Protecting Your Cat Against The Dangers of Antifreeze

Poor Pussy Cat

Poor Pussy Cat

Antifreeze can be very attractive to cats thanks to its sweet taste but any ingestion can cause kidney damage and even death. Here’s how to minimise the risks for your cat, plus what to do if you suspect that your pet has ingested antifreeze.

Keeping Your Cat Safe

If you are using antifreeze personally, take care to check around your car to make sure that any spills and leaks cannot tempt your cat. Deal with any spillages straight away and keep your cat away from the area until this has been done.

Dispose of antifreeze responsibly. If you are not sure how best to go about this, check with your local authority for official guidelines.

Newer types of antifreeze now contain propylene glycol, which is considered to be less toxic than ethylene glycol (the culprit behind antifreeze poisoning).

Why Antifreeze Poisoning is So Dangerous

Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is quickly metabolised by the liver and travels to the kidneys. Here, it forms insoluble crystals that can cause irreversible damage to the kidneys, which can ultimately lead to kidney failure. Prompt treatment can improve the chances of recovery but there are no guarantees.

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning

Symptoms are generally acute and can come on suddenly, occuring as soon as thirty minutes after ingestion, it can take 48-72 hours for the signs of kidney failure to become apparent, but by this time significant change will have occured.

To begin with, cats that are experiencing antifreeze poisoning typically appear depressed and lethargic. This is then accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing issues, lack of coordination, dehydration, head tremors, short/rapid eyeball movements, a “drunken” gait, twitching muscles and paralysis.

What to Do if You Suspect Antifreeze Poisoning

Immediate medical assistance offers the best survival chances so it is crucial to get your cat to a vet as soon as you suspect that he or she has ingested antifreeze. The overall outlook depends on how much antifreeze has been consumed and the length of time that has passed since this happened.

Diagnosis will generally include a urinalysis, blood work and an ultrasound to assess liver and kidney damage. If you can get a sample of your cat’s vomit to pass onto your vet, this may lead to quicker diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment for Antifreeze Poisoning

Expect your cat to be hospitalised as part of the treatment. The focus will be on trying to prevent further metabolism of one antifreeze and balancing hydration levels to support kidney function. Much will depend on the level of metabolism that has already taken place and unfortunately, not all pets with antifreeze poisoning are successfully treated.

[Photo credits: LordKhan]