Rock salt is a mixture of salt (sodium chloride) and grit, and is used to help de-ice roads
in winter. Rock salt can be a danger to pets such as dogs and cats, if they lick it from their
paws or fur.
It is difficult to say how much needs to be eaten for signs of toxicity to be seen. Even a small
amount of pure salt can be very dangerous to pets. Ingestion can result in a high blood sodium concentration which can cause thirst, vomiting and lethargy, and in severe cases there is a risk of convulsions and kidney damage.
The dog brought to me this week had not eaten Rock salt but had walked through a patch of rock salt that had been spread over an icy pavement. The dog had then licked and chewed it off his paws as they can find it irritating. The combination of the irritant effect of the rock salt and the self induced trauma made the tissue between the toes red and painful requiring treatment with anti-inflamatories.
In cold weather, it is important to thoroughly wipe your pet’s feet and the fur on his/her legs and tummy after a walk or time outside. If he/she is showing any signs of discomfort after possible exposure to rock salt, use a mild, pet-safe shampoo and warm water to wash the affected areas, and dry your pet’s fur completely with a towel after washing.
Any animal suspected of ingestion of rock salt must be assessed by a vet immediately. This is important as signs can be non-specific and a blood test will be required to check the blood sodium concentration. Immediate veterinary treatment will be needed to rehydrate the animal and stabilise their sodium levels. The exact treatment will depend on the blood sodium concentration and the animal’s clinical condition. Owners should never attempt to induce vomiting; only a vet should do this.