February 10, 2019

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Tips to Protect Your Dog’s Paws, and the Environment, from the Harmful Effects of Road Salt

Road (or rock) salt is cost-effective and works well to reduce ice build up on roads. However, the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) reports that road salt has devasting effects on our health, pets, wildlife, aquatic life, vegetation, soils, water quality, and infrastructure.

Road Salt in New Hampshire’s Waters

What you may not realize, is that dramatic and rising concentrations of chloride from road salt have been identified in New Hampshire waters. In 2008, the NHDES listed 19 water bodies as chloride-impaired. In 2012 that number increased to 46. Higher concentrations of chloride are toxic to some aquatic species and impart a salty taste in drinking water supplies.

Road Salt is Damaging Dog’s Skin

Road salt is corrosive and also damages metal parts in vehicles, bridges, garages, lamp posts, etc. With all this destruction, imagine what it is doing to your dog’s paws. Repeated exposure to road salt will dry a dog’s skin and cause local irritation and cracked paws. If paws are not washed and inspected for road salt, dogs will lick and ingest.

Protect Your Pets

These tips will help keep your dogs safe from the effects of road salt:

Protect dog’s paws from road salt.
  • Avoid walking your dog in heavily salted areas.
  • Massage musher’s wax, petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside.
  • If your dog will tolerate something on its feet, consider booties.
  • Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws.
  • After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt, and chemicals.
  • Check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.
  • Trim hair between dog’s toes to make it easier to protect and clean.
  • Apply a pet paw balm after cleaning to keep protected. Try this DIY recipe or use olive oil, organic shea butter, organic coconut oil or another organic paw balm. Be careful to only use products that contain ingredients not harmful to dogs. Balms should also be applied to your dog’s nose and ears.
  • Use ice-melt products that state they are 100% safe for pets, children, and the planet like Safe Paw Ice Melter, or make your own pet-safe ice melt using Dawn dish soap, rubbing alcohol and hot water.
  • Read the ingredients label on “pet-friendly” and “pet-safe” ice-melt products to ensure they truly are safe.
Protect the Planet

At this time, the only way to prevent road salt from reaching surface and groundwater is to reduce the amount applied to our roadways and parking lots without compromising safety.

New Hampshire and other states are working hard to find solutions to help protect our environment from the harmful effects of road salt. Educate yourself so that you can be part of the solution and not the problem.

  • The NHDES recommends hiring a NH Certified Green SnowPro for snow removal from your home or business. Certified Green SnowPros are trained in salt reduction practices.
  • Have your well tested for levels of chloride to see if you qualify for the NH Well Replacement Program offered by the NH Department of Transportation (NHDOT). This program is for the investigation and replacement of private water supplies contaminated with chloride.
  • Get educated! Learn more about the environmental, health and economic impacts of road salt at the NHDES website.
  • Explore alternative methods. States are experimenting with many new methods of combatting ice build up on roadways, including the use of brine,  molasses, ashes, and juices from beets, potatoes, and pickles.

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