Can Dogs Eat Snow? (What to Do If Your Dog Gets Sick From Snow)

Updated on August 23, 2019
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Learn why dogs like to eat snow, why they can get sick from it, and how eating snow can be dangerous.
Learn why dogs like to eat snow, why they can get sick from it, and how eating snow can be dangerous. | Source

Why Do Dogs Eat Snow?

Dogs and snow, what a great concoction, as much as Rover loves snow, snow though may sometimes disagree with his stomach. What gives? Whatever the scenario, it's not totally uncommon for Rover to develop an upset stomach after eating too much snow. Yet it's important to look at what may cause this form of digestive upset, as in some cases, vomiting after eating snow may be a sign or troublesome poisoning. And of course, if your dog is sick, see a vet immediately!

Playing and Having Fun

Well, for starters, dogs are attracted to snow. It's fun to play with it, and then the dog will be interested in mouthing it. You may be tossing snowballs to Rover and Rover catches them and they break off and melt his mouth. Snowball after snowball, he's ingested a whole lot that he soon then feels sick to his stomach.

Feeling Thirsty

If the dog plays around a lot, he may start warming up and next thing you know, he discovers that snow feels good in his mouth, even better than water! So he'll start quenching his thirst by eating snow. Be warned: some dogs like snow so much, they'll seek snow more than water and will eat snow more and more and drink water from their water, less and less. Snow can become addicting!

Already Sick and Self-Medicating

Some dogs who are nauseous already may eat lots of snow in hopes of triggering vomiting. Normally, they would eat grass to accomplish this, but with all grass buried under a mantle of snow, the snow would be their next (and possibly only) option. By the way, interesting note of the day: the exact term for animals who self-medicate themselves is "zoocognopharmacy."

Ingesting snow may cause digestive upset in some dogs.
Ingesting snow may cause digestive upset in some dogs. | Source

Why Do Dogs Get Sick After Eating Snow?

Sensitive Stomach or Already Sick

First and foremost, eating a lot of snow could create an upset stomach in dogs because in a dog with a sensitive stomach, his stomach may react to all that water being gulped at once (and also cold on top of it), and therefore, reacts by causing vomiting--just as some dogs do when they gulp all their water at once and vomit it up just minutes later.

Of course, there are also those cases where a dog vomiting after eating snow is just coincidental, and the vomiting is actually due to something else.

Contamination or Ice Melt

On top of all that, dogs can get an upset stomach because the snow is dirty or contaminated with something that disagrees with their stomach. This is where things get more problematic. One main concern in this case is if the snow was treated with ice melt, also known as rock salt.

Ice Melt (Rock Salt) Is Dangerous for Dogs

Most ice melt products contain sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium salts or some other urea-based material.

Sodium Chloride

According to Caley Chambers with the Pet Poison Helpline, sodium chloride (which is "salt") can cause vomiting and diarrhea, but if large amounts are ingested, the dog can develop sodium toxicosis which can turn lethal if a dose of 4 grams per kilogram is ingested. Signs of trouble involve the nervous system with dehydration, high respiratory rate, high heart beat and an elevated temperature.

Potassium Chloride

Potassium chloride salts instead may cause severe gastrointestinal upset, with bloody vomiting and diarrhea. In dogs with impaired kidney function it can also cause high levels of potassium in the blood.

Magnesium Chloride

Ice melts with magnesium chloride can cause gastrointestinal upset, and may also cause the build up of high levels of magnesium in the blood in dogs with impaired kidney function.

Are All Ice Melts Harmful?

The most irritant ice melts are those containing calcium carbonate, calcium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate. Affected dogs may develop severe gastrointestinal upset along with local skin irritations to skin and paws.

Luckily, some ice melts are less harmful than others. Generally, ice melts containing urea cause drooling and mild digestive upset. These urea-based products won't dry up the dog's paws as others, but they work poorly to melt snow. However, large ingestion may cause tremors, weakness and high levels of methemoglobin in the blood.

In some cases, your dog won't eat snow, but he will lick his paws and may ingest rock salt stuck to his paws. Veterinarian Debra Promovic explains that these small amounts may cause mouth irritation, nausea, drooling and vomiting.

Larger amounts of rock salt are often ingested by dogs who drink from puddles of melted snow. On top of that, walking on ice melt dries up a dog's paws and may cause cracks that turn out being painful by the presence of salt.

How to Limit Exposure to Problematic Snow

  • Keep your dog away from snow that is treated with ice melt.
  • If your dog tends to eat a lot of snow when he gets thirsty and this causes him to vomit, limit exposure, bring him inside and offer him a bowl of water.
  • Never let your dog drink from snow puddles where ice melt may have been used.
  • Avoid walking your dog in areas where ice melt was used.
  • Keep bags of ice melt out of reach of your dog.
  • Clean your dog's paws with a damp cloth after walking in areas where ice melt was used. Don't let him lick his paws!
  • Debra Primovic also warns owners of ice melts claimed to be "pet safe." There are really no regulations that prove they are really safe!

Warning: What to Do If Your Dog Is Sick From Ice Melt

If your dog ate snow and is feeling sick, see your vet. If you suspect your dog ate snow that contains ice melt, immediately call the Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680 (there is a $39 per incident fee) or consult with your vet immediately.

Don't let your dog lick melting snow or drink puddles!
Don't let your dog lick melting snow or drink puddles! | Source

Does your dog eat snow?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2014 Adrienne Janet Farricelli

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      5 years ago

      Thank you Pandula77, I love your health hubs and really enjoy reading them.

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 

      5 years ago from Norway

      A very useful hub! Timely.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://pethelpful.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)