Ice Melt and your Pets

In general, winter can be especially harsh on dogs’ paws. Exposure to not only ice melt, but the snow and ice itself can hurt even the toughest paws.  Commonly used ice melts can not only be caustic to your dogs’ paws, but can present other health hazards as well. For instance, over 50 cases of ice melt toxicity were reported in 1998 to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. This prompted the ASPCA to issue a toxicity alert about ice melt in 2000. Vomiting was the most common clinical sign, present in 30% of these cases, with diarrhea being the next most common sign. Ingestion of ice melt products can cause depression, tremors, disorientation, loss of appetite, increased water consumption, seizures and even death! The good news is for the more serious neurological signs and death your dog would have to ingest a fair amount of ice melt depending on its’ weight (the lethal dose of sodium chloride is 4G/kg of body weight; a kg is 2.2 pounds).

There are a number of sidewalk and driveway ice melts that are commercially available. The make up of these are mineral salt combinations and vary depending on the product. The typical ingredients are: sodium chloride (rock salt), potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium carbonate and calcium magnesium acetate. Starting to sound like chemistry class isn’t it? Not only is it important to rinse your dogs paws off thoroughly after a winter walk where he or she has gotten ice melt on the paws, but it is also a good idea not to let your dog eat snow or drink from puddles where ice melt likely has been recently used and liable to be present.  The National Animal Poison Control Center recommends using sand or kitty litter instead of ice melt. It will provide the needed traction, but won’t melt the ice unfortunately.

There are products in pet stores that is marketed as “pet friendly”, safe and biodegradable. Its hard to ascertain the specific active ingredients, other than it is “an odorless solution that is water soluble with no sticky residue to clean up”. It seems like salt is water soluble so I’m not all that impressed with that statement.  Check your local pet store for recommendations on specific brands of ice melt.

You may also consider dog booties.