Your Cat Has Ingested Antifreeze

If your cat is exhibiting these symptoms, they need to go to the vet immediately. Don’t hesitate; take them there right away in order to increase their chances of survival.

The vet will probably give your cat some activated charcoal, which will prevent the further absorption of the toxic antifreeze into the stomach and the intestines. Then, they will use an intravenous catheter to give your cat ethanol, or another antidote known as 4-methlpyrazole. Your cat will be closely monitored for the next few days, in order to assess urine output and kidney function.

If at all possible, you should collect a sample of the cat’s vomit or faeces to give to the veterinarian for testing. This will help them to diagnose what has happened much more quickly, so that you can save time and prevent a full shutdown of the organs.

Within two or three days the poisoning can lead to kidney failure if it is not treated. If the kidneys have been damaged, the cat will have a very low chance of survival and they sadly will usually be put to sleep when they arrive at the vets. The sooner your cat receives treatment, the better chance they have of surviving. ‘

Antifreeze poisoning is a painful and tragic way to lose a beloved pet, but it doesn’t need to happen this way. Being careful, safe and proactive when using harmful chemicals and ensuring that they are stored securely at all times will make sure that your cats, and all other animals in your neighbourhood are kept safe from danger.

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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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