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The Dangers of Ice Melts

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

We know how restless dogs can be after being cooped up after a heavy snow. Before leashing up your pup for a much needed walk this season, brush up on the potential hazards that rock salt or ice melts can pose to your dog.

Is Salt Bad for Dogs' Paws?

When it comes to rock salts used in ice melts, yes; these substances can be very bad for dogs. Most deicers contain a type of salt, such as sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, or calcium chloride. These chemicals can cause injuries, irritation, or burns to paws. The pads could become sore from repeatedly stepping on rough salt crystals, which can be sharp enough to cause lacerations and bleeding.

The Signs of Salt Burns and Irritation on the Paws

The most obvious signs of sore paws would be excessive paw licking or chewing, llimping, stepping gingerly, or showing any signs of discomfort during or after a walk. Check your dog's paws regularly for redness, dryness/cracking, bleeding, blisters, sores, or anything else abnormal.

Signs of Salt Poisoning in Dogs

In the worst case scenario, salt poisoning can cause seizures, coma, organ damage, or even death. More minor cases of salt ingestion may simply cause digestive upset. Some of the symptoms of salt poisoning include…

  • Vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Dehydration.

  • Excessive thirst or urination.

  • Mouth ulcerations (depending on the specific compound ingested).

  • Weakness, lethargy, uncoordinated walking, or collapse.

  • Tremors or seizures.

If you suspect your dog ingested salt or other deicing chemicals, or if you’ve noticed any concerning symptoms, it’s best to contact a vet right away. Early treatment is crucial.

How to Prevent Damage to Your Dog’s Paws From Salt

Here are a few tips that can help with avoiding salt exposure (and salt damage) during the winter:

  • Avoidance. If possible, try to walk your pet away from areas that are likely to contain a lot of salt, such as the sludge on the side of the road, or salty sidewalks. Prevent your pup from eating sludgy snow that may contain ice melts, too.

  • Keep walks short. In addition to salt exposure, frostbite can occur due to prolonged periods outside.

  • Use dog booties to cover your pal’s paws. It may take some time and positive reinforcement to get a dog used to these, but booties can do a lot to protect paws from salt, chemicals, sharp objects under the snow, and ice balls that could form in the fur between the toes, causing frostbite.

  • Wipe or rinse the paws after a walk. Use a towel or pet wipe. Or, briefly soak the paws in lukewarm water and then wipe them off with a towel to remove salt and chemicals.

  • Use paw balm or wax. There are pre-made options available for dogs, as well as DIY recipes. Small amounts of petroleum jelly will work, too (just make sure your dog doesn’t ingest large amounts by licking their paws. Place the balm on your pup’s paws prior to a walk, to provide a barrier of protection from salt and chemicals. Then clean the balm off once you return from the walk. Many balms can also be applied after a walk, to soothe dry or irritated paw pads.

  • Use pet-safe alternatives to salt, and encourage neighbors to do the same if you live in a pet-friendly neighborhood. Just keep in mind you will probably still need to watch for ice melts used by the city

Treating Irritation and Burns From Salt on Your Dog’s Paws

Minor dryness and irritation may be treated at home. Wash or rinse your dog’s paws, then apply a soothing balm designed for paw pads.

Avoid shampooing too often, as this can be drying.

Visit a vet for bleeding/cuts, or paws that are obviously painful or infected.

Treating Salt Poisoning in Dogs

Prevention can be the best medicine. Once salt poisoning is suspected, it’s best to err on the side of caution and immediately contact your vet..

While paw damage and salt poisoning may be scary, these things don’t have to prevent you and your pup from enjoying time outdoors in a winter wonderland. Just be sure to plan ahead and take precautions, so your winter romps are nothing but fun!

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