Most of us know how to protect our pups in freezing temperatures (doggie sweaters, here we come!) but not everyone is aware of another winter danger for dogs: the ubiquitous rock salt used to melt ice. In the past five years, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has received hundreds of calls about ice melt exposure. Here’s everything you need to know to keep Fido safe from salt melts till spring:
1. Ice melts are poisonous to dogs if ingested. Dogs who lick their paws after a wintry walk may be exposing themselves to toxic chemicals like potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium carbonate and calcium magnesium acetate that are present in many ice melts. Consumption of ice melts can be lethal, but only if your dog ingests large quantities.
“Larger ingestion's can lead to an increase in the blood's electrolyte levels, weakness, lethargy, moderate irritation to the oral and gastrointestinal system, and even tremors,” says Nicole Martin, a certified veterinary technician and Client Services Manager at APCC.
Still, smaller quantities of ice melts can make your dog feel pretty sick. “We would expect a small ingestion, such as licking paw pads after a walk through ice melts, to lead to mild gastrointestinal signs such as hyper salivating, nausea and vomiting,” Martin warns.
2. Melts can irritate dogs’ paws. Dogs’ gastrointestinal systems are not the only part of their bodies that react badly to ice melt exposure. Though paw pads are tough, ice melts can cause them to burn, become irritated and even crack, turning a daily walk into a painful ordeal for your dog. “It's important to regularly check in between your pet's paw pads for signs of irritation,” Martin advises.
3. It’s relatively easy to protect your dog from ice melts. A few simple steps can keep your dog safe, but one of them is especially key: “After wintertime walks, pet parents should wipe their pet's paws off with a clean, damp towel,” says Martin. She adds that dog boots can go a long way toward protecting your pet from the perils of winter walks.
Other ways to keep your pet safe: Wipe down your dog’s entire body if she was rolling around in the snow, don’t let your dog drink from puddles of melted snow, and keep your dog from snacking on snow near any place where ice melts may have been used.
4. “Pet-friendly” ice melts are available, but they may not be the answer. “Although these types of melts tend to be considered safer, they, too, can lead to problems if the animal has been exposed to enough of the product,” says Martin. If you’ve got ice melts of any kind at home, keep them in sealed, pet-proof containers.
5. If you think your dog ate ice melts, please take action. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s 24-hour poison control hotline at (888) 426-4435.
Sourced February 14th 2011