Rock salt, grit and domestic cats and dogs. A discussion.

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

It is that time of year when we have to discuss rock salt! Britain, today, is under the cosh of a deep-freeze; subzero temperatures and icy roads which have been and will be sprayed with rock salt by council workers.

And I’m sure around the countryside there are cat and dog owners spreading rock salt around their property to protect themselves from falling over. Incidentally, if people are doing that, they should make sure that it is visible by using coloured or tinted crystals. If they are coloured you can see where the rock salt is and protect your pets.

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That’s because rock salt is quite dangerous to companion animals. Road grit is usually made from crushed rock salt and is a brownish colour and looks like gravel. It lowers the freezing point of water which causes ice or snow to melt. When it is walked on or a car is driven over rock salt it is ground down and becomes a salt solution.

The problem for companion animals is that rock salt is quite a nasty substance. I can usefully refer to a British veterinarian’s (Donaldson’s Vets) article of 2014 as it happens. He/she said that after a couple of nights of subzero weather he had already encountered problems with dogs.

One dog brought to the veterinarian had not eaten rock salt but had walked across it on a pavement. The dog had then licked his paws and chewed the rock salt to alleviate the irritation. This led to sore feet (self-imposed trauma) which combined with the inflammatory nature of rock salt caused painful and sore toes. He had also ingested to stuff.

Ingesting rock salt is particularly dangerous. A dog or cat should be taken to a veterinarian immediately if this happens. The signs can be non-specific. A blood test is normally required to check for blood sodium concentration. The animal will need to be rehydrated to stabilise the salt levels in their blood stream.

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High sodium (salt) concentrations in the blood can cause thirst, vomiting and lethargy and in severe cases it can cause kidney damage and convulsions.

Rock salt is highly available on Amazon. I wonder if everybody who buys it knows the potential danger to their pets? Apparently, magnesium chloride has a low toxicity level for humans and dogs which makes it safer and a reasonable substitute to “toxic sodium chloride” (toxic salt). Apparently, magnesium chloride pellets are rounded and not sharp-edged which can help to minimise damage to paws.

There is a product called Safe Paw, which is an alternative to rock salt. It’s apparently guaranteed to be child and pet safe and is 100% salt-free. I am told that it is recommended by veterinarians and animal hospitals.

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