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Is it safe for my dog to walk on ice melt chemicals? Limping, Lifting and Paw Licking

Posted by twincitiespets on January 22, 2018 at 3:05 PM

The weather is finally warm enough to take a dog walk, so you get yourself and your furry walking companion all bundled up ready to stretch those paws. However as you walk outside your own sidewalk you see a clear change in the color of pavement and wonder to yourself. “I didn’t realize my neighbor painted his or hers sidewalk white for winter? Then you notice your poor dog is lifting his paws one by one and he has a look of “WHY!?!?!? I’m used to walking here and it usually doesn’t hurt like this”

Ice melting chemicals or salt, in most forms, may be harming your dogs feet. The irritation, pain, and hurt to his paw pads can halt dog walks altogether. Unfortunately with how dangerous ice can be, salt and ice melt are regularly used on sidewalks in residential neighborhoods and in front of any places of business. Being a dog walker from northern Minnesota I’ve seen sidewalks salted so thick the concrete was actually breaking up into pieces. Instead of shoveling and removing snow some sidewalks will literally be covered in ice melt.

Braving the cold weather

How bad is salt for my dog?

The answer is very bad. The main ingredient in a lot of ice melt products is sodium or calcium chloride along with additional chemicals potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium carbonate and calcium magnesium acetate or a mixture of them. The chemicals can damage a dogs paws or even be fatal to them if they get it in their mouth. 

When ice or water reacts with rock salt a chemical reaction occurs creating heat. This in turn will melt any ice that its reacting with. The problem is this chemical reaction will occur with everything. So any dog walking on sidewalks will have their poor paws taking the full force of that reaction. It hurts, it's irritating, and uncomfortable so this is when most dogs will start to limp or attempt to lick their paw pads. Additionally, rock salt and its chemical components are toxic. If your pet eats a small amount of the salt either directly off the ground or by licking their paws, it will most likely upset their stomachs and could cause vomiting. If a large amount is eaten it has been known to cause diarrhea, excessive salivation, depression, anorexia, tremors, disorientation, increased thirst, seizures, or in some cases death. If you think your dog has ingested large amounts of melting salt contact your vet immediately!

The snow doesn't bother Arthur

So what you're saying then is no dog walking until Spring?

Of course not! We can go out dog walking but need to do a few things in order to protect our furry friends feet. Fortunately for us we have a few options available to help get back out and walking with all four paws on the ground.

Protection - Prepping your dogs paws to keep them from becoming irritated and dried out in the first place. A good dense, barrier wax (Mushers) works great at forming a breathable barrier between your dog's paws and the ground. The wax works really well at soaking into your dogs paw pads keeping them moisturized and protected. Musher's is fairly inexpensive and relatively easy to apply. An added benefit is that it protects against the ice and snow build-up that can form between a dog's paw pads. If you are looking for an immediate solution and can not make the trip to the pet store, Vaseline or cooking spray will work as well to provide that barrier between your pup's paws and the chemicals on the ground.

Avoidance - Find an alternate route that doesn’t go near any houses that have heavily salted sidewalks. Also if you notice they have pet dogs themselves they most likely are using a pet safe and friendly salt ice melt. Dog walking on the boulevard for a short time in order to get around badly salted spots. Lifting smaller dogs as well and carrying them over the thick layers of chemical ice melt that people sometimes use works as well.

Prevention - The best thing to do in order to prevent salt burns and irritation is to wrap your dogs feet or paws with boots. Dog booties thoroughly protect and prevent any liquids or solids from harming delicate puppy paws like ordinary snow boots would. They usually come in either a latex rubber slip on that covers and goes over their paws altogether or a fleece fabric one. We have found the flexible, fleece boots are the best option for most dogs. They provide a barrier, are easy to get on and off, and are not as imposing to the dog as the plastic shoes are. Also, keep in mind that if you choose to use booties your dog must be comfortable with letting you, or the dog walker, touch their paws while putting them on.

Donald playing off leash in the snow

We Can Walk Longer

Chemical ice melt can cause your poor dog to lift, lick, and kick their paws as a result of irritated and dried out pads. Fret not though, by either wrapping dog paws with boots, using mushers wax, or finding an alternate route altogether you and your furry friend can complete your daily dog walks without being bothered by irritating salt paw pad pain.

If you are having a hard time getting your dog out for walks in this cold, snowy weather contact us! We can help. We can walk your dog in your neighborhood or take them for a romp at the dog park (where I can guarantee there are no ice melting chemicals to walk on.)

Categories: Dogs, Dog Walking