Winter Warning: The Dangers of Rock Salt for Your Pet

woman_and_dogWhen winter snow and ice arrive many people use ice melters to keep their families safe from slips and falls.  Did you know that most ice melters contain salt that can damage your hardscapes or injure your pets and children?  Dogs are especially vulnerable to the corrosive characteristics of salt.  Health problems can include dermatitis, inflammation of the paws, and serious gastrointestinal problems.

What makes rock salt and ice melters containing salt dangerous to pets?

Exposure to salt and salt-based ice melting products can cause dogs severe dermatitis, inflammation of the paws and serious gastrointestinal problems including vomiting and internal burns of the mouth and digestive tract.  For dogs, in particular, exposure to these products can mean an unhealthy winter and unplanned trips to the vets’ office.  The problem is that when dogs are let out they frolic and eat the snow and many of the ice melt products sit on the surface of the ice until they melt.  Dogs either ingest these ice melt pellets or they get frozen into their paw pads.  Later when they are inside with higher temperatures the ice melts and dogs begin to lick their paws.  The salt can heat up as high as 175 degrees and not only burn their skin but their mouth and digestive system.

A national survey of more than 500 consumers living in cold weather states showed that an alarming 62% of consumers were not aware that salt and salt-based ice melting products pose a health danger to pets who digest or come into contact with these products.  The survey also revealed that 60% of the respondents said they use rock salt or salt-based ice melters in their households.

Pet-Friendly Products

There are many different brands of pet-friendly rock salt available. The key is to read the labels because the products that are pet-friendly will specifically say so.  A general rule of thumb should be that if it does not explicitly say the product is pet-friendly, it is not.  Additionally, if the product has ingredients with hygroscopic chemicals, such as calcium chloride and magnesium chloride, avoid using them.

Where to Purchase

Pet-friendly rock salt can be purchase at any home improvement store.  Many more eco-friendly products can be purchased online or in specialty stores.  Wherever the product is purchased, read the label.  Do not be persuaded to purchase a specific brand simply because it has a cute looking animal on the package.  It can still be hazardous to your pet.

Winter Walks

Pets still require exercise even during the winter months. It's important to consider the pet’s condition, hair coat, and activity level to know how long the dog needs to be outside. It makes sense to not just send the unconditioned dog outside to spend hours in the backyard, but instead to go for a walk on a safely plowed walkway. Do not assume your neighbors' rock salt is pet-friendly. Keep baby wipes by the door to immediatly wipe off any salt left behind on your dog's paws as soon as you get home. 

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