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Salt, Cinders, Ash, and Pet Safety

Protect your furry family friends from these materials


by Home Page Staff - March 10, 2015

Those of us with pets have had very few opportunities to get out and about the past two months. Especially during the weeks when temperatures plunged to well below zero; and wind chills were in the -20’s. In the last few days though, temperatures have finally risen above freezing. This, along with a few clear nights followed by bright blue skies is creating a slick situation. Many areas where surface snow has melted have now solidified into a thick glaze of ice from dripping roof eves, driveway run off, and the shedding of the ice still lingering on trees. The abundance of ice on sidewalks, driveways, walkways, and roads means that a significant amount of rock salt, cinder’s, and wood ash have gone out on these slick areas in the past few days. We intuitively recognize the dangers of slipping on the ice and shudder at the thought of dislocating a shoulder, spraining a wrist, or even worse, breaking some bones from a nasty fall. As a result of this ice accumulation, most of us have liberally spread one of these deicing materials around our homes and businesses.

It is important to remember though that our cats, dogs, and chickens may come in contact with these materials every time they venture outdoors. Below is a list of some of the more commonly used deicing materials and the danger’s they might pose to pets, livestock, and young children.

Salt: Rock salt and table salt are one and the same – the only difference is that table salt has been ‘refined’ to remove impurities of other chemicals leaving just the sodium and chloride. Once purified, table salt is 99% sodium chloride. Raw salt, freshly mined, contains calcium sulfate, as well as potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium carbonate, and calcium magnesium acetate. The danger to pets and livestock is the corrosiveness of these salts. While calcium magnesium acetate is considered the least corrosive of all deicing products, any salt used for deicing that contains chloride is to some degree corrosive. In the same manner that the chloride component breaks down the oxide layer of metal, resulting in the corrosion of our vehicles, a similar reaction occurs on your pet’s skin, causing irritation dermatitis. Ingestion of the salt occurs when the pet’s lick their paws and remove frozen ice crystals-or when chickens do what chickens do. Ingestion of excessive rock salt can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, disorientation, loss of appetite, increased water consumption, seizures, and in some instances if too much is consumed- death.

Coal ash: Road cinders, also known as bottom ash, are the mineral residues that remain after burning of the coal. The major residues of bottom ash are oxides of silicon, aluminum, iron, and calcium. The biggest risk to pet’s and children from coal ash is from accidental inhalation which could cause respiratory tract irritation such as coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Swallowing fly ash may cause abdominal discomfort. Your pet’s paws could be cut by the abrasive edges of the coal particles, and the alkaline composition could cause contact dermatitis.
Wood ash: Wood ash contains calcium carbonate as its major component and some potash. It contains very little phosphate and trace amounts of iron, manganese, zinc, copper and some heavy metals. These ingredients are very similar to retail garden fertilizers and home owners often use their wood stove ash in their garden’s and flowerbeds. Pet safety concerns are similar to those of road cinders- with more emphasis on the dermatitis that may result from the fine grained particles working their way into their coat.

If your pets do come in contact with these deicing agents, especially rock salt formulations, wash their paws before they have a chance to lick them clean. For a list of pet-friendly deicing products search the internet for ‘pet friendly deicing products’ or ask your local feed store or veterinarian for assistance.



Produced by Vogt Media

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