Is Transmission Fluid Toxic to Cats?

Anything leaking out of your car is bad news if Kitty ingests it.
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All transmission fluids are not the same. Depending on the brand and type, they might contain different substances. Those that contain ethylene glycol will kill her in short time; others are toxic but less so. Keep your cats from such fluids. Ingesting any type of transmission fluid means a vet visit.

Ethylene Glycol

Ethylene glycol is commonly known as the primary component of automotive antifreeze. Some transmission and brake fluids include it. Because of its sweet smell and taste, cats and dogs might lap it up if they come upon it. It doesn't take much ethylene glycol to kill a cat. If you suspect your cat has ingested transmission fluid or any other emission from an automobile, take him to the vet immediately. If he receives prompt emergency care, there's a chance he can survive the poisoning.


Within half an hour of ingesting anything with ethylene glycol in it, your cat will start vomiting, become lethargic and stagger if he walks at all. Very soon, he'll start having seizures and losing consciousness. If you're not present during this stage, so you don't know your cat's been poisoned, you might not notice anything right away, as some cats seem to get better. However, within 12 to 24 hours after consuming ethylene glycol, dehydration has set in and breathing gets difficult. After 24 hours, kidneys fail and death is probable. Keep in mind that transmission fluid has only a fraction of the ethylene glycol in antifreeze. Just a taste of antifreeze is enough to kill a cat; a taste of transmission fluid might not produce so drastic a result.


If you saw your cat lick up a product containing ethylene glycol and you can get him to the vet within the hour, she might induce vomiting. However, that's not an option if the cat is unconscious or if symptoms are already showing. Your vet might give your cat ethanol, which inhibits metabolism of ethylene glycol, according to the International Society of Feline Medicine. If you don't know for sure that your cat drank ethylene glycol, your vet will conduct a blood test and measure its concentration in his system. Once acute renal failure begins, Kitty's prognosis isn't good.

Petroleum Distillates

Even if a transmission fluid doesn't contain ethylene glycol, it contains petroleum distillates, or hydrocarbons. Signs of petroleum distillate poisoning include excessive salivation, vomiting, breathing difficulties, skin or eye irritations, staggering, seizures and coma. The Pet Poison Helpline warns not to induce vomiting if you know your cat has consumed any substance containing petroleum distillates. Ingestion of these can cause aspiration pneumonia, in particles of vomit end up in the cat's lungs. Get your cat to the vet immediately. His prognosis depends on how much material he ingested and how long it's been in his system. Hydrocarbons affect a cat's gastrointestinal, respiratory and central nervous system.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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