ISPCA reminds the public to keep their pets away from toxic antifreeze

Lana Fallon


Lana Fallon


ISPCA reminds the public to keep their pets away from toxic antifreeze

As the national weather outlook turns frigid, with Met Eireann predicting temperatures to fall as low as zero degrees Celsius in the coming evenings, the ISPCA is reminding pet owners to keep their pets away from antifreeze and clean up any spills immediately.

One vet practice has advised the ISPCA that they have seen three cases of cats poisoned by antifreeze in the past two weeks. Cats only have a 5% survival rate after ingesting the coolant.

The active ingredient in antifreeze, ethylene glycol, actually tastes good to cats. They will lick it up if the liquid is left spilled on the ground, perhaps after being added to a car. Cats often hide beneath cars or sit on the bonnet, and therefore can be easily exposed to antifreeze.

It only takes 1 millilitre per kilogram of body weight ingested to prove fatal for a cat. Within 30-60 minutes after ingestion, signs of antifreeze poisoning include lethargy, vomiting, lack of coordination, low body temperature, seizures or coma.

In 12-24 cat owners may see what seems to be an improvement, however in reality the cat will have become dehydrated with elevated breathing and heart rate. Internally the cat will be developing irreversible, severe kidney damage.

After 24-48 hours, signs of kidney failure will be evident, with the cat presenting continuing lethargy, illness, lack of appetite, vomiting, seizures, and eventually death.

Antifreeze is just as toxic for dogs. If signs of poising are caught early (within 3 hours) vets can administer an antidote, though it is not guaranteed to work. The best thing pet owners can do is to take preventative measures: ensure antifreeze is stored securely out of reach of pets, consider bringing outdoor cats indoor, keep dogs on a leash when out for a walk, and wipe your pet's paws after they have been outside.

If you suspect your pet has antifreeze poisoning, contact your vet immediately.

The ISPCA is highlighting additional safety tips for pets in cold weather:

  • Bring dogs on more frequent, but shorter walks so they spend less time exposed to the cold.
  • Consider getting a pet jacket for older or thinner dogs that are more sensitive to the cold.
  • If you are concerned about your dog being outside in the cold, look for indoor agility classes in your area.
  • Ensure outdoor cats have somewhere warm and dry to sleep, and bring dogs indoor at night.
  • Check under your car or bang on the bonnet to scare off any cats that may have found shelter there.
  • Ensure equines have a warm stable or purpose-built shelter.
  • Horses and donkeys must wear rugs to protect them from the elements.Check rugs daily to ensure they fit properly and are in good condition. 
  • Check feeders to make sure the drinking water isn't frozen over
  • Make sure equines have a dry, hard surface to stand on to prevent mud rash.