The hidden dangers of road salt for dogs this winter

January 7, 2024


As winter coats the roads with ice, you will often see the flashing orange lights of salt spreaders out and about to make the roads safe. You will also likely see salt being spread on pavements and car parks for the same reason, however, some of it can be difficult to spot.

While this solution is effective for human safety, it poses a hidden danger to our four-legged friends. Road salt, or rock salt, may keep roads and pavements clear and preventing slipping, but its impact on dogs can be quite hazardous.

Contact Garston Veterinary Group on 01373 452225 if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

What is road salt?

Road salt is typically composed of sodium chloride, calcium chloride, or magnesium chloride. It is used to lower the freezing point of water. When sprinkled on icy roads and paths, it prevents the formation of ice and helps make surfaces safer for vehicles and walkers.

The dangers of road salt for dogs

Paw irritation & dehydration

The most immediate risk for dogs is the irritation road salt can cause to their paws. When dogs walk on salted surfaces, their paw pads can become cracked, dry, and painful. This can lead to discomfort, limping, and difficulty walking.

Road salt is a desiccant, which means it can absorb moisture from a dog’s paws and skin. Extended contact with road salt can lead to dehydration and skin issues.

Oral ingestion

Dogs are known for their inquisitive nature and may lick or chew their paws after walking on salted surfaces. In doing so, they can ingest road salt, which is toxic to dogs when consumed in significant quantities causing:

a) Digestive issues

Ingesting road salt can lead to gastrointestinal upset in dogs. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, and abdominal pain.

b) Salt toxicity

Andy stresses that the most severe risk is salt toxicity, which can occur if a dog consumes a large amount of road salt. This can lead to symptoms such as excessive thirst, tremors, seizures, and, in severe cases, even death.

How to prevent road salt related issues

  1. Protective Paw Balm: Andy suggests considering using a paw balm or wax to create a protective barrier on your dog’s paw pads before going outside.
  2. Booties: Dog booties provide excellent protection from road salt, keeping paws dry and safe.
  3. Avoid Salted Areas: Whenever possible, avoid walking your dog on salted surfaces. Choose areas with minimal salt use.
  4. Wipe Paws: After walks, wipe your dog’s paws with a damp cloth to remove salt and prevent ingestion.
  5. Indoor Rinsing: Rinse your dog’s paws with warm water when returning home to remove salt residue.
  6. Pet-Friendly Salt: If you need to use salt on your property, choose pet-friendly, non-toxic alternatives.
  7. Supervision: Always supervise your dog when they’re outside, especially around areas treated with road salt.

In conclusion, road salt is essential for human safety during winter, but it poses several risks to dogs. By taking proactive measures to protect your dog’s paws and avoid salted areas, you can ensure their safety and wellbeing during the winter months. Our team recommend that a little extra care can go a long way in keeping your furry companion healthy and happy.

Call us with your concerns