Road Salt – How Dangerous Is It? The perspective of a Veterinarian in Markham

By March 10, 2013 February 28th, 2019 Uncategorized

It’s this time of year when all sidewalks are white with … you guessed it … salt,  and of course some snow. All pet owners and vets in Markham are concerned about the dangers of salt.

I’ll venture a bit in a highly charged discussion with this blog, but I believe knowledge is the first ingredient for good decision-making.

Last year we had a client who refused to bring his dog to our veterinary clinic on Hwy7 in Markham, because our sidewalks in front of the clinic are salted. He was actually quite enraged that we allowed our landlord to use salt in front of our pet clinic. He was adamant that we as veterinarians in Markham should know that salt causes cancer in pets and that unbleached salt is more toxic than bleached table salt.

Causing Cancer? -NO

Being scientifically trained, I naturally researched, if there is something I did not know. Our landlord’s contractor is using Mountain Rock Salt (Sodium Chloride), the same salt that all the cities in Markham, Stouffville, Richmond Hill, Toronto, etc. use for their public roadways. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) does not have data on carcinogenicity, meaning there is nothing known about salt causing cancer.

Irritant? – YES

I also sought the opinion of Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant Vice President and Medical Director, ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Adjunct Instructor, Department of Veterinary Biosciences, a leading expert in animal toxicology in North America who clearly states that the health risks for pets are mostly due to irritation and only large amounts ingested could cause systemic (read serious) effects. Since salts don’t taste appealing to dogs, most dogs don’t ingest large enough amounts that would cause ill effects.

If your pet shows irritation after walking on a salty road, please wash the paws with warm water and consider protective boots for the next walk.

Alternatives? – YES

That said, Salt is surely not the perfect de-icing agent and has many downsides. There are many alternatives and I would encourage everyone to research those. A good start would be Environment Canada and Mother Nature Network.


Dr. Marsig and Your Careteam

Veterinarians in Markham on Highway 7

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