Road Salt Safety Tips for Pets

Heather Handley, DVM
Senior Consulting Veterinarian, Clinical Toxicology
Pet Poison Helpline

The conventional road salt is large, coarse grains of sodium chloride (NaCl). That is the same chemical as table salt. It is the most cost-effective way to prevent freezing on roadways, but it has environmental costs. Some areas may try to decrease the amount of NaCl used by mixing it with another deicer.

Additives or alternatives: Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Magnesium Acetate, Potassium Acetate, Urea, Sand.

When we think about or companion animals, the most common way they get exposed is by getting it on their paws during walks, and then grooming it off. Usually this is in a small amount that doesn’t cause systemic effect or the dog’s body can at least increase thirst to adjust to the salt ingestion.

Getting the salt on the paws can also cause dryness and irritation.

Any of the products used are not intended for consumption and may cause stomach upset and vomiting if ingested.

If the dog, for whatever reason, ingested a large amount of the salt, its body may not be able to adjust fast enough. In that case the dog could develop salt toxicity, which can cause tremors. Medical attention is required.

Prevention:

  • Put booties on your dog’s paws to protect from the cold, ice, and salt.
  • Wipe off your dog’s paws if booties aren’t an option.
  • Keep your dog on a leash to prevent access to piles of salt.
  • Provide free access to water.