Ice melt and keeping your dog safe during the winter months

What to know about popular deicers

2 minute read

Ice melt and keeping your dog safe during the winter months

Winter is synonymous with ice melt. It’s everywhere. But while it helps sidewalks and driveways, ice melt is no friend to dogs. It can be dangerous when ingested, and it can irritate paws, skin, and mucous membranes.

What exactly is ice melt?

You’ll see it in gas stations, hardware stores, and other big box retailers. It’s the deicer that prevents the buildup of ice as well and it breaks up ice that is already there, turning it into slush – but do you know what goes into making ice melt?

Ice melt is made up of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium salts (including calcium carbonate, calcium magnesium acetate, and calcium chloride), and other urea-based products.

Sodium chloride — the main additive in ice melt — is common rock salt – pretty much the same as household salt but just differs in size and color. It can still be one of the least pet-friendly deicers out there. Whether you buy a bag of ice melt or a bag or rock salt, both have the capability of irritating pets.

Mild symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. And while they’re temporary problems, to be sure, if you’re like us, you won’t want your doggie throwing up unnecessarily.

Other ice melts on the market that claim to be gentler to paws can also be equally harmful. Ethylene glycol-based ice melts, for example, contain the same active ingredient as antifreeze, which is a toxin and a definite no-no for dogs or any pet.

Some ice melts contain a propylene glycol base, with urea as its active ingredient. However, it is not as effective as the others.

Dogs often ingest ice melt products when they lick their paws or eat snow or ice that’s been treated.

How to keep your dog safe around ice melt

No ice melt is completely safe because ingestion and skin contact isn’t an intended or advisable use that’s often considered when these products are formulated.

Walking with your pooch in public areas is a whole other story, and because we can’t control the kind of ice melt that our local authorities will apply to roads and public pathways, it’s best to take precautions. That includes avoiding areas that are overly slushy or where it looks like ice melt has been applied. In addition, don’t let your pooch sniff the road salt or ice melt, and certainly do not let your dog run and/or play in an area that you think has been recently treated with ice melt.

Once inside, you’ll want to wipe your pet’s paws with a damp cloth to remove any ice melt and to prevent your furry companion from accidentally ingesting the harmful chemicals when licking.

Other forms of protection include applying paw wax or petroleum jelly or getting your dog to wear doggie booties, if that’s feasible. There are some stylish and well functioning options out there.

Dog in snow wearing jacket and boots

An alternative to using ice melt is using sand, gravel, a more natural kitty litter, or wood trash, which are also alternatives that keep the eco-environment in mind.

If your dog is accidentally exposed to ice melt, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Hotline for advice on what to do: 1-855-764-7661.

Keeping your pet safe from ice melt is possible if you know what to look for and use some trusted tips.