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The Dangers of Rock Salt for Pets

Rock salt (sodium chloride), as well as many other deicers, pose major hazards to your pets when applied in significant quantities to your driveway and other outdoor pavements. Being aware of these dangers and how to eliminate, or at least minimize, the risks to your cat or dog from rock salt can save your pet's health or even his/her life.

The Dangers of Rock Salt on Paws

When your pet walks on salt, or on a salt-water slush, the salt crystals can attach to the animal's paw pads and cause irritation and burning. It can also lead to inflammation, redness, soreness, and bacterial infection.

One of the easiest things you can do is…

  • Use a "pet-friendly" deicer,

  • Sand mixed with a minimal amount of salt,

  • Simply shoveling/snow blowing are ways to deice without rock salt.

  • Or you can take your dog out to a non-salted area when it’s time instead of just letting him/her to go out alone.

Booties are another easy option. In addition to keeping their toes warm and preventing sand and salt from causing irritation, they are an effective way to protect your canine’s paws because they offer warmth, full coverage, and are durable.

***You’ll want to get your camera phone ready for their first time in boots. The adjustment period is pretty amusing!

If booties aren’t an option, protect your dog/cat during winter by…

  • Clipping long hair between the toes and foot pads to the level of the foot pad only. This will prevent ice balls from building.

  • Also rinse/wipe off their paws when they return from an excursion outside. (Make sure to wipe down the stomachs of those shorter furry friends of ours) with a damp cloth or baby wipes.

  • Minimize paw licking until their paws are completely clean, this will minimize risk for skin irritation and any damage caused by salt, ice, or other residue they may have stepped on during their stroll.

  • After returning from walking on the snow or ice, rub some paw balm, like Biobalm, on your dog’s paw pads, this will minimize the dry skin and damage salt can cause.

  • Make sure to reapply the balm often. Having paw balm on hand is a good way to keep their paws soft and supple during the cold months.

(See our online store for product details

Risks of Ingestion of Rock Salt by Pets

Too much salt in your pet's system can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, seizures, erratic walking behavior, disorientation, extreme tiredness, an unnaturally intense thirst, or unusual drooling or salivating. Salt burns to the mouth and/or gastro-intestinal tract are also possible, along with sodium toxicosis (salt poisoning).

In extreme cases, your dog/cat could even die or fall into a coma as a result of ingesting rock salt, so take the warning signs seriously and call your vet if you suspect there is a problem.

Not only rock salt, but also calcium chloride and certain other deicers can be a danger to your pet if ingested, so monitor him/her closely while out of doors. Otherwise, opt for the non-chemical deicing methods mentioned above. Also, keep in mind that salt tracked in on boots and shoes can accumulate on welcome mats and floors and be ingested by your pet. So, sweep often and wash and clean welcome mats regularly.

***Don’t let dogs eat any of the salt or any of the snow (especially the slushy snow) outside that may have been treated with an ice melt.

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