Hundreds of dogs and cats die from rock salt scattered by gritters in big freeze
Hundreds of pets are becoming seriously ill and in some cases dying because of the rock salt and antifreeze being used during the cold snap, animal charities warned yesterday. Dogs and cats are walking through the substances left by gritters trying to clear roads and car drivers defrosting their windscreens and then licking them off their paws. Consuming rock salt can cause dehydration, liver failure and pancreatitis, while antifreeze contains the chemical ethylene glycol, which can be lethal when ingested.
The RSPCA said it has received 248 calls about cases involving cats and dogs between January 1 and mid-November this year, compared to 259 for the whole of 2009. It expects this year's total to be 'considerably higher' once figures for the current freeze are taken into account - and added these would represent the 'tip of the iceberg' as only a fraction of cases are brought to its attention. Animal charities said the public should take extra care when using anti-freeze and mop up any spillages. Pet owners were also advised to clean animals' paws if they have been outside and even clip the fur to keep it short.
The symptoms of ingesting anti-freeze include vomiting, seizures, appearing sleepy and a heightened breathing rate. Symptoms of consuming rock salt - which contains the same ingredient as table salt, sodium chloride, but also has harmful chemicals such as magnesium - include burns to the mouth and throat and excessive salivating and drinking. An RSPCA spokeswoman said: 'Owners should contact a vet immediately if they suspect that their pet may have been in contact with these substances or if they see any warning signs or symptoms. "The sooner they are treated, the better their chances of surviving."