Antifreeze Poisoning In Cats Explained

Most brands of antifreeze contain ethylene glycol as the active ingredient. If your cat ingests even a small amount of antifreeze that's spilled onto the road or a neighbour's driveway, it could cost them their life. Ethylene glycol is highly toxic to cats, but they tend to enjoy the slightly sweet taste and poisoning is common during cold periods. Acting quickly when your cat ingests antifreeze can save their life, so here's an overview of the symptoms and treatment options:


Early symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include vomiting and increased thirst. Your cat may also bang into furniture or other familiar objects as their coordination becomes impaired. Head shaking and twitching may also occur. A few hours after your cat has ingested antifreeze, you may notice that they seem lethargic. At this point, they may also develop sores around their mouth and experience seizures.

Treatment Options

Your vet will establish that your cat's experiencing poisoning by asking you about their symptoms and taking blood and urine samples. Testing your cat's blood and urine can determine how their kidneys are coping with processing the poison, whether they're dehydrated and whether they have raised metabolite levels, which is an indicator that a toxin is present as metabolites break down or neutralise toxins.

Once your vet has confirmed poisoning, they will attempt to purge the toxins from your cat's body by administering high volumes of intravenous fluids or performing peritoneal dialysis. Intravenous fluids will increase your cat's urine output, and this will remove the poison through urinary secretion and support their kidneys as they attempt to process the poison.

Peritoneal dialysis flushes poison out through a small tube inserted into your cat's abdomen. This treatment can be effective when there's been a delay in identifying that your cat's been poisoned, and although it may seem drastic, the vet will use keyhole surgical techniques to minimise the discomfort and recovery time for your cat.

Ingesting large amounts of antifreeze can put too much strain on your cat's kidneys. So even if the poison is successfully flushed out of their system, they can experience kidney failure. When this happens, your cat will go onto a waiting list for a kidney transplant and will undergo dialysis until a transplant is possible.

Regardless of the treatment approach, your vet will want to monitor your cat's progress and will admit them to the clinic for a few days for observation.

If you suspect your cat has ingested antifreeze, get them to your vet's surgery urgently to prevent unnecessary suffering.