Antifreeze may be extremely useful for protecting your RV and other automobiles during the cold winter season. Still, if your pet comes in contact with it, this useful fluid could end up causing serious issues.
The short answer is yes. Antifreeze can be toxic to animals. But it depends on what type of antifreeze it is, how much of it was consumed, and the type of animal.
What You Need to Know About Antifreeze and Animals
Before we get into the possible toxicity of antifreeze, it’s important that you know there are different types of antifreeze, and not all of them are toxic.
The antifreeze that you use in your car or truck is typically green in color and, in most cases, will contain ingredients that are toxic to animals.
Antifreeze that is marketed as RV antifreeze is usually pink in color. RV antifreeze usually does not contain ingredients that are harmful to animals.
The three main ingredients found in all types of antifreeze are Ethanol (alcohol), Ethanol and Propylene Blend, and Propylene Glycol.
Antifreeze is made with Ethanol, and the blend of Ethanol and Propylene is definitely toxic to animals and humans. If you know that your pet has ingested antifreeze containing these two ingredients, you need to take them to the vet immediately for help. These ingredients are often only found in antifreeze used for vehicles such as cars, trucks, or vans.
Propylene glycol is an ingredient that is often used the most with RV antifreeze. If your antifreeze only has this ingredient, it is generally safe, non-toxic, and non-hazardous. Propylene glycol is not toxic to humans either, but if a large quantity is consumed, it can lead to various issues such as diarrhea.
When it comes to pets, propylene glycol is not suitable for cats and not necessarily good for dogs, but it’s considered the least toxic of the three. This liquid can absorb well, and therefore, it is often used by the pharmaceutical, food, and chemical industries to create medicine, cosmetics, and even human and pet food products. Propylene glycol is not often used for cat food products because cats seem to be more sensitive to it than dogs. According to the FDA, propylene glycol is generally recognized as safe.
Does Propylene Glycol Cause Serious Issues with Cats or Dogs?
When it comes to how safe propylene glycol is for cats or dogs, the answer is not always straightforward. For dogs, very small amounts of this glycol are usually fine. However, larger amounts could lead to poisoning. For cats, even small amounts of propylene glycol can be poisonous.
Generally, poisoning from ingesting propylene glycol can happen if a considerable amount is consumed. However, if your pet only consumed a small amount that was left inside the plumbing of your RV’s system after it was washed out while you were de-winterizing it, that would not be a cause for alarm.
Therefore, it all depends on the amount of propylene glycol your pet ingested, as well as the type and size of pet you have, when determining the level of toxicity of RV antifreeze made from propylene glycol. The effects can range from mild to moderate, and in some rare cases, they can be severe.
The Symptoms of Poisoning from Propylene Glycol
Propylene glycol will not break down into the same toxic metabolites as ethylene glycol. Therefore, ingesting large amounts can cause illness and disoriented behavior in dogs. Still, at the same time, it will not cause serious systemic effects or other major health issues like kidney failure. Cats are unable to tolerate this ingredient as well as dogs, even in small amounts.
Propylene glycol is a part of a family of alcohols, and for that reason, all animals may suffer from intoxication, which may resemble drunkenness whenever it is ingested.
Some of the signs you should look out for if your pet has consumed RV antifreeze that contains propylene glycol include the following.
- Depression or lethargy
You should look out for these symptoms, especially in cats.
- Sudden weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Pale mucus membranes
- Discolored urine that is reddish-brown
- Skin discoloration
If your pet has consumed RV antifreeze that contains propylene glycol, it is recommended that you take them to a veterinarian very soon. The vet must perform lab tests to check for any issues. You will want to provide your pet with plenty of fluids at this time. Doing so will help to flush the propylene glycol out of their system.
Concerns About Cats and Propylene Glycol
Ingesting propylene glycol can have more of a serious effect on cats than dogs. Even small amounts of the fluid are enough to cause Heinz Body Hemolytic Anemia in felines. That is a condition where the red blood cells are destroyed. Cats are more susceptible than dogs to have issues with propylene glycol due to their unique physiology. It causes them to be more sensitive to various substances that other animals or humans wouldn’t have an issue with. Some substances or foods that can be toxic to cats but not to humans or other animals include maple leaves, zinc, kale, garlic, onions, methylene blue, and Vitamin K.
Experts are unsure how exactly propylene glycol causes the harmful Heinz body formation to occur. Some suggest it could be because a cat’s spleen has large pores in the pule venules, and that causes erythrocytes to pass through unchanged. As a result, the erythrocytes that contain the Heinz bodies are not separated by the spleen in cats the same way they are in other animals.
Is RV Antifreeze Toxic to Animals – Conclusion
RV antifreeze made from an Ethanol (alcohol) or an Ethanol and Propylene blend is toxic to animals. If your pet ingests it, you will need to get them medical attention immediately.
However, RV antifreeze based on Propylene Glycol is not considered as serious. If your pet ingests this type of antifreeze, they can get sick, but it typically does not lead to life-threatening issues. If you have a cat, you will need to be cautious because propylene glycol can cause more severe problems with felines than with dogs. The ingredient has been known to cause medical problems such as Heinz Body Hemolytic Anemia in cats.