Montreal Gazette

Paw patrolling

Is ice-melting salt bad for dogs?


The question: Is it true that ice melts — pellets that help keep sidewalks and roadways safe — are dangerous for dogs?

The science: Dog owners know they have to pay attention to paw health in the winter.

Walking bare-pawed over salt can be uncomforta­ble for dogs. Prolonged exposure to ice melts, particular­ly certain types, can lead to more serious problems for dogs such as chemical burns on paws.

Some of the most common types of ice melts are sodium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium chloride, all of which can cause mild skin irritation. Calcium chloride, however, is more dangerous and can cause chemical burns on the paws and, when ingested, burns in the mouth and stomach, experts said. In most cases, it's not possible to know which products have been sprinkled on public streets and sidewalks.

To be safe, experts recommend wiping or rinsing your pup's paws after walks to remove the salty residue.

If you are planning to use salt in your home's walkways and driveways, use products containing urea, which are considered pet-friendly.

Salt is not the only winter hazard for dog paws. Ice can cut into paw pads, and clumps of snow can get stuck to the fur between the toes, experts said. If your dog is showing signs of irritation — limping, or excessivel­y licking or chewing their paws — check their paws.

“While de-icers can pose some risks to our pets, it's important to remember that ice poses its own risks to pets as well,” Rena Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Associatio­n, wrote in an email. “In addition to the risk of slips and falls, ice and icy crust on snow can cause cuts and abrasions to your dog 's paws, or it could contain embedded objects that could be harmful if stepped on.”


■ Discourage your dog from eating the pellets.

■ Booties designed for dogs can protect their paws.

■ If your dog prefers romping around bare-pawed, use a wet wipe or clean water to get any residue off the paws. This will keep your dog from licking the residue.

■ Wipe your dog 's snout — and ears if those drag on the ground.

■ Apply wax-based petrolatum or lanolin products made for dogs to help protect paws.


When ingested in small amounts — a few licks of salty sludge — sodium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium chloride may cause mild gastrointe­stinal irritation, experts said. When ingested in large amounts, they said, these ice melts can lead to electrolyt­e abnormalit­ies, which can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, agitation, depression and even tremors or seizures.

But toxicity from ice melts is “very rare,” said Tina Wismer, senior director of toxicology at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

How much is harmful to your pet will vary, in part, on the type used. For instance, calcium chloride could be problemati­c in smaller amounts. But, in general, ingestion of 2-3 grams per kilogram of body weight could cause an issue, said Christine Rutter, a clinical associate professor and veterinary emergency and critical care specialist at Texas A&M University. For a 20-pound dog, that would be about one tablespoon. “Unless my dog was eating the salt, I wouldn't be terribly worried,” Rutter said.

In 2022, there were 242 reports to ASPCA poison control of a pet ingesting or coming into contact with de-icing products such as rock salt. In 2023, there were 108 such reports.

The bottom line: Pay attention to your dog's paws in the winter and make sure that ice melts and snow have not irritated their pads.

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