Antifreeze and Pesticide Poisoning

Signs of antifreeze poisoning in cats, which occur within a few hours after ingestion, include staggering, extreme thirst, seizures, excessive urination, and vomiting. Without treatment, kidney failure sets in and the cat will die.

Cats can ingest antifreeze if they walk through it and then lick their paws to clean them. Even very small amounts of antifreeze can be fatal. Any time you suspect that your cat has come in contact with antifreeze, don't wait for signs to develop, take her to the veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian can administer a drug that will prevent the liver from converting antifreeze in its toxic metabolites. The drug is not effective if the cat is already showing signs of poisoning.1

Cats are commonly exposed to organophosphates (OPs) and carbamates found in topical, systemic, and environmental pest control products. Common OPs include fenthion, malathion, runnel, cythioate, chlopyrifos, diazinon, dichlorovos, phosmet, and propetamphos. Common carbamates include fenoxycarb, methomyl, bendiocarb, aldicarb, carbaryl, carbofuran, and propoxur. All of the above products affect the nervous system by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase (AChE) at the neuromuscular junction, resulting in excess AChE and prolonged depolarization of the post-synaptic membrane. The clinical signs occur from parasympathetic stimulation and, to some degree, to sympathetic stimulation.

Signs of exposure to organophosphate pesticides in cats may include restlessness, salivation, tearing, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, respiratory paralysis, depression, seizures, and hyperactivity. Fenthion may be tolerated by the cat for several weeks before toxicosis begins. Prolonged loss of appetite may be the only signs of poisoning. Chlorpyrifos may also cause the onset of signs after several days of exposure which may include loss of appetite and paralysis of the hindlimbs.2


  1. Your New Cat: An Expert Answers Your Every Question. Kim Campbell Thornton
  2. The Feline Patient. Gary D. Norsworthy, Mitchell Crystal, Sharon Fooshee Grace

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