What Are Pet-Safe Ice Melts?
In many areas of the United States, ice melt is a necessity during the winter months.
It keeps sidewalks clear, driveways and parking lots ice-free, and ensures that roads are safe for driving.
However, while ice melts can be essential, not all types are safe to use around animals.
Some are highly toxic when ingested, while others cause irritation to your pet’s paws, skin, and/or mucous membranes.
Before taking your four-legged companion out into the snow, it’s important to learn all about ice melts and how they impact your pet.
- Ice melts are used throughout the United States to lower the melting point of ice, causing it to thaw faster.
- All ice melts pose some kind of risk to your pet.
- Typically, products with urea as the main ingredient are considered some of the safest options for pets.
How Do Pet-Safe Ice Melts Work?
Most ice melts work by lowering the melting point of ice to help it thaw faster.
Most common ice melts contain sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride—all of which are highly toxic to dogs if ingested.
Pet-safe ice melts typically contain urea or magnesium chloride which are considered slightly safer but may still cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting or diarrhea. These ingredients are also less effective at melting ice.
Are Pet-Safe Ice Melts Actually Safe?
Pet parents should know which ice melts are safest for their pets, and the impact they can have on their furry companion’s health.
All ice melts pose some kind of risk to your pet, according to Caley Chambers, a DVM candidate from Pet Poison Helpline.
“In general, most ice melt exposures are limited to gastrointestinal upset and skin irritation but there is a potential for more serious, life-threatening side effects,” Dr. Chambers says.
One of the most popular ice melts is composed of sodium chloride, also known as common rock salt. Unfortunately, rock salt is also one of the least pet-friendly ice melts.
“Prolonged exposure to rock salt can have an irritating effect on a dog’s paws,” says Dr. Daniel Inman, a veterinarian at Burlington Emergency Veterinary Specialists in Williston, Vermont. “Ingestion can cause minor symptoms like gastrointestinal (GI) irritation to more severe ones, like high blood sodium levels. This can lead to several health problems, including advanced GI issues and neurologic dysfunction.”
While some of the other ice melts are easier on pets’ paws than rock salt, they are much more dangerous when ingested.
Ethylene glycol-based ice melts contain the same active ingredient as antifreeze, which is deadly to pets.
Typically, products with urea as the main ingredient are considered some of the safest options for pets known for causing less irritation to the stomach.
Types of Pet-Safe Ice Melts
There are a few types of pet-safe ice melts available, including:
Potential Health Issues
There are three main potential health problems that can occur when your pet is exposed to ice melts.
Topical issues occur as irritation on your pet’s skin, paw pads, eyes, mouth, and nose.
Most ice melts will cause irritation—especially after repeat or prolonged exposure. Some of the more dangerous ice melts can also cause the chemical burns.
The impact of gastrointestinal issues in pets can vary, depending on the type and amount of ice melt that was ingested.
Some common symptoms include:
- Drooling (Nausea)
- Abdominal pain
If you think your pet has ingested ice melt, call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661. Their toxicology experts can help determine the potential risk and if your pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
A pet licking their paws after walking through ice melt will typically not result in neurologic issues.
However, if your pet has access to the bag of ice melt and is able to ingest a larger amount, this can be a concern.
Ice melts containing certain salts such as sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride pose a higher risk of electrolyte changes. Elevated sodium (hypernatremia) can result in neurologic symptoms.
High blood sodium levels that can develop after ingestion of rock salt may result in these neurologic symptoms, including:
How Can Pet Parents Keep Their Pet Safe?
While it's true that no ice melt is entirely pet-safe, pet parents can take preventative steps to reduce ice melt-related dangers.
Typically, most sidewalks are not using pet-safe products. Because of this, it’s best to rinse and wipe off your pet's feet after walking with them on sidewalks during the winter. Make sure you clean in between their toes and around their central paw pad.
Here are a few pet-safe wipes for cleaning your companion's paws:
Dr. Liz Alton, owner and practicing veterinarian at Green Mountain Animal Hospital in Burlington, Vermont, says that pet parents should keep a close eye on their dogs in the wintertime, especially if they start licking at their feet or walking gingerly.
“If an animal's feet look red, irritated, or have a rash, or if they just doesn’t seem to be acting right, that's the time to bring them to the vet. We might not be able to say for sure what caused the irritation, but we can certainly treat it and ensure it heals properly,” Dr. Alton says.
There are also some products available for preventative measures, such as paw wax and booties.
Some recommended paw waxes include:
For booties, your pup may like:
However, it's tough to predict whether your pup will take to wearing booties.
“A lot of dogs think they can't walk when they have dog booties on, and others just don't like it and will chew them to try to get them off,” Dr. Alton says. “This could lead to the dog eating parts of the bootie, which can cause intestinal obstruction.”
Pet parents should always be watchful of their pets and should prevent them from eating ice melt when out on winter walks.
All household chemicals should be kept locked up and out of reach of pets.
If a pet does get into ice melt, call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 immediately and they will advise you if you need to take your pup to the emergency room.
Featured Image: Stock.adobe.com/nataba
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