Pets may be exposed to de-icing products that have been applied to sidewalks or dog runs or that have been improperly stored or spilled. The most common clinical signs are vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, depression, and loss of appetite, disorientation and increased thirst. In extreme cases seizures and even death can result. Inducing vomiting may not be advised if the products contain very corrosive substances such as large amounts of potassium chloride which will damage the mucosa during vomiting. While activated charcoal is considered to be the universal antidote – it does not absorb the salts in deicers. Following topical exposure, bathing the pet is advised. Monitor the pet for gastrointestinal signs, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances.
While safer pet alternatives to deicing salts may be sand or kitty litter neither of those cause ice to melt. They are messy and may even make an icing problem into a bigger headache. A better alternative is use newer potentiated deicing blends. Some of these products cut the amount of deicing salt such as magnesium chloride by two thirds while also being stronger, faster, safer and easier to use.
Sodium toxicosis is possible after a large ingestion of rock salt. Sodium chloride can be lethal to dogs at a dose of four grams per kilogram body weight. You may notice polyuria (increased urination) which can lead to dehydration and exacerbate electrolyte imbalances. Large enough doses can lead to “salt poisoning” which causes swelling of the brain and can lead to death.
The clinical signs of sodium toxicity are primarily neurologic. The severity of the signs is related to the suddenness of onset. Diagnosis of sodium toxicosis can be determined early on by measuring serum concentrations of sodium especially with a history of sodium ingestion. Intravenous fluids and electrolytes may be of some value in treatment along with appropriate diuretics to help combat brain swelling.
Signs associated with elevated potassium levels include muscle weakness, gastrointestinal disturbances, and cardiac conduction disturbances. Ingestion of potassium chloride tablets has caused bowel strictures and ulceration. Treatment includes administration of intravenous fluids and proper diuretics. Due to the irritating nature of potassium chloride-induction of vomiting may not be advised. Activated charcoal does not bind potassium.
Elevated magnesium concentrations can cause low blood pressure and cardiac abnormalities, weakness, and neurological signs. Treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Vomiting may reduce the amount of absorption if induced within two hours of ingestion.
Urea is more toxic to ruminant animals such as cows than to monogastric animals like people, dogs and cats. Urea ingestion by dogs can result in hyper-salivation, gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Treatment includes inducing vomiting and monitoring the animal.
If any of your pets happen to ingest large quantities of these substances, it may be a good idea to call the National Animal Poison Control.