Scrolling through Facebook over the weekend, I came across a disturbing post from my friend Belinda. Because I felt this was important info to share with any pet lovers in the community, I asked her to write a guest post for me and she agreed. Below is her account of what happened to her dog when she took him for a walk last week.
I can’t describe the guilt I feel writing this. I can only
console myself by repeating, “Next time, I’ll know better.”
Standing in the parking lot, I stared at the endless solid chunks
of de-icing salt. The chemicals were especially thick after the extreme temperatures and considerable snowfall we had in Western Pennsylvania. I looked down at my dog, Friday, as he laid on
his side whimpering and compulsively licking his paws. Instinctively, I knew
what was wrong with him, but how? And why? I always took him out for a walk as
soon as the temperature allowed. What was it about these chemicals and this
outing that left him with painful chemical burns between the pads of his paws? And
more importantly, how can dog lovers everywhere avoid a scenario like this in
I made a number of regrettable mistakes that day. Here are a few things I wished I’d known to look out for:
Each product has different
guidelines on how much is considered “safe.” Unfortunately, most of the
warnings are geared more toward not damaging concrete than not harming animals.
But I’m guessing if it can corrode a parking lot, it’s probably not good for
bare paws. I distinctly remember the sheer volume of little ice rocks that
littered the parking lot that day. Next time, I’ll choose a different route.
A period of exceptionally cold temperatures
weather requires a broader variety of snow and ice treatments. Once the temperatures dive into
the negatives, most snow removal companies need to concoct a “chemical stew,” with many of the ingredients imported from Asia and other parts of the globe. We simply don’t know much about the safety and purity of it. And with all those
chemicals interacting with each other, who knows the true potency on any given
The day Friday’s paws were burned, we were warming up from a
particularly cold spell. I suspect he picked up a piece of solid salt chemical
and when it came into contact with his damp paws, it turned into what pennDOT
describes as a “strong brine," which is what caused the immediate chemical burn.
An area of low traffic
Here’s where the irony kicks
in. A lot of the de-icing chemicals work best when there’s frequent friction;
like tires driving on a busy road. So parking lots and walkways have to use a
stronger mixture of the “brine” to keep pedestrians safe. Of course, I'm not suggesting you walk your dog where there’s high traffic. But be aware
of the extra risks walkways may pose to your pooch.
What about booties? Every dog is different. I know Friday wouldn't tolerate having
them on his feet and would have them off within seconds. But if your dog doesn’t
mind them, it may be worth the cost and effort to protect those paws from these harsh
As for me, I’m lucky to have two indoor dog parks nearby. My Sheltie requires lots of exercise and mental stimulation. Staying cooped up in
the house isn’t really an option. People laugh at me taking Friday to our
“doggie social.” But for future cold and thawing weather, the indoor dog park may just be
the the only way to go.
Belinda and Friday live in Pennsylvania with their family. They enjoy agility, long hikes, and snuggling on the sofa. They've been together since 2009 and neither can imagine life without the other.
If your pet has been exposed to de-icing chemicals and has burns on his paws, there are safe and natural treatments. Click here for some guidance.
And click here for a safer, non-salt solution for de-icing your own driveway and walk.