PDSA urges drivers to clear spills of antifreeze

An animal charity is urging drivers to be careful with anti-freeze as they prepare their cars for winter.

PDSA, the veterinary organisation for pets in need, says the solution is ‘highly toxic’ and it treated tens of cases last year where animals had been poisoned.

As the colder weather sets in and thoughts turn to better preparing vehicles for the months ahead there are concerns an ingredient in the liquid added to a car’s cooling system could risk harming animals if spilt and not properly cleared away.

PDSA vet nurse Nina Downing explained: “Ethylene glycol is the active component in antifreeze, and is extremely poisonous to animals. It can also be found in screenwash, brake and radiator fluids, and if ingested it can cause severe damage to the kidneys and nervous system.

“Sadly, even in tiny amounts it’s often fatal, unless treatment is given extremely quickly.”

PDSA says it treated more than 40 cases of anti-freeze poisoning in 2022 with cats being particularly susceptible.

Nina added: “Cats are often outdoors unsupervised, unlike dogs. So although the fluid is equally toxic to both species, anti-freeze toxicity is more frequently seen in cats as owners don’t see them drink it. Sadly, by the time there are any symptoms to see, it can often be too late.”

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning can include twitchy muscles and eyes, low energy, vomiting, drinking more than usual, unsteadiness and fast, panty breathing. An unwell animal may also experience seizures.

According to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service, which provide advice for the vet profession on treating cases of poisoning, over a fifth of anti-freeze toxicity cases reported each year occur in December and January.

Alongside being vigilant over spills, those concerned about the risk to animals can also choose liquids for their vehicle containing the ingredient propylene glycol, as this is non toxic, advises the PDSA.

Any pet owner who spots the signs of poisoning, or suspects their pet could have swallowed antifreeze must contact a vet immediately. The quicker help is sought, says the charity, the better an animal’s chance of survival.

“Prevention is always better than cure, so be very vigilant in the cold months – keep a close eye on dogs and avoid letting them roam near parked cars,” added Nina.

“Keep an eye out for spillages and clear up any you find.”