What is ethylene glycol?

Ethylene glycol is a common ingredient in antifreezes for car and other vehicle cooling systems. It is used to prevent radiators from freezing and bursting in cold weather, but is present all year round as it also protects the engine from corrosion. Cats are very susceptible to ethylene glycol and even a very small amount (around a teaspoon of concentrated antifreeze) can cause kidney failure and death.

Sources of ethylene glycol

Ethylene glycol is a common ingredient in antifreeze but is also found in de-icing products for windscreens (rarely), some brake fluids, paints and, in small quantities, computer ink cartridges.
Cats are most commonly exposed to ethylene glycol from ingestion of antifreeze. It is commonly stated that ethylene glycol is sweet to taste; however cats are unable to taste sweet things and this is not the reason cats drink ethylene glycol.

What are the signs of ethylene glycol poisoning?

Ethylene glycol causes kidney failure in cats but the initial signs of toxicity can be subtle and easily missed and may not be apparent until hours after ingestion.
The clinical signs of ethylene glycol poisoning can include:
• Incoordination
• Thirst
• Urination
• Panting
• Drowsiness
• Lethargy
• Coma
• Death

• Call Animal PoisonLine on 01202 509000 even if your pet is showing no signs to find out whether a trip to the vet is required.
• Remove your pet from the source of poison.
• Do not try to make your pet vomit – NEVER give salt water.
• If it seems likely that there is material on your cat’s fur, this should be washed off and the cat prevented from grooming.
• Collect the poison and take a sample/ container with you if you are advised to take your pet to the vet practice.