What are Salt Burns in Pets and How to Prevent Them?

Salt burns are a serious problem affecting outdoor pets each winter. Unfortunately, when the weather gets colder and ice and snow become a very real threat, many of us use some form of ice-melt on our porches, driveways, sidewalks and roads to help reduce the threat of slipping. In doing so, these areas are much safer for us and it is much easier for us to get about, whether on foot or by vehicle. The most commonly used substance to help melt ice and snow is rock salt.

Most of us are no strangers to rock salt, using it in popcorn and many of the meals that we cook. However, the ice melt mixtures that are available to purchase from hardware and similar stores usually also contain a few other ingredients including other salts such as magnesium chloride or calcium chloride. They also contain abrasives to help improve friction, often things like sand or gravel.

Unfortunately, when the ice melt substance applied to the ground comes into contact with frost, ice or snow, the temperature lowers even more. This significantly increases the likelihood that your cat or dog will experience frostbite and chemical burns on the delicate pads of their paws. This is what is known as salt burn and it can be extremely painful for your precious furbaby. If that wasn’t bad enough, if your pet then licks her paws, as she is liable to do if they are causing her pain, she could become very sick. This is known as salt poisoning and can be deadly if prompt treatment is not sought.

How do I know if my pet has salt poisoning?

In most instances, a pet that has consumed too much salt will suddenly start drinking excessively to combat the effects. She may also be urinating frequently. This helps to remove the excess salt from her body and in many cases could save her life. However, increased thirst is not the only symptom of salt poisoning. Some others to look out for include:

- Vomiting and watery diarrhea

- Loss of appetite

- Confusion/disorientation

- Seizures

- High temperature

- Fast heart rate

- Breathing problems

- Collapse/coma

What can I do to prevent salt burns and salt poisoning?

Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to help reduce the likelihood of your pet experiencing salt burns or poisoning. Firstly, you should make sure that you thoroughly rinse your pet’s paws and legs when she comes in from outside. Use a bowl of fresh, clean warm water and use a damp cloth to wash them thoroughly. Once you have cleaned them, empty the bowl and use a fresh jug of water to rinse them again to remove all traces of the salt.

If you are out and about, keep a close eye on your pet while walking to make sure she doesn’t stop to lick her legs or paws. You could also invest in special pet booties which are waterproof and help prevent any of the salt from getting on to her paws and fur. Regularly trimming the hair in between her paws will also help to prevent salt and ice from clinging there and causing her discomfort.

Finally, don’t rely on products that claim to be ‘pet-friendly’ ice melts. Unfortunately, this doesn’t automatically make them safe for animals. there aren’t currently any regulations in place that determine what does and doesn’t make an ice melt pet-friendly, and many of the ingredients that they contain can still prove hazardous for your furry friend. Therefore, we recommend that you take precautions against salt burns and poisoning at all times.

If you would like more information about salt burns and salt poisoning, or more advice on the best way to protect your pet from these problems this winter, our dedicated veterinary team are on hand to offer their knowledge and experience. Please contact our Geneva, OH office to get in touch.