Treatment of Antifreeze, or Ethylene Glycol, Poisoning in Animals




Introduction: Treatment of Antifreeze, or Ethylene Glycol, Poisoning in Animals

Antifreeze is made up primarily of the chemical compound known as ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol's viscous properties are used to raise the boiling point of a compound, preventing boiling and the build up of pressure from emitted gas, as well as lower the freezing point, preventing the freezing of liquids. Ethylene glycol, although useful in the automotive world, has detrimental effects when consumed by animals. It is a toxic organic compound that disrupts homeostasis when ingested by animals and humans. Animals in particular are prone to hazardous ingestion because of ethylene glycol's sweet taste and inconspicuous, non-deterring odor. Although emergency veterinary treatment is essential to the treatment of ethylene glycol poisoning, in dire circumstances, the following at-home steps can be taken in order to treat the signs and symptoms of ethylene glycol poisoning and potentially save the victim's life. Since ethylene glycol ingestion is considered a veterinary medical emergency, these treatment steps should ONLY be used when professional attention is not available.

Step 1: Recognize the Signs and Symptoms

When consumed, ethylene glycol demonstrates many of the same side-effects and symptoms as alcohol consumption. Including, but not limited to:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Decreased alertness
  • Stupor

However, unlike alcohol consumption, even in small amounts ethylene glycol is potentially deadly. Long term side effects of ethylene glycol ingestion include:

  • Nervous system damage
  • Coma
  • Kidney failure
  • Shock
  • Death

Immediate recognition of ethylene glycol ingestion and quick action towards treating the signs as outlined in this procedure are essential to its effective treatment.

Step 2: Induce Vomitting

  1. After recognizing that the victim has in fact ingested antifreeze, or ethylene glycol, one should immediately induce vomiting. In animals this can be done by using household 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Hydrogen peroxide irritates the gastrointestinal tract of animals and therefor will cause a vomiting response. Be sure to keep in mind the following apparatus and doses:
    • Use standard household 3% hydrogen peroxide in the liquid state.
    • For every 10 pounds that an animal weighs, one should administer 5 milliliters of hydrogen peroxide.
      • For example:
        • A 10 pound cat should be given 5 milliliters of hydrogen peroxide
        • A 50 pound dog should be given 25 milliliters of hydrogen peroxide
  2. If the animal rejects ingesting the hydrogen peroxide, disguise the liquid in a more attractive and easily mixed food such as ice cream or applesauce.
  3. After the consumption of hydrogen peroxide, vomiting should induce within 15 minutes.
    • Once the animal has expelled the contents of its stomach in its entirety and has ceased vomiting, proceed to the next step
  4. If vomiting does not occur within the first 15 min, provide the animal with another dose of hydrogen peroxide and wait another 15 minutes for vomiting to actuate.
    • If a second dose of hydrogen peroxide does not work, seek immediate veterinary attention.
    • If professional help is still not available, proceed to the next step of this procedure.

Why should you induce vomiting?

By inducing vomiting, the animal is able to rid their stomach of any antifreeze or ethylene glycol that has not yet been absorbed into its blood stream. By decreasing the amount of ethylene glycol available to be absorbed into the blood stream, you will decrease the side effects of its ingestion and ideally, begin to alleviate the discomfort felt by the victim.

Step 3: Consume Ethanol

Ethylene glycol is detrimental to an animal's body because it causes metabolic acidosis, or the acidification of the blood, thus disrupting the stabilizing homeostasis that maintains life. Once in the blood supply, ethylene glycol will react with Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH) that is also present in an animal's blood. This results in the formation of toxic compounds including glycoaldehyde, glycolic acid, and oxalic acid. This toxic reaction between ethylene glycol and ADH can be counteracted, however, by outcompeting ethylene glycol with ethanol, another less toxic compound that is able to react with ADH at a much faster and efficient rate. Ethanol is an alcohol present in all drinking alcohols such as vodka or whiskey. The following steps can be followed to use ethanol in order to interrupt the reaction of ethylene glycol with ADH.

  1. Choose a substance containing ethanol
    • examples: wine, vodka, rum, whiskey, etc.
  2. Administer alcohol to the animal
    1. Dosage: 5 milliliters of alcohol per 10 pounds that an animal weighs.
      • For example:
        1. A 10 pound cat should be given 5 milliliters of alcohol.
        2. A 60 pound dog should be given 30 milliliters of alcohol.
    2. Caution: this will cause the effects of inebriation such as tiredness, increased stupor, and perhaps depression in the animal.
  3. Again, if the animal is resisting consumption, try to mix the alcohol with something more appealing such as ice cream or applesauce.
  4. Continue to administer alcohol per hour until symptoms begin to diminish

Step 4: Recover

Within a few hours, the animal should begin to behave in a more ordinary fashion. The symptoms should be alleviated due to the induced vomiting and ethanol consumption.

Key steps to recovery include:

  1. Prompt the animal to drink an ample amount of water.
    • This will flush the animal's system and allow their body to rehydrate itself.
  2. Allow the animal to rest
    • Homeostasis disruptions cause a great deal of stress on the animal's body and can thus cause tiredness and exhaustion. This can be easily treated with rest.
  3. If available, visit a veterinary professional who can asses any long term damage or prospects regarding the animal's health.

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    6 years ago

    Good job!! It would not always garantee that the Pet survives but before sending the pet to the ER this is essential to know.


    Reply 2 years ago

    you should still seek out the er though

    oh why am i even replying to a 4 year old comment?


    6 years ago

    My friend's dog ate a poisonous "cake-like" thing that her exterminator left in the yard (while getting ready to poison pests). The vet recommended a similar treatment as this - I believe - please don't use this as medical advice from ME but just as a warning to be cautious when hiring an exterminator (ask them about pet safety). Pets are precious family members! Thank you for this important Instructable! p.s. My friend's dog survived but had a lousy couple days!


    6 years ago

    Very good info, and something every pet owner should know. Thank you for sharign this.