Antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid are serious hazards for animals. The Humane Society estimates that 10,000 to 90,000 animals are poisoned each year. Commercially available automotive antifreezes contain ethylene glycol, which is extremely toxic to cats. Cats are most commonly exposed to this toxicity through spills or leaks of antifreeze in a garage or when owners leave containers of antifreeze uncapped. Unfortunately, the taste of antifreeze is attractive to cats.
Ethylene glycol toxicity primarily affects the cat’s kidneys and central nervous system. Signs of intoxication include depression, decreased urine production, decreased appetite, vomiting, painful abdomen (kidneys) upon palpation, and salivation. But don’t wait for symptoms! It is imperative that cats suspected of ingesting antifreeze are seen by a veterinarian immediately, as delays in treatment can significantly worsen prognosis. Treatment commonly involves hospitalization with intravenous fluid therapy to correct dehydration and promote normal kidney function and medications/procedures to promote elimination of ethylene glycol from the body. If treatment is instituted rapidly after antifreeze ingestion, the prognosis will be significantly improved.