5 min read

Salt Can Be Horrible On Your Dogs' Paws This Winter

There's an easy way to reverse the damage.

A big snowfall is doggy paradise — all that bounding, leaping and rolling in the fresh new white stuff. It also means that streets and sidewalks get a blast of industrial-grade road salt, which can be hell on a dog's paws.

While all that salt helps keep cars and boots safely on the ground, melting city ice with sodium chloride is the bane of a dog's winter existence — and toxic to the surrounding plant life.

Depending on where you live, the rough, sharp shards called rock salt are often mingled with various chemicals and sand to melt snow and ice, and provide friction for cars zooming by. Unfortunately for dogs walking those same streets, the experience is far from pleasant.

"Most ice-melt products are a skin irritant," Erika Loftin, a veterinarian and critical care specialist at DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, tells The Dodo. "Depending on the materials used, the chemicals can cause dryness, cracking and even burns to a dog's pads."

If you notice your dog's paws looking less than happy, you can make your own paw balm to help heal and protect your dog's pads:

Even more dangerous than eroding those tender paws, road salt can be inadvertently swallowed by dogs.

"If a dog licks their paws after walking on it, they can ingest the ice-melt chemicals, which can be toxic," Loftin notes.

Symptoms of salt poisoning, according to the ASPCA, include "drooling, vomiting, diarrhea [and] loss of appetite." In severe cases, this can lead to seizures, coma and even death — which is why Loftin strongly encourages dog owners to clean paws thoroughly after coming home from a wintry romp.

Dunk your pet’s paws in a pan filled with warm soapy water to get off residue and wipe clean. And, if those paws aren't so salty, even a wet towel wiped on the paws and belly will do the trick. If your pup’s paw pads are looking cracked and dry, a slathering of paw wax can help get them back in shape.

For those whose pets are a bit too squirmy to sit still for a towel-off, prevention works wonders.

Pet owners should think dog boots, snow shoes or whatever works to put a layer between sensitive paws and salt-strewn pavement. The waterproof material of dog booties will protect your dog’s paws from ice-cold pavement, irritating chemicals and toxic salt.

Bonus: It's a stylish look for any dog.

Facebook / Marc Haycook

If your dog is showing signs of sickness or her paws look bad, call your vet.

"It is important to call your regular veterinarian for advice or visit them for treatment, especially if your dog has any burns, cracks or open wounds," Loftin says.

And be sure to give your pup a close snuggle to warm up once the walk is over.