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Cats and antifreeze

Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats

Antifreeze contains a chemical called ethylene glycol which is highly toxic to cats. If you suspect your cat may have had access to antifreeze you should contact us immediately so we can start treatment as soon as possible. The chemical is so toxic that many cats will die despite treatment, but the sooner treatment is started the more chance of survival there is.

How much antifreeze will my cat have to have had to make them ill?

Very little. Ethylene glycol is so toxic that even licking their paws after walking through some spilt antifreeze may be enough to cause clinical signs of toxicity. Ethylene glycol is also very palatable so if any is left around cats will actively lap it up.

Antifreeze is more common in winter around cars and garages or in Spring from draining radiators, but can be around all year round. Unfortunately there have been instances of people leaving antifreeze out maliciously to rid themselves of what they perceive to be nuisance cats.

How will I know if my cat has been poisoned?

The signs of ethylene glycol toxicity are vague and vary from cat to cat. Usually they show some signs of lethargy and sometimes drooling. This usually progresses to stopping eating and often vomiting as the toxin starts to affect the kidneys. You may also notice that your cat is producing less urine despite sometimes drinking more than usual. The signs will progress to depression and breathing difficulties and eventually will lead to coma.

What will the vet do?

The toxin mainly affects the kidneys and sometimes the damage can be irreversible. After a full clinical examination the vet will probably suggest a blood test to look at kidney function. Depending on the results of these investigations treatment usually involves hospitalisation and intravenous fluid therapy.

The prognosis is very guarded for recovery. If you can get your cat to us within a few hours of exposure to antifreeze they may recover over 3-5 days. They will need aggressive fluid therapy and repeated blood and urine tests.

If treatment is delayed or if your cat is already showing progressed clinical signs, it may unfortunately be too late for treatment to help. This is why it is so important that if you suspect your cat may have come in to contact with antifreeze to contact us immediately!

You can call us on 01437 760111 at any time.

About the author

Lee Griffiths

Practice Manager since August 2016 and loving every day

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We care for your pets and farm animals providing the best quality service possible. At The Oak Vets, we deal with emergencies, preventative healthcare, and everything in-between.