When winter sets in and temperatures begin to drop, the gritters soon appear to make our footpaths and roads safer. Unfortunately, whilst salt and grit reduces the risks of icy roads to humans, the material does nothing to enhance the safety of our pets and can even pose a health risk.
Pet Health Warning
British Veterinary Association Senior Vice President, Gudrun Ravetz has warned that the salt and grit used to de-ice outdoor areas irritates paw pads and is toxic when ingested. Rock salt (sodium chloride) can cause high blood pressure and lead to excessive thirst, diarrhoea, vomiting and lethargy and, in the worst cases, convulsions and kidney damage.
Pet owners should watch their animals carefully when they are out and about in public places in case the animals try to gobble up the salt. It is also a good idea to wipe pets’ paws after they have been outside to remove residual salt. It is important to check for redness between animals’ toes and for cracks in paw pads. A vet should be consulted immediately if it is suspected that an animal has ingested a toxic substance.
RSPCA Figures Reveal Winter Hazards
Figures released by the RSPCA support the fact that salt and grit are hazardous to pets. In 2010, when the country experienced a cold snap, the RSPCA received 248 calls about salt, grit and antifreeze cases, mainly involving cats and dogs. Antifreeze has a mildly sweet flavour which is attractive to animals and so it is vital that this substance is kept locked away. Sadly, wandering cats may find antifreeze in neighbourhood homes and sheds.
Antifreeze poisoning is often the result of pets licking up the liquid which has spilled from car radiators. Car owners should always clear up any spillages but may not notice that a spillage has occurred. The symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include drunken behaviour, nausea, excessive urination and diarrhoea.
There have been rumours circulating on social media that the grit laid down by local authorities may contain anti-freeze. This is a myth which councils have been quick to dismiss. But the absence of anti-freeze doesn’t mean that the grit is safe to eat.
Protecting Pets’ Paws
If grit there is heavy gritting where dogs are being walked it could be advisable to protect pets’ paws. A set of booties could be a useful investment and balms are available which can be massaged into paw pads. Pet paws are sensitive to sand, ice, snow and all chemical ice melting products. Ice balls can form in the fur between dogs’ toes. The ice balls can make walking uncomfortable and so it is often worth clipping excess fur from dogs’ feet before walking in the snow.
Canine Chapped Lips
Dogs may also be afflicted by chapped lips in cold weather, just like people. There is such a thing as dog lip balm which will help! Some dog owners claim that adding a teaspoon of coconut oil to dogs’ food helps to prevent chapping. Vaseline should not be applied as this is harmful to pets. Winter can be fun for pets but also presents many hazards!