Dog ingests toxic windshield cleaner at gas station


A danger to bear in mind while traveling with pets this spring and summer

Luis Gutierrez and his dog Bobby ventured on the road last summer from Covina, California to Utah to ride Razors. While traveling, they confronted something they don’t see at home, an open bucket of windshield cleaner sitting between the pumps at the roadside gas station.

Photo courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline.

Photo courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline.

"In California, the windshield cleaner and squeegee are in a protected container that animals can't get to," Gutierrez said, in an organizational release.1 "In Utah and Nevada, the gas stations we stopped at had windshield cleaner sitting in an open bucket."

With summer coming, the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline are raising awareness of the harm windshield cleaners and additional unknown items can pose to pets while traveling.

"At home Bobby drinks water out of a bucket, so drinking from one on the road would be natural to him," said Gutierrez. "When we made our first stop in Nevada, Bobby jumped out, found the bucket, and started chugging. I saw probably three big chugs, but it could have been more. At first, I didn't think much of it."

When Gutierrez and Bobby stopped at another gas station, the dog drank a second time from an open bucket of cleaner fluid.

"After the second stop Bobby started vomiting. I drove a little further, and decided I needed to call for help," Gutierrez said. "My first call was to Pet Poison Helpline. After explaining what Bobby had potentially ingested, and his symptoms, they recommended I take him immediately to the Cedar City Animal Hospital for evaluation and treatment."

According to Renee Schmid, DVM, DABT, DABVT, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline, windshield washer fluid can potentially cause methanol poisoning and some mixtures may also contain ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in antifreeze, which can result in death when a toxic amount is ingested.

She further explained, in the release, "Methanol exposure can cause central nervous system issues such as lethargy and ataxia or seizures in severe cases. We can also see gastrointestinal upset such as diarrhea and vomiting, hypotension, hypoglycemia metabolic acidosis, and potentially respiratory collapse and death, depending on the dose ingested. Ethylene glycol exposure can cause similar signs as well as renal injury and failure."

At the hospital, Gutierrez provided the veterinary team with Bobby's case number so they could talk directly with the Pet Poison Helpline experts. The toxicologist recommended the hospital immediately perform an ethylene glycol test and a venous blood gas (VBG) test to search for a metabolic acidosis. Additionally, they administered an antiemetic, anticonvulsant, and intravenous fluids.

"I have to admit, it was a little frustrating that when I called Pet Poison Helpline, they sent me to a veterinarian anyway," Gutierrez added, "but their involvement ended up being critical. I didn't realize that they would stay in contact and provide the clinic with specific treatment recommendations. It really is a lifeline and I appreciate it."

Schmid added that Bobby did not ingest enough of the windshield cleaner to develop more severe poisoning symptoms and made a full recovery. "Bobby's case is a great example of why you need to be aware of your pet's environment, especially when traveling," she advised. "When visiting family or friends, for example, your dog might come in contact with medications, plants or other dangerous items that you pet-proofed in and around your home."


Dog poisoned from drinking windshield cleaner at gas station. News release. Pet Poison Helpline. April 12, 2023. Accessed April 12, 2023.

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