Along with signaling the beginning of another festive yuletide season, winter comes with its many inconveniences. Not only do we experience harsh, cold weather but the immense snowfall that comes along with it also poses many hazards to humans and animals. The roads, sidewalks, and driveways are covered in ice, often necessitating the use of road salt to dissolve them. If you have a dog and live in a region where harsh winter conditions occur, there is a good chance they will encounter road salt. Road salt is toxic and your dog can experience poisoning if they ingest it. 

Why is Road Salt Dangerous to Dogs? 

Road salt, or rock salt, is the natural form of sodium chloride. It is similar to regular table salt but is unrefined and has more mineral impurities. Regular salt in moderate amounts is required in a dog’s diet for healthy cell function. Salt in all forms can be toxic if consumed in high concentrations. Road salt is not safe for consumption, and dogs can easily encounter it, especially during cold weather. Furthermore, road salt can also pose a choking hazard to a dog. 

Symptoms of Road Salt Poisoning 

Your dog can consume road salt in several ways from playing in the snow, licking its paws, or to digging directly through a salt bag; this can cause symptoms from severe sodium poisoning, dehydration, and kidney damage. Other clinical signs include: 

  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Seizures 
  • Disorientation 
  • Lethargy 
  • Drooling 
  • Dehydration 
  • Tremors 
  • Seizures 
  • Coma 

If your dog were to walk directly on road salt, salt might get between its paws, which could lead to inflammation, redness, and a burning sensation. 

Treatment of Road Salt Poisoning 

You may remedy mild poisoning from road salt by providing fresh water to stop dehydration and flush out excess sodium from your dog’s system. However, more serious encounters require the immediate attention of your veterinarian. Your vet will administer IV fluids to manage dehydration and balance electrolyte levels, but because a sudden drop in blood sodium levels can cause brain swelling, this procedure will have to be done gradually. If your dog has ingested road salt from playing in the snow or otherwise, treat it as an emergency and visit your veterinarian immediately or call Pet Poison Helpline® at (855) 764-7661 for prompt medical help.