It’s been a very rainy day here in southern California today. And it was a cold rain at that. The snow level was low enough in the mountains that one of our faculty members at work got snowed in and wasn’t able to make to work today. By afternoon it was thundering ferociously. It was Friday the 13th afterall. My colleague getting snowed in at home reminded me about deicing salts and how hazardous they are to dogs.

Deicing salts are used on driveways and sidewalks to melt ice and snow. And they are made of salt. Simple, right? The bad part is that dogs will sometimes eat deicing salts. And that is very bad for them. Sometimes they will eat the salt out of the bag, and sometimes they lap up the melted ice and snow where the deicing salts were applied. The salts are irritating to the dog’s stomach, which sometimes makes them vomit. When they vomit a lot, it can start to make them dehydrated. The salt in the stomach gets absorbed relatively quickly, raising the sodium concentration in the blood. The sodium travels through the circulation into the brain. If the dog then drinks a large amount of water too quickly (the salt will make them thirsty), it will draw fluid into the brain causing it to swell. This can lead to seizures, neurological signs, and death.

If your dog gets into deicing salts, take her/him immediately to a veterinarian. The vet will treat your dog by slowly administering IV fluids to restore the normal fluid and salt concentrations in the blood, but not too quickly that it could draw fluid into the brain.

Besides deicing salts, other sources of salt exposure include table salt, and homemade play dough. Play dough is especially dangerous because it is made with large amounts of salt. And children playing with it may leave bits and pieces on the floor where dogs can easily be exposed.

Of course the best treatment for salt poisoning is prevention! Be sure to keep your dogs away from products high in salts.