Antifreeze and dogs

Know The Symptoms of Antifreeze and De-Icer Poisoning

The cold winter months are here and there are two products that are commonly used by people to battle the cold temperatures and the ice that coats everything: antifreeze and commercial chloride de-icers. Both of these commonly used products but when ingested by our dogs, they can cause medical distress or even death.

Do you know what symptoms to look for signaling that your dog may have ingested one of these products?

Commercial De-icers. What Are They?

There are a few combinations of Chloride de-icers sold that are used to melt ice from road and sidewalk surfaces. Some are less harsh to our dog’s paws but all will cause medical problems if they are ingest in harmful quantities.

  • The most common de-icer is Sodium Chloride or rock salt (NaCl). Sodium chloride contains 67% chlorides and about 30% sodium.
  • The alternative de-icer is Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2). Magnesium Chloride is used because it melts snow and ice faster and at lower temperatures than other de-icers. Magnesium Chloride contains 34% chlorides and 18% Magnesium. While it is considered to be the least toxic de-icer, gentler to concrete or asphalt surfaces and lawns, and less harsh on dog paws, ingesting it will still make your dog sick.

The symptoms of Chloride poisoning causing elevated sodium levels in dogs:

  • Increased thirst and consumption of water with accompanying increased urine output
  • Mental confusion
  • Staggering gait
  • Coma
  • Seizures

Commercial Antifreeze: Sadly it is because antifreeze (ethylene glycol) tends to have sweet flavor that it seems to entice dogs and cats to want to ingest it. Once ingested the glycol binds with calcium in the blood and then forms crystals that are deposited into the kidneys causing a variety of symptoms to occur. The symptoms change and progress depending on how long it has been since the initial ingestion of the glycol.

Glycol poisoning falls into three stages: symptoms that occur within the hour of ingestion, symptoms that occur 12 to 14 hours after ingesting glycol, and symptoms that occur 24 to 72 hours after ingesting glycol.

Would you recognize the symptoms and the stages of Ethylene Glycol poisoning in your dog?

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning in Stage 1 (after 1 hour)

  • Staggering drunken behaviour with a noticeable loss of muscle coordination
  • Excessive thirst followed by an excessive output of urine
  • Depressed or lethargic behaviour
  • Gastric pains, irritation, nausea, and vomiting
  • A noticeable drop in normal body temperature

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning in Stage 2 (after 12 to 14 hours)

In this stage, the ingested glycol begins to show evidence of neurological toxicity, as well as:

  • Continuing marked dehydration
  • Progressing physical weakness
  • With accompanying rapid breathing and elevated heart rate.

Without treatment a dog will surely continue move on to Stage 3 poisoning where the effects of the toxin will most likely cause irreversible kidney failure and the eventual death of the animal.

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning in Terminal Stage 3 (after 24 to 72 hours)

  • Severe lethargy with accompanying body weakness and loss of coordination
  • Painful and swollen kidneys with decreasing urine output (with eventual complete kidney shut down)
  • Constant vomiting with excessive drooling
  • Very low body temperature and accompanying low blood pressure
  • And eventual seizures, uncontrolled tremors, coma, and death.

How to Keep Your Snow Dog Safe From Antifreeze and Chloride Poisoning This Winter

  • Common sense and vigilance paired with safe storage practices around your home and yard will go a long ways towards keeping your Snow Dog safe from ingesting these toxins.
  • While out walking in urban areas, keep your dog on a short leash so you can steer your dog around any puddles of antifreeze or sidewalks that have Chloride sprinkled on them. If your dog is off leash or on a long retractable leash he may well have begun to ingest these products long before you are aware of their presence.
  • Wash your dog’s paws off when you come in from your walk so that if they have stepped in either of these two products they cannot lick and ingest them from their paws.

As always we welcome your questions, comments, and stories regarding this topic. When we share our wisdom and our stories we may be helping someone who is struggling with their Snow Dog.

Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.

5 thoughts on “Know The Symptoms of Antifreeze and De-Icer Poisoning”

  1. Linda J. Sonntag

    My 12-year-old chihuahua died after being sick only 2 days. I saw no symptoms until she spit up white foam and stopped eating. I am suspecting she may have ingested antifreeze or de-icer or both. I am so sad that I didn’t realize the danger of just walking her outside where we live in a large complex. After taking her to the vet we learned her kidneys had shut down, but never learned the cause. It was so sudden I have been in shock and am going to call an animal grief support line.

  2. Are these all Margit Maxwell’s articles? I didn’t see her name on it. She’s awesome!

  3. Laura Kish

    Dogs also love the taste of rat poison and will make extra efforts to get to it! Watch out! It killed my friends sheep dog!

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