Ice Alert: Navigating the Dangers of Rock Salt and Snow for Your Pet

spaniel lying down in the snow

During the current cold snap, pet owners face a hidden hazard that lurks on our gritted streets and paths. Rock salt, a common de-icing agent composed of salt and grit, poses a significant threat to our four-legged friends. While essential for human safety, its impact on pets can be detrimental.

Ernie Kucera, the Outdoor Dog Expert at Ruffwear, highlights the dangers, stating, “walking on grit whilst out on your daily adventures can sadly cause burns or sores on paws.” The chemicals within the grit are harsh and can damage the delicate pads of a dog’s paws. Kucera advises seeking out snow-covered fields or parks where the ground has not been treated with these chemicals as a safer alternative for walks.

The risks don’t stop at surface injuries. The cold weather itself can be harmful. “Snow and ice can dry out your dog’s paw pads, causing them to be chapped and potentially crack,” Kucera explains. Given that dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, the exposure to cold conditions can lead to dry, cracked paws. The outdoor dog gear company recommends boots for those with sensitive paws, offering a protective layer against the elements and preventing injuries.

However, the danger extends beyond external harm. Ingestion of rock salt can be fatal. Symptoms of poisoning include unusual sleepiness, vomiting, breathing difficulties, excessive thirst, and seizures. This can escalate to kidney failure, making it crucial to clean your dog’s paws and underbelly thoroughly after walks. Warm water and shampoo should be used to remove any traces of grit, ensuring the dog is completely dry afterwards.

Research supports these concerns. Studies have shown that the ingestion of de-icing salts can lead to hypernatremia in dogs, a condition characterised by elevated sodium levels in the blood, which can have fatal consequences. The Pet Poison Helpline notes an increase in calls during winter months related to rock salt ingestion, highlighting the need for vigilance among pet owners.

While the use of rock salt is vital for public safety during icy conditions, pet owners must take preventative measures to safeguard their furry companions. By opting for untreated walking paths, using protective gear like dog boots, and ensuring thorough cleaning after walks, we can help prevent the harmful effects of rock salt and grit, ensuring a safe and enjoyable winter for our pets.

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