Rock Salt and Your Dog
New York City had its first winter snowfall this week. Dog owners all over the city are dealing with an annual problem: rock salt and dogs’ paws. The New York Times published this story about rock salts last year and below you’ll find a re-post of a story I did last year during the “Snowmageddon of ’15.” At the end of the article you’ll find a list of tips to keep your pooch safe on city sidewalks.
First Published on January 26, 2015: The Snowmageddon is slowly moving up the coast and part of our preparation is getting Bodhi (who happens to love the snow) ready as well. The maintenance staff at the development where we live on the East Side of New York City uses rock salt, or ice melts, heavily. They salt the sidewalks, the steps, the walkways, (which are different from the sidewalks), and if you stood in one place long enough I am sure they would salt you as well.
I did a bit of research to find out what exactly is in this rock salt. I mean, it’s blue! I know salt can come in a variety of colors but it’s such a beautiful blue I thought it had to be artificial… and it is. My research says it’s a “blue indicator” which is often added to the salt mixture called Streamline’s Blue Ice Heat Melt. It’s one of many colorings and additives available to assist in melting the snow and ice.
According to their website, Blue Heat Ice Melt is “less harmful to vegetation and SAFER for children and pets.” I am not sure what “safer” means in this instance, but that gives me pause for concern. Think of it like this, this product can melt ice up to minus 15 degrees. That means it produces chemical heat!
The rock salt mix also contains an additive called thymolphthalein (yes, it’s a tongue twister). All I could learn from the Internet, is that it’s an acid base indicator and it turns blue when the pH is between 9.3-10.5
What does all this mean to us? The short answer is that we should put some sort of protection on our dogs’ feet and be wary of them eating snow containing rock salt.
The salt can cause irritation to your pets’ feet. If your pet ingests the salt it can cause anything from stomach irritation to seizures, and in extreme cases even death.
Here are some tips from the Pet Place website on how to prevent ice melt (i.e.: rock salt) problems. Pay special attention to number seven.
1. Keep all bags of rock salt out of the reach of your pet. Keep ice melts in sealed pet proof containers.
2. Don’t walk your pet in areas where rock salt or ice melts have been used. (This may not be possible.)
3. Clean your pet’s paws after coming in from outside when exposure to ice melts was possible. You an use a damp cloth or even a product such as the Paw Plunger to clean your dog’s feet.
4. Don’t let your dog drink from puddles of melted snow. These may contain ice melts.
5. Fit your dog with dog boots to protect your dog’s feet and keep them clean.
6. If you use ice melts, hose down and wash off all traces of the ice melts when the weather improves to minimize further exposure to your pet.
7. Beware of “Pet Safe” ice melts. Some products are labeled as pet safe but there are no regulations to prove that they are. Based on our product research, you should consider all ice melts as potentially dangerous.
If you ever suspect that your pet has ingested ice melts, please contact your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately.
You can go back and look at Urban Dog’s interview with Dr. Christina Moore to remind yourself what you should do to protect your pet in the winter.