Although this message is for basically anyone who owns a pet, it's particularly important in the Garden State. Our dense population is one of the reasons New Jersey has so many more roads and sidewalks, and thus, more places for our four-legged friends to walk.

Our dense population also means more homes with walkways and driveways to maintain. And that maintenance is particularly important this time of year.

During winter, maintaining everything can become especially tricky. With snow and ice as part of the norm, doing what we can to clear it so we don't get hurt falling is a top priority.

But sometimes we forget about how what we do affects our four-legged friends. Perhaps for us, any type of rock salt will work. For our pets, it's a different story.

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One of the biggest problems with rock salt for pets is the chemical reaction that occurs. Now it's not as important to understand the science behind this as it is to understand the effect it has on your pets.

The reason snow is able to melt with rock salt is thanks to that chemical reaction. Unfortunately, that reaction causes problems for your pet's paws.

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It causes pain for your pets, which may become evident in the way they walk over any pathway that was recently treated with rock salt. It's very uncomfortable for them, and it's something you need to be aware of.

And it's not just the rock salt for home use that can irritate their paws. Rock salt from trucks and municipalities may also irritate your dog's or cat's paws as well.

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For this reason, it's a good idea to reconsider that daily walk if you're unsure what type of treatment is being used on the roads and sidewalks.

If you do venture out and take your dog for a walk, watch for warning signs. If you notice your dog suddenly walking funny or whimpering, there's a good chance the rock salt is irritating them.

Your dog might also refuse to continue walking. In that case, figure out the best way to get off of the affected walkway and carry your pet if possible.

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It's just as important to keep an eye on your cat and watch for warning signs to see if their paws are irritated. That chemical reaction affects them the same way it does dogs.

And even though you can't control what your town does, you do have control over what you use. There are many rock salts out there that were developed for this specific reason and will not cause pain to your four-legged friends.

NJ Fast Traffic's Bob Williams' dog didn't seem to mind the season's first snow in NJ. (Credit: Bob Williams)
NJ Fast Traffic's Bob Williams' dog didn't seem to mind the season's first snow in NJ. (Credit: Bob Williams)
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When purchasing rock salt for your home, always check the package before buying. If the rock salt is safe for pets to walk on, it'll be listed there. And if you're unsure of what to purchase, grab an employee to help.

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Please keep this in mind when salting your property and taking your pets for a walk after snowy and icy weather. They don't have any control over what's on the ground, but it doesn't mean we can't try to make it easy on them.

Even though we can't control what our town does on public roads and walkways, we can control what goes down on our own properties. Let's do what we can to look out for our pets.

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