With the temperatures dropping rapidly, we began doing some research on pet-friendly ice melts and what we found was pretty alarming. Walking down the aisle your local hardware store, pet store or supermarket you’ll likely see a row of ice melt with some happy-looking dogs on the label. This means that these products are safe for your dog, right? Not necessarily. Here is some information to help you select the best ice melt for your dog.
Don’t Trust the Marketing
Seeing an image of a well-groomed and happy dog on the label is enough for most buyers to assume the ice melt they’re purchasing is pet-friendly. But we’ve found that many “pet-safe” marketed products may not be 100% safe for your pet.
Here’s what Dogs Naturally magazine has to say about some products marketing themselves as “pet-safe”:
“Ice melt products can say “Pet Friendly,” or “Safer for Pets/Paws” on the label even if it’s still just rock salt. Because rock salt has jagged edges, they can just round it off and that apparently earns them the right to say it’s safe for paws!”
The advice is pretty standard across the board – instead of trusting the label, turn the bag around and read the ingredients on the back. Be wary of extensive warning labels and be sure you know exactly what you’re purchasing.
All Salt & Chlorides Can be Harmful
The reality is that most ice melts will contain salt, or some variation of a chloride. Why? Because salt is one of the most effective and inexpensive ice melts. The salt works to melt the ice quickly, and the large chunks help to prevent slipping. But there are several reasons why salt can be harmful to your dog:
1. The jagged edges in salt can cut your dog’s feet
2. The salt can get wedged between your dogs paws which can cause drying, cracking, and even salt burns
3. Your dog’s feet may be irritated by the salt causing excessive licking, which can then dry your dog’s tongue and lips
Not to mention that salt can also be harmful to the environment, including your grass and plants. Factor this in to your decision to purchase a “pet-safe” ice melt which contains chlorides of any kind.
What Products Should You Choose?
If you’re a homeowner looking to purchase a genuinely pet-safe melt you may consider using sand as a viable alternative. While basic sand will not work as a quick and effective melter, the sand can provide traction to prevent slipping. Sand is also safer for the environment and easy to remove from your dog’s paws.
You may also consider purchasing an ice shovel to break up and remove the ice from surfaces your dog walks on most.
If you’re going to purchase an ice melt, look for ingredients that do not contain any salt or chlorides. Do some research online prior to selecting a product.
What Additional Steps Can You Take?
– If you live in an apartment or condominium, contact your management company and advocate for choosing an ice melt that is safe for your dog.
– Be mindful of areas where excessive ice melt has been laid down. You should also be careful when walking through parking lots, as leaking antifreeze from vehicles can also be harmful.
– Set aside a wash cloth for your walks. After each walk, wet the washcloth with warm water and wipe down your dog’s feet. Be sure to clean between your dog’s toes and pads. Then take a separate towel to dry your dog’s paws thoroughly. The ASPCA’s website recommends wiping down your dog’s tummy as well, as salt and antifreeze can be kicked up.
– The ASPCA also suggests applying a layer of petroleum jelly on your dog’s paws before walks if salt cannot be avoided. You might also consider purchasing some dog booties.
– Monitor your dog closely for any licking or biting at the paws.
– Contact your veterinarian if you notice any dryness, cracking, irritation or redness on your dog’s feet or mouth.
If you suspect your dog has ingested a harmful amount of antifreeze or ice melt, contact one of the following:
Poison Control Center: (800) 222-1222
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435