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Pet-Safe Ice Melts – Are They Really Safe?

Dog in the snow

If you live anywhere with ice and snow, then you understand the importance of a safe ice melt for pets. It’s necessary to eliminate ice from places like driveways, sidewalks, and streets to avoid injuries and dangerous situations. However, many ice melts are extremely toxic to pets, so what’s a doting pet parent to do when things get icy?

Are There Such Things as Pet-Safe Ice Melts?

Ice melts help keep surfaces ice-free so they’re safer to walk and drive on, but this often means they become unsafe for your pets. Many common types of ice melts contain potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, and sodium chloride. 

All of these substances cause varying degrees of issues for pets, some being worse than others. For example, sodium chloride tends to be the least pet-friendly of the bunch and is highly toxic if your pet ingests it. 

Magnesium chloride tends to have milder effects, but can still cause gastrointestinal problems, stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and vomiting. Furthermore, many ice melts cause skin irritation and can damage your pet’s paws or mucous membranes.

Therefore, you can find some ice melts that are pet-friendlier than others. These pet-friendly options tend to contain magnesium chloride or urea, instead of the other chloride types. However, it’s important to recognize that there is no such thing as an ice melt that is 100% pet-safe.

What Happens if Your Dog Eats Pet-Safe Ice Melts?

Dogs tend to come into more contact with ice melts since you likely walk your pup more than your cat. However, if your cat experiences spring fever, then you’re likely itching to get them some outdoor time too. So, whether you have a cat companion or a friendly Fido, it’s important to know how to protect them from possible winter hazards like ice melts.

Your pet can potentially experience neurological or gastrointestinal problems if they ingest ice melts. The range of problems and the severity of issues depends on how much ice melt your pet eats and also the type of ice melt. But examples include diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, stomach pain, nausea, and excessive drooling.

Neurological problems are more likely if your pet consumes a large amount of ice melts. Examples of neurological issues include extreme tiredness, weakness, muscle spasms, seizures, and behavioral changes. Your pet may appear unsteady on their feet, or in extreme cases, could go into a coma.

Even a Small Amount of Ice Melt Exposure Could Cause Problems for Pets

Don’t assume if your pet only ingests a small amount of ice melts that you’re free and clear. Licking their paws after coming in contact with ice melts could also lead to some problems for your pet. Additionally, your pet’s eyes, skin, paws, nose, and mouth can also suffer from simple contact with ice melts. Your pet may experience irritation, discomfort, or chemical burns.

If your pet eats or appears to have any topical issues from ice melts call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. If it’s within normal hours of operation for your vet clinic, call your vet immediately for advice and guidance. 

If you’re advised to bring your dog or cat to a vet right away and your vet is closed, make sure to know the location of the nearest animal emergency hospital. Regardless of how little exposure your pet has with ice melts, always monitor your pet, err on the side of caution, and contact a vet or one of the poison hotlines if you suspect any problems.

Dog in snow

Try These Products to Keep Your Pets Safe in Winter

Although you can opt for ice melts designed to be safer for pets, don’t assume this gets you a free pass. It’s always essential to monitor your dog or cat when you are around any material or substance that could possibly cause them harm. Also, when you’re in a public area with your pets, you can’t know for sure that they’re using pet-safe products on sidewalks, roads, and other common spaces.

Therefore, how do you keep your pets safe, regardless of what types of ice melts are out there? Here are a few tips to help protect your pets in the winter.

  • Watch your pet at all times when you’re exploring outside.
  • Rinse or wipe your pet’s paws thoroughly after any type of exposure with the ground. Clean between their toes and pads to remove all traces of ice melt and other icky elements.
  • Use products that can help keep your pet safe.

1. Pet Booties

You might not need to put a coat on your dog or cat in the winter, but a pet can always benefit from wearing some paw protection outside. If your pet is willing to wear cozy booties or winter-worthy socks, they’ll gain protection from dangerous substances on the ground. You can find a variety of styles, textures, and materials online or in pet stores.

Choose pet boots designed for winter-wear and be prepared to test out a few options to find ones that suit your furry friend. Some pets find it challenging to walk when anything is on their paws. They’ll spend more time trying to chew or shake the booties off than walking. So try a few, and see which ones (if any) could work for your pal.

2. Pet-Safe Wipes

Pet-safe cleansing wipes are a great way to clean your pet’s paws quickly and efficiently after an outdoor adventure. If your pet doesn’t like wearing booties, then wipes are an excellent backup, but make sure to keep an extra-watchful eye on your pet. 

Bring the wipes with you when walking outdoors so you can wipe down their paws at a moment’s notice. Keep them next to your dog’s leash or poop bags to help you remember them. If your pet’s paws look red or irritated, call your vet to determine your next steps.

3. Paw Wax

Paw wax provides another way to protect your pet’s paws without the hassle of booties. The wax works to create a barrier between your pet’s paws and uncomfortable substances. 

A good-quality wax helps keep snow and other things from sticking to your pet’s feet. However, even if you opt to use a paw wax, it’s still good practice to wipe your dog or cat’s paws after any exposure to potential irritants.

Keep Your Pet Safe On and Off the Ice

Perhaps your dog or cat goes outside and plays on the ice and snow. Or maybe they unwittingly pick something up on their paws after a quick potty break outside. No matter how long they’re outside, making sure your pet stays safe is always your top priority and responsibility as a loving pet parent. 

When you have a choice over what type of ice melts to use, seek out ones that use pet-friendlier ingredients. Always wipe your pet’s paws after exposure to snow, ice melts, and other possibly dangerous substances. If your pet’s willing, use paw wax or pet booties to add extra paw protection for outdoor excursions.

And, as always, the most important way to keep your pet safe during winter and any time of year is to carefully watch them and stay vigilant. For more helpful tips check out the Neater Pets blog to learn more about how to keep your pets safe and warm this winter.


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