Skip to content
Back Back to Insurance menu Go to Insurance
Back Back to Saga Money Go to Saga Money
Back Back to Saga Magazine menu Go to Magazine
Search Magazine

Antifreeze and grit pose poison risk to pets

21 November 2014

When cold weather sets in we often reach for the antifreeze and grit, but it's worth being aware of the risk they pose to pets.

The taste of antifreeze can attract animals, so make sure you clean up any spills

During cold weather the advice is to protect pets from the toxic chemicals in antifreeze and rock salt that’s used to grit roads and pavements.

Road grit

Salt is poisonous to cats, and can cause extreme dehydration, brain damage and seizures. It can easily get onto their paws and fur and then be swallowed when they groom themselves. Ideally it’s best to keep cats indoors or at least in the back garden, away from roads or paths where salt’s been used.


Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, a chemical that can also be lethal to animals. Unfortunately its sweet taste appeals to their taste buds and in fact, there have been calls to introduce a bitter taste to try and prevent animal poisoning. Again, the advice is to keep cats and dogs away from garages and driveways where it may have dripped from cars.

Protecting your pets

Cats are not very resilient to extreme cold so it may be relatively easy to keep them inside during wintry weather. Given the chance, most cats will opt for the warmest and most comfortable spot available, unlike dogs who need regular exercise as much as we do. 

There’ll be some days when a long walk’s not an option when you have to opt for chasing a ball in the garden rather than risking icy pavements or equally treacherous conditions.

But if you do venture out together, it’s a good idea to rinse your dog’s paws and underside after a walk, especially if you’ve been on gritted surfaces – apart from anything, grit can irritate their pads –and brushing their fur will help remove residual salt and grit.

Protecting other people's pets

Never leave antifreeze out and always clear up any drips or spills to prevent animals drinking it. If you use grit on your own property do so sparingly, there really isn't the need to coat the surface with it.

Check under cars and on top of car wheels before you start your vehicle as cats are sometimes attracted to a warm engine and may fall asleep in dangerous places.

Danger signs

Above all, be aware of the signs of poisoning that include lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite and excessive thirst.In the most distressing and extreme cases,cats may collapse and have difficulty walking.If you’re worried, contact your vet immediately.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

Related Topics