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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Ethylene glycol can be fatal to your pets

STILLWATER, Okla. - While antifreeze and windshield deicing agents are important elements of keeping your vehicle running during the cold winter months, these also are things that can be dangerous or even deadly for your pet because they contain ethylene glycol.

Other products such as some motor oils, brake fluids, paints and solvents also contain ethylene glycol, which has a sweet flavor that is enticing to your pets, said Dr. Elisabeth Giedt, director of Continuing Education, Extension and Community Engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University.

“Even in small quantities, ethylene glycol is very dangerous and can be fatal to both cats and dogs,” Giedt said. “As little as one tablespoon can cause acute kidney failure in dogs, and just one teaspoon can be fatal for cats.”

The consumption of ethylene glycol is followed by a chemical reaction that causes crystals to form in the kidneys. If enough is swallowed, this crystal formation will shut down the kidneys and cause death.

The antidote must be delivered within three hours after ingestion to be the most effective, so it is important to get your pet to the veterinarian right away. If your pet is seen within eight to 12 hours, the veterinarian may be able to treat and save your pet, but beyond that time frame it is unlikely the animal will recover.

“After 12 hours the poisoning is almost 100 percent fatal without dialysis. And while your veterinarian may perform a blood test to diagnose ethylene glycol poisoning, the test doesn’t accurately assess how long ago it was ingested. This makes the prognosis for your pet very difficult,” she said.

Some symptoms of ethylene glycol poisoning include excessive thirst or urination, vomiting, seizures, panting, sedation, bad breath, lethargy, drooling and coma. If your pet exhibits any of these signs, go to the veterinarian immediately.

Malfunctions of the cooling system of your vehicle can cause the contents to become too hot and boil over onto the ground in your garage or driveway. It is imperative to clean up any spills around your home right away.

“While you may be a responsible pet owner and keep these things cleaned up, this may not be the case for everyone in your neighborhood,” Giedt said. “That’s why it’s very important to recognize the signs of poisoning so you can get rapid treatment for your pet. Also, keep in mind there are some types of antifreeze and cooling products that contain propylene glycol. While these are less toxic they can still be dangerous and pet owners should still seek treatment for the animal.”


Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.

Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
136 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078