Yes, it is bad!
Ethylene glycol is the primary ingredient in many brands of antifreeze. It is extremely toxic to animals and people and has a slightly sweet taste. It is odorless, colorless, and often irresistible to dogs and cats when they find it in a puddle in the garage or driveway. Propylene glycol is an effective alternative to ethylene glycol and the FDA has recently labeled propylene glycol safe. It is the best thing you can do to prevent poisoning in your pets however, it does not eliminate it from guests and neighbors. Ethylene glycol is especially dangerous since it only takes about 3oz to poison a medium-sized dog.
There are three stages of ethylene glycol poisoning, with the first stage lasting for approximately 12 hours and consisting of apparent intoxication including in coordination, ataxia, and vomiting. Some animals develop nystagmus (abnormal movement of the eyes). The second stage occurs between 12-36 hours and consists of increased heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Muscle spasms, tremors, seizures and heart failure can also occur during this stage. Death occurs most commonly during stage two. The final stage of toxicity occurs between 24-72 hours and consists of kidney failure. Decreased or no urination, increased drinking, excessive urination or red blood cells in the urine can all indicate kidney disease.
If it is possible that your dog could have ingested ethylene glycol then contact your local veterinarian immediately because minutes and hours are important. If it is determined that your pet has ingested this toxin within the last several hours they will likely be given an injection to make them vomit up any toxin that may remain in their stomach. Activated charcoal may then be administered orally. This helps to bind any toxin that remains and flush it from the GI tract. An appropriate antidote to ethylene glycol can also be administered, which binds to the toxin that has already made it into the bloodstream. An IV catheter and fluids are critical in flushing as much of the already absorbed toxin from the blood as possible. Symptomatic treatment and supportive care for the kidneys and other organs are critical over the following days. Immediate identification and treatment of the ingestion will give your pet the best prognosis for a full recovery. Unfortunately, very small amounts of absorbed ethylene glycol can cause severe kidney damage, so if the ingestion goes unnoticed or untreated for several hours some degree of kidney disease will likely result. Please contact Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at 201-646-2008 if you suspect your pet has ingested any antifreeze or any other chemicals/cleaners this winter.