Sadly we have had several fatal cases of ethylene glycol poisoning and wanted to highlight the dangers to your cat.
Ethylene glycol is found in antifreeze products (radiator fluid, de-icing spray, windscreen wash). It tastes sweet and cats happily ingest it. And they don’t have to ingest a lot for it to be fatal.
Ethylene glycol is metabolised by the liver and then travels to the kidneys, where it forms insoluble calcium oxalate crystals inside the renal tubules. Once metabolism of the ethylene glycol has reached a certain point, there is no way to stop it. Because these crystals are insoluble, there is no way to remove them from the body. They cause permanent damage to the kidneys which leads to acute irreversible kidney failure.
Initial signs of antifreeze poisoning are depression and lethargy, your cat may even seem groggy or drunk. This then progresses to vomiting, oral and gastric ulcers, and kidney failure, followed by death. The initial signs can last from 1 to 6 hours and death may occur between 3 to 4 days. Most cats present once they are in acute kidney failure by which time treatment is too late.
If you suspect that your cat has has ingested ethylene glycol then immediately take them to the vet. Most antifreeze products that contain ethylene glycol have a UV sensitive dye in them. So if you suspect antifreeze ingestion then ask your vet to shine a UV light over the cat, especially the mouth and paws – it should fluoresce.
Cats treated immediately after ingestion have the best chance of survival because medical attention can be administered immediately. In fact if treatment isn’t initiated within 3 hours then the prognosis for survival is very poor.
We encourage you to use products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol as this is not toxic. Stay safe this winter.