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Ice melters are dangerous for your dog: Here’s how to keep them safe

Unless you live in a subtropical climate, winter in the United States is usually accompanied by at least some amount of snow and ice. While we love the cozy sweaters, hot chocolate, holiday meals, and snowmen associated with the season, the winter months are not without their dangers. From treacherous black ice to power outages, the weather isn’t the only aspect of the season that can be frightful.

In addition to bundling up your fur babies in boots and sweaters, pet parents also need to be aware of the chemical dangers potentially awaiting their dogs: ice melters. If you’ve ever frantically searched terms like “ice melter pet safe” to find ways to keep your pooch safe and your driveway clear, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here with the scoop on how to keep your pup safe during the winter. 

A Beagle wearing a red bandana stands outside in the snow.

Why ice melters are dangerous to pets

Ice melters, also known as ice melts, are primarily composed of a variety of salts. Common ingredients include calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride. While ingestion of calcium chloride usually causes milder symptoms compared to other ice melt ingredients, it can still ulcerate your dog’s mouth and stomach. In addition to being extremely painful, these ulcerations may cause your pooch to stop eating and drinking, leading to dehydration and malnutrition if left unchecked. Worse still, if your pup consumes potassium chloride, sodium chloride, or magnesium chloride, he may suffer from gastrointestinal distress, dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities, and more severe symptoms. 

How to tell if your pup has eaten ice melts

The good news is that most dogs won’t eat ice melts deliberately. The bad news is that they might eat snow that’s been recently treated with ice melts, or they could potentially lick snow coated with ice melt from their paws. Unfortunately, ingesting too much salt is dangerous for your pooch. Symptoms range from mild symptoms, like irritated paws and skin, to more serious symptoms, such as extreme thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. In cases of severe salt poisoning, the consequences can even be fatal to your dog. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms after playing outdoors in the snow, it’s vitally important to take him to the vet as soon as possible. Prompt treatment is more likely to yield a positive outcome for your pooch.  

Keeping your dog safe from ice melts 

Ice melts keep our sidewalks walkable, deice driveways, roads, and parking lots, and help reduce automotive accidents by 88% and reduce injuries by 85%—but at a cost. While ice melts are essential during the winter months, they’re also extremely dangerous to pets. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to help keep your beloved pup safer during the winter.

A Jack Russell Terrier wearing a yellow scarf plays with a giant snowball.

Use a pet-safe ice melt

Using a pet-safe ice melt can reduce the risk of severe symptoms in your pup, but you’ll still need to take precautions. No pet-safe ice melt is entirely safe for your dog to ingest, and prolonged contact should be avoided to prevent chemical burns. According to Dr. Sarah Gorman, an associate veterinarian at Boston Animal Hospital, “The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center classifies all ice melt products as being chemical irritants that can cause gastrointestinal signs, like vomiting and diarrhea, and topical irritation to the paw pads and skin. Prolonged exposure to the skin for any of these compounds can cause chemical burns.” 

Consider natural alternatives

Dr. Jamie Richardson, the Medical Chief of Staff at Small Door Veterinary, recommends using sand, dirt, or wood ash as suitable alternatives to chemical ice melts. Dr. Richardson echoes Dr. Gorman’s sentiments, stating, “Not only can ice melts made of salt crystals be sharp and uncomfortable for dogs to walk on, they can burn the pads on their paws.” If you’re concerned about exposing your pup to chemical ice melts, sprinkle sand on your driveway and walk your dog closer to home. 

Invest in a good pair of winter boots

Even if you’ve treated your driveway and sidewalks with natural alternatives to ice melts, outfitting your dog in a good pair of boots also protects his paws from the cold. Just like us, our dogs can suffer from dry, chapped winter skin. Additionally, a combination of snow, ice, and gritty sand can become wedged between their toes, leading to painful abrasions and increasing the risk of frostbite. A high-quality pair of winter boots will allow you to take your dog for a walk without fear of frostbite or ice melts. Just make sure you remove your dog’s boots once you’re inside, and never let your pup lick his footwear. 

A black dog playing outside in the snow.

We often associate good food, family gatherings, and cozy clothes with the winter months. However, pet parents should be aware of the dangers lurking right outside their front door. While the use of ice melts helps keep us safe, these essential compounds can be dangerous, even lethal, to our pets. Consider natural alternatives, get your dog a good pair of boots, and never let him lick his feet or eat snow while you’re out for a walk. 

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