Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats

Antifreeze poisoning is one of the most common forms of pet poisoning because antifreeze is so common in households and on streets. It only takes a small amount of antifreeze to do serious damage, so if you suspect antifreeze poisoning, take your cat to an emergency veterinary clinic immediately.

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning

Antifreeze can be found almost anywhere: in your garage, in a puddle on the street, even in toilets in homes where people use it to prevent freezing in their pipes. The toxin in antifreeze is ethylene glycol, which is so dangerous because it tastes sweet. Thus, cats will begin to lick it up and by the time the aftertaste kicks in, alerting them to stop, they have already consumed too much.

If you have an indoor-outdoor cat, they are especially susceptible to this because they roam outside without your supervision. This is extremely dangerous, so when possible, supervise or check in with your outdoor cat, especially in the winter when antifreeze is more widely used.

A cat suffering from antifreeze poisoning will show symptoms such as wobbly, uncoordinated movement as if he is drunk, nausea and vomiting, excessive urination and diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, weakness, seizures, convulsions or tremors, and fainting or coma.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Since many types of poisoning can cause these symptoms, your veterinarian may have to do a complete examination to determine the cause. This may include blood tests, a urinalysis and a fecal exam. If you have a sample of the diarrhea or vomit, take it with you to help the veterinarian reach the diagnosis more quickly.

If you know that your cat has ingested antifreeze, you may induce vomiting. However, if you don't know for sure, don't induce because many toxins can cause more damage when vomited. Don't induce vomiting if your cat is becoming unconscious or is in shock as he may choke on the vomit.

Your veterinarian will likely administer an antidote to the poison as soon as the cause is determined and may want to keep your cat in observation for a few days to prevent kidney failure. Even a small amount of antifreeze can cause significant kidney damage, and many cats die days later because of kidney failure. Once your cat is released, you will want to carefully observe him for a few days.

Prevention of Poisoning

The best treatment of antifreeze poisoning, of course, is preventing it altogether. There are several steps that you can take to ensure your cat doesn't come in contact with this deadly toxin.

Keep all antifreeze in airtight containers and thoroughly clean any spills in your garage or on your driveway. Dispose of any containers in areas where your cat has no access. Non-toxic varieties of antifreeze are now available, so consider purchasing those instead, especially for use inside your home.

Check your radiator regularly, fix leaks promptly and clean spills immediately. Don't allow your cat unattended in areas where he might come in contact with antifreeze such as alleys, streets, garages or driveways.

Antifreeze poisoning is devastating and can quickly lead to serious illness or even death. Keep your cat away from antifreeze and immediately get your cat to a veterinarian if you suspect poisoning.