You turn off the lights to your garage and close the door. Going into the kitchen to make yourself something to eat, you realize that your dog is nowhere to be found. Strange, usually the second you open the fridge door he is at your feet! You hear the sound of banging tins coming from the garage. You sigh and go rescue your pet from whatever new disaster has arisen.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it may be time to dog-proof your garage. As we all know, dogs are curious. So when a dog enters an area he doesn't have a chance to patrol frequently, the very first action he takes is to investigate. You've probably seen your dog perform his ritual of smelling, nosing about and possibly eating what he finds. This is not a good ritual to perform in the garage, where there are many toxic substances that can be walked through, drunk or cleaned off fur.

Eliminating Dangers

You can eliminate many of the dangers to your dog by taking a stroll around the garage and looking to see what is on ground level. Anything you don't want to rub off on your dog should be placed high up or covered with plastic. On your walking tour, take note of antifreeze, motor oil, gasoline, battery acid, carbon monoxide from running cars, turpentine, paint and garbage.


Antifreeze is a major danger to a dog exploring a garage. It's an odorless fluid with a sweet taste that dogs in particular have a fondness for. Poisoning is swift; around a tablespoon is deadly to an average-sized dog, and the mortality rate is about 88 percent. The dog's liver actually turns against itself. The liver breaks down the antifreeze and changes it into oxalic acid. A dog cannot metabolize this substance, and this is what leads to the health problems and often death.

Poisoning usually occurs when some antifreeze has been spilled on the floor and the dog laps it up. Always mop up spills the instant they happen. Sprinkling the area with an absorbent material such as sand, cat litter, wood shavings or sawdust will prevent the dog from licking the spot where the spill occurred.

Safe Antifreeze

Fortunately, many brands of antifreeze are pet safe because they contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. Although propylene glycol is still a toxic substance it does not cause the liver to produce oxalic acid, a life-threatening substance. Check the labels of antifreeze containers to see whether it is pet safe, or ask your vet which brands are okay. Disposing of the antifreeze in a sealed container and keeping containers out of reach will ensure your pet will not get sick from antifreeze poisoning. Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include excessive thirst, diarrhea, panting, vomiting, convulsions, wobbling and increased urination.

Antifreeze poisoning is a life-threatening situation and requires urgent treatment. If your pet displays these symptoms, induce vomiting if you know for sure that it was in fact antifreeze that your dog drank.

Other Dangerous Fluids

Antifreeze is only one of the dangers your dog can encounter in your garage. Motor oil, gasoline and other fluids like windshield wash can drip on a dog while he is exploring beneath a car. Motor oil is the least serious poisoning scenario. Symptoms of motor oil ingestion are depression, lethargy, paralysis of hind legs, staggering, vomiting and coma, in very severe cases.

If your dog has ingested oil, do not induce vomiting. Wrap your dog in a towel and take him to the vet. The situation is urgent but not critical. If your dog is merely covered in oil, wash him well with lukewarm water and mild soap, then wrap him in a towel. Watch the animal for symptoms of ingestion, and if he exhibits symptoms, take him to the vet.

Gasoline and fluids containing ethylene glycol are life threatening, and the symptoms range from vomiting, abdominal pain and convulsions to death. If you do not know what your dog has ingested, DO NOT ENCOURAGE VOMITING. Many substances are caustic and forcing your dog to bring them back up will only bring more harm to your pet's throat passage.

If you see your pet exhibiting vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, tremors or convulsions, rush him to the vet immediately.

To prevent spills, use a funnel while pouring fluids into the engine. If a spill should occur, treat it like an antifreeze spill. Mop it up and use an absorbent material to take up the residue. As for gasoline, place containers high and out of reach of a dog, or inside a dog-proof area.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide poisoning is another danger for your pet. If you start your car, unaware your pet is in the cramped space of the garage, your dog will have no choice but to inhale the fumes. Dogs are far more sensitive to carbon monoxide poisoning than humans. In fact, many cases of 'carsickness' in dogs are actually minor spells of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are reddening of the gums and mucous membranes around the eyes, twitching muscles, weakness, fever and wobbly legs.

If a dog should inhale carbon monoxide fumes or gas fumes, carry him out into fresh air. If he is unconscious, perform artificial resuscitation immediately. After this, rush your pet to the veterinarian. Just because he is breathing doesn't mean he is out of danger.


Turpentine and other cans or jars of toxic substances should also be kept high. To be safe, wipe spills and drips from the sides of containers and make sure they are sealed properly. All garbage cans should have tight, secure lids as well.

Battery Acid

Battery acid is a particularly nasty chemical for your pet to come across. Most dogs know better than to lap battery acid up with their tongues, but if some falls in their fur, the gut reflex is to clean. Many animals have permanently lost the tips of their tongues from cleaning battery acid off their fur. Battery acid does as much damage to a dog as it would to a human.

Symptoms of battery acid poisoning include abdominal pain; bloody vomit; refusal to eat because of a sore mouth; shock; lip, mouth and tongue burns that look like patches of grayish-yellow discoloration; or a bad smell issuing from the mouth due to dying tissues.

Battery acid poisoning is very severe and an extreme emergency. Rush your pet to an emergency facility or vet. If your pet is conscious, give him milk of magnesia or vegetable oil to dilute the poison, 1 tablespoon per 10 pounds of weight. If his skin is burned, flush with lots of cold water. DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING! Battery acid is caustic.

Dispose of any old batteries, and never leave them lying around your garage. If your dog rubs against a battery, the acid may get on his fur. Also, many dogs like to crawl underneath cars to explore and possibly nap. This is a highly dangerous area, especially if your dog is a large one. Their fur can become coated with all sorts of unpleasant substances, like battery acid. Train your dog not to go under a car. Yell, scold him firmly, spray him with water or throw soft objects at him when you see him under the car. It sounds mean, but the benefits to your dog's health are worth it.