Here's why ice salt can be toxic for your pet

A veterinarian from Kitchener-Waterloo says ice salt can cause chemical burns on pet paws and is also toxic when animals lick it off.
A veterinarian from Waterloo advises animal owners to wash pet paws after walking outdoors when there's road salt around. Better still, dog boots - if the animal will wear them. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

A veterinarian from Waterloo is warning the public about the harmful side effects ice salt can have on pets. 

Whether it's rock salt, a mixture of sand and salt or brine salt, if stepped on the saline ice remover can cause a chemical burn to your pet's feet and become even more harmful when consumed. 

"What happens then, when your dog comes home is they'll lick their feet. So now that chemical that was on their feet is now ingested," said veterinarian Marie Hardy. 

"Some of the products can cause irritation in the mouth and the intestinal tract, if it was in high enough concentration," Hardy said. 

More freezing rain means more salt 

With icier roads and more snowfall, salting the roads is hard to avoid. 

"We would plow the roads and we'd have to apply some salt to keep it from sticking to the roads," said Emil Marion, the manager of transportation operations at the Region of Waterloo, who is charge of regional roads and township roads. 

Marion says freezing rain often dilutes the salt, so they would have to use increased amounts of salt to keep it from sticking on the roads.

"It just means they have to add a bit more," he said. 

Hardy says people can shop around and find pet-safe and child-safe de-icers for their sidewalks. 

"The ones I use might not melt the ice quite as quickly as the other ones, but... they're supposed to not burn the lawn at the same time," she said.  
Waterloo vet Marie Hardy and her dog Luna. (Hayley Zimak/CBC)

The City of Waterloo says it uses a magnesium chloride solution to clear sidewalks because it's better for the environment. 

Preventing harmful effects 

Hardy says some people can get their dogs to wear outdoor protective boots, but the pet might not cooperate all the time. 

"Mine won't," she laughed, adding that pet owners can also look for paw protectors. Hardy says the most important thing to do after a dog walk is giving them a warm water foot bath. 

"Not just wiping the feet — because you'd dry the feet — but the chemicals, they're still on there," she said. 

"The hair between the pads really collects the ice and snow," Hardy said. 

For dogs with long hair that collects ice particles, she says it's important to wash that off too, including their belly areas.  

With files from CBC's Robin Deangelis