December 16, 2014, by Lindsay Brooke

Cats are dying from antifreeze poisoning

Now the winter has set in and we are topping up our cars with antifreeze the RSPCA and International Cat Care are reminding pet owners about the serious danger it poses to our animals. Ingesting just the smallest amount of antifreeze can cause kidney failure and death, especially in cats.

Because of the dangers posed by antifreeze Dr Rachel Dean, an specialist in feline medicine and Director of the Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science spoke to the Daily Mail this week about the dangers of antifreeze and is offering the following advice.

The signs

The clinical signs depend on how recently the cat has eaten the antifreeze. The clinical signs come over very quickly in cats as they are so sensitive to it.  Initially within the first 4 hours or so they may seem wobbly, drink a lot and urinate a lot and quickly become dehydrated which will make them seem quiet and sleepy perhaps. As the body becomes more affected by the toxin they will stop eating, become very quiet, possibly be sick (vomit), unable to stand and cold to the touch. This stage can be fatal but if it isn’t the next step is acute (sudden) failure of the kidneys which is very serious and the cat will be collapsed, vomit and stop producing urine. If the kidneys fail completely it is very hard to save the cats life.

The signs happen very quickly, most cats kidneys will have failed by 1-3 days so other toxins/infections that can affect the circulation and kidneys can look like this. It can be difficult to be sure sometimes but there are some laboratory tests that will confirm the toxin is the cause but it takes time to get the results. However normally there is a history  of the cat which makes you that that antifreeze is the problem, you can smell it on the affected cats and unfortunately it is happens quite commonly so most vets will recognise it.  Rat poison causes very different clinical signs.

How much antifreeze is needed to cause harm?

Not very much at all, cats are very sensitive to it and need a much smaller dose than dogs to cause the problems. It is possible that a cat just walking through a pool of antifreeze and then cleanings its feet may be enough. Cats become very sick, very quickly.

Time is of the essence

As the signs come on so quickly and are so serious many cats that eat antifreeze will die or have to be euthanased as a result of eating it. The earlier the cat can be treated the better but even if early treatment is started the kidneys can still have problems. Most owners would notice there is something wrong with their cat quite quickly after the cats has eaten the antifreeze.

What is the treatment?

Ethanol (the principle alcohol found in most spirits) is one of the antidotes. This needs to be given with extreme care. It is diluted and given straight into the circulation via a drip. This can only be done by a veterinary surgeon in conjunction with other treatment necessary to support the very sick cat.

The advice

If you use antifreeze, try and avoid the products with ethylene glycol in them. Tell all of your friends and colleagues about the risks. If you suspect your cat has been in contact with antifreeze contact your vet immediately.

Using antifreeze

Keep it in a sealed container away from pets.

Clean up spills immediately.

Dispose of antifreeze and water coolant safely and responsibly.

Posted in ScienceStaff