Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats
Ethylene Glycol Poisoning in Cats
Ethylene glycol toxicity is a potentially fatal condition that results from the ingestion of substances containing ethylene glycol, an organic compound commonly seen in antifreeze. (In addition to being found in the car's engines to prevent freezing and overheating, it is used in hydraulic brake fluids.) Cats usually come into contact with antifreeze when it leaks from a car's engine onto the ground, when it is spilled onto the ground while being added to a car's engine, or when the container is left uncapped.
Antifreeze is recognizable by its bright green coloring and "sweet" taste. Although it leaves a repulsive aftertaste, by then it may be too late. Even small amounts can be fatally toxic to the body's organs, including the brain, kidneys and liver.
This is one of the most common forms of poisoning; any breed or age is susceptible. Etylene glycol poisoning is also covered in our emergency section, which includes immediate care that you can give to your cat and tips on prevention. This does not take the place of veterinary care, but will assist you in treating your cat in a timely manner.
Symptoms and Types
Early signs are seen from 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion:
Other symptoms often develop 12 to 24 hours after ingestion of ethylene glycol (antifreeze):
Toxicity is directly related to ingestion of ethylene glycol, the principal component (95 percent) of most antifreeze solutions.
It’s extremely important that you have your cat seen by a veterinarian as quickly as possible after ingestion of anything that contains ethylene glycol. Even if you only suspect that your cat has ingested ethylene glycol, if the cat is showing any or all of the effects of ethylene glycol toxicity, and the substance is accessible in any way (particularly for cats that are allowed to go outdoors unattended), you should take your cat to be checked. If your cat is vomiting or has diarrhea, you should collect a sample of the vomit or fecal contents to present to your veterinarian. Diagnosis may be that much faster, saving valuable time and possibly preventing full organ shutdown if supportive therapy is given quickly.
You will need to provide your veterinarian with a medical background and as much detail of the onset of symptoms as possible. Standard tests include a urinalysis and complete blood test, which will be sent for laboratory analysis immediately. Your veterinarian may also use ultrasound to look at the liver and kidneys, which are often swollen in response to ethylene glycol ingestion.
Ultrasonography can also be helpful. Possible findings may be renal cortices (the external layers of the kidneys) that are hyperechoic as a result of crystals. That is, the external layers of the kidney respond to the sonographic sound waves with a denser echo than the surrounding areas because of the more solid nature of the crystal formation in the renal tissue.
A medical condition involving excessive thirst
The condition of being drowsy, listless, or weak
The product of protein being metabolized; can be found in blood or urine.
An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness
A tissue that is brighter in color and reflects more sound than the tissue around it
Eliminating or the material that has actually been eliminated
A medical condition in which an animal is unable to control the movements of their muscles; may result in collapse or stumbling.
Term used to imply that a situation or condition is more severe than usual; also used to refer to a disease having run a short course or come on suddenly.
A medical condition in which the body has lost fluid or water in excessive amounts
A procedure used to get waste out of the blood when the kidneys are unable to function
A condition of the body in which pH levels are abnormally low.
The term used to describe the movement of an animal