Pets and antifreeze

Hi everyone,

Today we’ve got some important tips for you all from Andrew Bucher, Chief Veterinary Officer, MedicAnimal:

Pets and antifreeze

Let’s face it, most pets dislike the cold weather. Whether it’s freezing, windy or wet, it’s not a pleasant experience for pets or their owners!

However, severe cold weather adds another problem that many owners simply do not think about – antifreeze. It’s important for many motorists heading to work and additionally for gardeners who wish to keep fountains frost free. What they may be unaware of is that chemicals in antifreeze can prove lethal to pets.

Firstly, antifreeze is typically 95 per cent ethylene glycol (EG) and diluted 1:2 or 1:3 with water when added to the car’s radiator or washer fluid container. The real problem relates to taste. Antifreeze, as well as car screen wash and brake fluid, are all very sweet tasting, meaning cats and dogs tend to lick it readily. If you consider the number of motorists who will use such a product in winter, leading to run off into puddles, then you can see why it becomes a problem.


Even a relatively small amount can prove lethal, one teaspoon (1.4ml) is enough to kill a cat.

It also acts very fast, in many cases your pet can die within 24 hours and if you are not treating it within a few hours of ingestion, there is a serious chance of permanent kidney damage, usually fatal.

Animal charity, Cat Protection reported 1,197 cases of anti-freeze poisoning between November 2012 and December 2014, an average of 50 deaths per month.

So what do you need to know?

The main signs to look out for within 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion:

  • May drool saliva and look depressed initially and possibly vomiting
  • They may then appear to recover, but a day later are unwilling to eat (kidneys now have physical crystal damage)
  • Any evidence of green fluid (a fluorescent dye is usually added) around the muzzle/paws/base of tail (use a black light if you have one)
  • Seeming wobbly, uncoordinated gait or seeming ‘drunk’
  • Head tremors, increased urination and thirst (kidney damage)

If you suspect a poisoning, see your vet immediately.

These tragedies can only be avoided by people being more cautious day-to-day, but there of course things companies and politicians can do. For example, Switzerland banned ethylene glycol based coolants in supermarkets and general shops for the public in 1972. Instead, Propylene Glycol is used instead which is far less lethal to pets.

In the UK, there is an online petition to add a bittering agent (commonly known as Bitrex or Aversion) to ethylene glycol anti-freeze products to make it unpalatable to pets and humans, as well as adding a clear warning on the external packaging.

I’d urge people to be mindful when using and storing these products and in future think long term to what they can do to help all pets!


We hope you found these tips useful and don’t forget to sign-up for our Newsletter to never miss a post again. 😀



Don't miss out!
Subscribe To Newsletter

Receive top cat news, competitions, tips and more!

Invalid email address
Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.

27 thoughts on “Pets and antifreeze

  1. mvaden1948 says:

    Having lost a cat to antifreeze poisoning many years ago I am vigilant about this issue. Whenever I walk in the parking lot where I live I check the cars for leaks and then I make a nuisance of myself with the owner of the car.

  2. unexpectedincommonhours says:

    Seventeen or eighteen years ago, our beloved cat disappeared in the month of May. The following autumn, when school began again, our neighbor child told his teacher that his father poisoned our cat with antifreeze. The teacher was a friend of ours and told us what had happened to our sweet kitty. So sad!

  3. Pingback: Pets and antifreeze | My Health Selections

  4. Sheila Moss says:

    This one gives me chills. Every time I go outside, I find myself looking at the driveway for rainbows of antifreeze. My cats are inside cats, but the dog has to go out and probably would not pass by a puddle without sampling it.

  5. Jayne rowlands says:

    do you have a link to the uk online petition you mention? The only ones I can find have now closed.

    By the way according to their website all Halfords antifreeze products have a bittering agent added

  6. flyhummingbirdfly says:

    Thanks Marc, I’m a vet myself so I know the nastiness antifreeze can cause. Fortunately I rarely see any of these cases in Australia and in singapore. Thanks for this very informative article!

    • Marc-André says:

      Ah you are lucky! If you’ve got any cat tips you’d like to share you’d be most welcome to get a guest account btw. Or share them from your blog to our forum –

Why not meow a comment to fellow readers?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.