Road salt: When the walk becomes painful
For us humans it is meant to protect us, but for our beloved darlings it is an sufferable topic: road salt. The paws of our dogs are especially stressed in the winter months. Among other things, the aggressive salt can lead to health problems and pain. You can read about what these are and how you can recognise them and, above all, what you can do about them (also preventively).
What is road salt and why is it so harmful for dogs?
Road salt consists mainly of conventional table salt (plus various minerals), the so-called sodium chloride (NaCl). It is also known as “de-icing salt” because it has the trait of melting ice and snow (by lowering the freezing point). This is also where the benefits for us humans can be seen. Ice- or snow-covered roads and paths can be walked on again by spreading salt and the risk of accidents due to slipping is reduced. However, one important thing is always forgotten. Man’s best friend does not wear protective winter shoes which could protect him from the aggressive salt and grit. Caution: Puddles can also contain salt components, but then in liquefied (brine) form. The paws of our pets are therefore under a lot of stress and road salt can have various health effects on the dog:
- Salt removes moisture from the skin, which is responsible for flexible paws. If the skin becomes too dry, it can become cracked and various pathogens can enter the wounds unhindered.
- This can lead to inflammation, irritation, cracking and even painful eczema. You can recognice when your pet starts to lick and nibble its paw, limp, whimper, etc.
- Salt burns strongly in cracked paw pads and inflammations can be quite painful, the dog will instinctively lick on it. This is how the road salt gets into the dog’s stomach.
- There it can cause irritation of the stomach lining, which can lead to inflammation (gastritis). This can show itself through various symptoms: vomiting, diarrhoea, choking, increased salivation, sensitivity to touch, fever, etc.
- Unfortunately, symptoms of poisoning cannot be ruled out either, as some salts and especially antifreeze contain toxic ingredients. If you notice blood in the stool, strong vomiting, seizures, loss of consciousness and other severe symptoms in your pet, a vet should be consulted immediately.
How can you protect your best friend?
If your dog has come into contact with road salt in any way, you don’t need to panic. The first step is to clean the paws thoroughly with warm water (don’t forget the spaces between the paws), disinfect them if necessary and smear them with a fat cream or healing ointment. If the dog licks the paws, you can put on paw shoes or socks (you can also make them yourself). If there is a suspicion that your darling has ingested (increased) salts orally, has bad wounds, behavioural problems, signs of poisoning, a visit to the vet cannot be avoided. But of course it is best if it does not happen at all. What can you do now to protect your darling preventively:
- Put on paw shoes (available in different shapes and materials)
- Before going for a walk you can apply paw cream, milking grease, Vaseline or similar thinly on the paws. Like a natural protection.
- After the walk, always clean the paws. Tip: If your dog is very sensitive to his little feet, take a wet washcloth and have the paws given to you. Confirm your pet with a treat. Then you can start to clean the paw bit by bit. A Licki Mat can also provide the necessary activity for your pet to patiently follow the paw care.
- Avoid gritted paths.
- Eating snow should be taboo! This can lead to stomach or kidney problems etc. Throwing snowballs encourages the dog to eat, play search games instead.
- Salt sacks, antifreeze should always be kept well.
- With long-haired breeds, you can trim the hair between the balls, as salt, snow, ice and foreign bodies cannot attach themselves so easily.
As nice as a long winter walk with your best friend can be, you should be careful, especially in urban areas. Unfortunately, in winter, salts and other substances are often scattered, which can become a health problem for our beloved friends. Fortunately there are some things we can do to protect our dogs. So your dog will certainly get through the winter well.