Treatment of Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats and Dogs




Introduction: Treatment of Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats and Dogs

Antifreeze is a common chemical substance found in the garage of many car owners. Antifreeze is used as a liquid additive in cars to prevent overheating of engine coolant and prevent freezing of the radiator.

The main ingredient in antifreeze is ethylene glycol, an organic compound known for its viscous properties. Ethylene glycol can raise a liquid’s boiling point as well as lower its freezing point. However, ethylene glycol is also hazardous if consumed.

Ethylene glycol gives antifreeze a sweet tasting flavor. The deceptively sweet flavor is attractive to cats and dogs who may have access to an area in the house, garage, or backyard with antifreeze. Despite its sweet taste, antifreeze is a poison and potentially deadly when consumed by cats or dogs.

When consumed, ethylene glycol causes metabolic acidosis, or the acidification of the blood. Ethylene glycol in the blood will react with Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH) to form the acidic organic compounds: glyceraldehyde, glycolic acid, and oxalic acid. These compounds lower the pH of blood, thus making the blood more acidic. When the blood is acidified, homeostasis, the stabilizing nature of the body that keeps animals alive, is disrupted. In severe cases, if untreated, this disruption of homeostasis can cause death.

With treatment, ethylene glycol can be flushed from the animal’s system and outcompeted with a compound that reacts with ADH faster than does ethylene glycol. Ethanol, found in drinking alcohol, reacts quickly and efficiently with ADH in the body and does not produce acidic products. If present in large enough amounts, alcohol can outcompete ethylene glycol, thus raising the pH of the animal’s blood back to homeostatic, or normal, levels.

If untreated, the acidification of the animal’s blood as the ethylene glycol is absorbed in the kidneys and liver, could lead to kidney failure and death.

If a cat or dog is believed to have consumed antifreeze, it is important to immediately take the animal to an emergency veterinary hospital where they can be treated by professionals. However, if professional treatment is not an option or is not available, this Instructable will outline the steps to treat antifreeze poisoning in dogs and cats using common household items.

Items you will need:

  • 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Alcohol
  • Measuring Cup
  • Water

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

If a dog or cat has consumed antifreeze, they may begin to show symptoms as early as fifteen minutes after consumption and could display symptoms for up to six hours after consumption.

If you believe that your dog or cat may have consumed antifreeze, it is important to look for and identify the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Decreased alertness
  • Stupor
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Weakness
  • Loss of consciousness

If your cat or dog is believed to have been exposed to antifreeze and displays any of the following symptoms, they may be experiencing antifreeze poisoning and need immediate treatment. If professional treatment is not available, the proceeding steps will show how to treat antifreeze poisoning of cats and dogs at home.

Step 2: Induce Vomitting

Why should you induce vomiting?

Vomiting should be induced because there may antifreeze in the stomach that has not yet been completely absorbed through the animal’s bloodstream. By decreasing the amount of antifreeze available to be absorbed, you may be able to lessen the side effects of consumption and provide quicker alleviation of symptoms for the dog or cat.

  1. Administer household 3% hydrogen peroxide to the affected animal
    • For every 10 pounds that the animal weighs, administer 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide
      • Examples:
        1. 10-pound cat=1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide
        2. 50-pound dog=5 teaspoons hydrogen peroxide
  2. If the animal will not drink the hydrogen peroxide, disguise it in a more appealing food or drink
    • Examples: applesauce, ice cream, or milk
  3. If vomiting does not occur within the first 15 minutes, administer a second dose
  4. If the animal does not vomit after 3 separate doses, seek professional veterinary attention

Step 3: Consume Alcohol

  1. Administer ethanol containing alcohol to the affected animal (Whiskey, vodka, tequila, rum)
    • For every 10 pounds that the animal weighs, administer 1 teaspoon of alcohol
      • Examples:
        • 10-pound cat= 1 teaspoon alcohol
        • 50-pound dog= 5 teaspoons alcohol
  2. Again, if the animal will not drink the alcohol, disguise it in a more appealing food or drink
    • Examples: applesauce, ice cream, or milk
  3. Administer dosages of alcohol every hour until symptoms begin to disappear
    • This may take three to six hours depending on the animal
  4. After the first dosage of alcohol, provide the animal with access to water so that they can begin to flush their stomach.

Step 4: Recovery

Within three to six hours after treatment has been started, the animal should show signs of alleviated symptoms.

  1. Provide the animal with ample amount of water
    • This will allow them to flush their system and rehydrate
  2. Allow the animal plenty of time to rest
    • When homeostasis is disrupted, stress is put on the body that can cause exhaustion.
  3. If possible, visit a veterinary professional who will be able to provide you with details regarding any long-term effects or damage regarding your animal’s health.

The following links provide outside resources for further research on antifreeze poisoning in cats and dogs:

Be the First to Share


    • Declutter Speed Challenge

      Declutter Speed Challenge
    • First Time Author Contest

      First Time Author Contest
    • Leather Challenge

      Leather Challenge

    2 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    My dog is not showing signs of poisoning but the poison is gone! Should I start treatment anyway


    2 years ago

    Important to note that gastric cleansing or even charcoal can't help after 30 minutes of poisoning because the ethylene glycol distributes evenly in all bodily fluids very quickly. Thank You for the dosages of alcohol. That is about 1 oz, 1 shot per 60 pounds of pet. I have seen research that suggest it could be more than twice that. I would do 2 if it were my dog, and skip gastric cleansing if the dog is exhibiting symptoms because it is too late and will just waste critical time and make it harder for the pet to hold down the booze and baking soda that is needed. Alcohol slows the reversible kidney damage caused by glycolate and oxylate crystal formation, so the pet can survive. If you can get to the vet after administering alcohol, the metabolic acidosis, the other deadly effect, is regulated by intravenous NaHCO3 (Baking Soda) Giving that orally works as well, I think 325 mg per 60 pounds, but dial that in with the drip at the vet later, not the potassium citrate drip, the NaHCO3 one, and an alcohol one too, to maintain blood alcohol for the 5 to 6 hours needed to slow the crystal damage to a minimum. If your pet can hold down the alcohol and the Baking Soda, then there may be no reason to do an intravenous drip of alcohol, baking soda or the ultra-expensive alternative to the alcohol drip, that has no clear advantage over alcohol, the medicine called fomapizole.