Rock Salt Dangers for Dogs

Rock salt and similar de-icers are a burn hazard to dogs. Further, excessive salt intake can cause injury to the kidneys, seizures, coma or death. Even if you choose a pet-friendly de-icer, your neighbors may not -- so take extra steps to keep your dog safe during his daily walks. Trim long fur, outfit him with booties and wash your dog's pads to keep him away from the dangers of rock salt. If you suspect salt ingestion, immediately take your dog to a vet.

Woman with sled dog outdoors during winter
Rock salt heats quickly and can burn a dog's pads and mouth.
credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

De-Icers Contain Harmful Ingredients

Rock salt does harm to a dog's pads and causes internal injury if he's left to lick it off. The substance can cause irritation and inflammation of the pads, made worse if the dog licks his pads to get rid of the salt. Ingestion of any kind of salt, including table salt, can lead to tremors, seizure and potential fatality when taken in sufficient amounts.

Salt is often listed as sodium chloride on de-icer packaging; look for this ingredient. In addition to salt, de-icers can contain other elements such as calcium chloride, potassium chloride and magnesium chloride, all of which can cause burns to the mouth or digestive tract or toxicity if ingested.

Toxic Ingestion Causes Clinical Signs

Signs of excessive rock salt ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, unstable or "drunk" walk and excessive thirst. Symptoms may also include tremors and seizures. Medical intervention is necessary, so call your vet if you notice these signs. Your vet may administer intravenous fluids and monitor to prevent further complications.

Steps to Protect Your Dog

After your dog has spent time outside, rinse his paws or wipe them down with a towel to get rid of any rock salt or other irritants. Consider booties to cover your dog's pads while he's on his daily walks. Long-haired breeds should have regular trims to prevent bits of ice and water containing de-icer to become stuck in their fur. When you're out for an excursion, keep your dog away from puddles and prevent him from eating snow that might contain a harmful ingredient.

Choose a Pet-Friendly De-Icer

If a de-icer does not say it is pet-friendly, it probably is not. On the flip side, not all "pet friendly" products pose no risk to your dog. A so-called "safer" form of rock salt might just have round instead of jagged pieces but nonetheless may still contains toxic ingredients. Read the product label and avoid any identified as an irritant or to be kept away from children. Instead, choose products that are free of salt and chlorides. Lower-priced products in particular may be mixed with unsafe elements.