Is Ice Melt Safe for Pets?
It’s wintertime, which is always quite challenging for commercial property managers. Keeping everyone safe under snowy and icy conditions is essential, and ice melt plays a primary role. But what about our furry, four-legged friends? Are products such as ice melt, the product used to melt ice on concrete and asphalt, harmful to man’s (and woman’s) best friends? It’s time to investigate.
Keeping Pets Safe
Most ice melts on the market today contain some of the same ingredients. The following are the most common ice melt ingredients:
- Sodium – Sodium chloride is the most commonly used material for melting ice. It’s very inexpensive compared to other products, which is a huge draw for property managers on a budget. Plus, it is effective down to approximately 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Potassium – Potassium chloride, considered safer to use around plants, vegetation and landscaping, melts ice in temperatures as low as 12 degrees Fahrenheit and is considered safer than sodium. Potassium chloride is also safe to use on concrete pavers as well.
- Magnesium – Magnesium chloride is effective down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit and is also considered safe to use around vegetation, concrete, and metal surfaces. Magnesium chloride is also much safer to use around dogs and other pets.
- Calcium – Calcium chloride is effective at melting ice at the widest range of temperatures. It releases heat as it melts the ice and snow and is extremely fast-acting. However, calcium chloride can potentially damage concrete and vegetation with prolonged use.
Ice melt products with only one of these ingredients can be found, but many ice melt products on the market today contain a combination of these products. Blends tend to be more effective at melting ice and snow over a wide range of temperatures, making them more versatile in a variety of winter weather situations.
What Makes Ice Melt Safe for Pets?
The two most common concerns about ice-melting products and pets are the skin on their paws drying out and ingestion of chemicals that can cause stomach upset. The main aim for pet-safe ice melt products is to reduce these two types of irritations. Products that are labeled “pet safe” contain a product that is not mentioned above: urea, a nitrogen compound often found in fertilizer. Out of all the ingredients used in ice melt, urea is least harmful to pets and children, but unfortunately, it’s not very effective at melting ice. Because of this, urea tends to be over-applied and can be dangerous to grass and landscaping, with effects not visible until spring.
Extra Steps to Keep Pets Safe
Taking a few extra precautions during winter weather will ensure that both you and your pets have a trouble-free winter. When possible, allow your pet to walk on untreated snow. It may be tempting to walk in the street or sidewalk because these surfaces are typically cleared by snow contractors. But paved surfaces will typically have ice melt products present that can still irritate your pets’ paws. So, if you can walk on the pavement and allow your pet to walk in the snow, do it!
Wipe your feet and your pet’s feet when you return inside. Granules and pellets of ice melt can get caught in between your pet’s pads where they can irritate their skin or, even worse, continue to produce heat and burn their skin. Taking a small towel and wiping their feet helps to remove residual ice melt from their feet. Wiping your feet and putting shoes or boots in a tray keeps ice melt or brine from being tracked through the home where pets may be tempted to lick or ingest the residue.
If you are responsible for treating your own walks, driveways, and exterior surfaces, make sure you read the labels on your ice melt. If a product is marked as “not safe for children,” it’s likely not safe for your pets either. Also, take note of the ingredients and the product form. For pets, flake products may be a better option then pellets. Then, there are always dog booties as an absolute last resort. Silly, yes, and my dog, pictured above, never allows me to put them on him — as much as I tell him, he STILL doesn’t listen. Doesn’t he know that Mother knows best?
Just watch out for weird or unusual behavior. If your pet ingests some ice melt, you will usually know it — excessive vomiting and stomach upset will result. And then there is the constant foot-licking — chances are if it’s not allergy-related, it’s a sign that rock salt may have gotten in the foot pads. So be vigilant and keep your furry best friends safe!