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Protect your Dog: What You Should Know About Ice Melts or Rock Salt

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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There are several winter pet dangers that we are aware of such as frostbite but many pet owners don't know about the dangers of ice melts. Veterinary clinics and animal emergency clinics receive thousands of calls every year about these products.

Ice melts, also known as rock salt, are substances used to melt ice. Even if you don't use them on your property, your dog will likely be exposed to them on your daily walks outside of your yard.

There are several types of ice melts. They are commonly referred to as "rock salt" as many contain sodium chloride which is "salt". They may also be composed of potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium carbonate and calcium magnesium acetate or calcium chloride, or a mixture of these along with other chemicals.

Some ice melt products claim to be "pet safe" – but you can't always believe what you read on a label. This is an unregulated industry. Based on our research, some bags claim to be "pet safe" but no products were actually proven in any way to be pet safe as they all contain similar ingredients. Some "pet safe" melts use an ingredient called "urea", which is most commonly found in fertilizers. Urea won't dry out your dog's paws, but it won't do much to melt ice either.

The Dangers of Ice Melts

Most products on the market are safe as long as they are used as per their instructions. Many ice melts will burn your lawn but can also irritate the pads of pets' feet. If your dog eats a small amount of the product, it can irritate the stomach. Ingestion of large amounts of ice melts can alter the electrolyte balance in a pet's system, causing lethargy, weakness, and even seizures. In severe cases, it can be fatal.

Some dogs will lick their feet after a walk causing small amounts of ingestion. This can cause oral irritation, drooling, nausea and vomiting in some pets. Larger ingestion can occur after dogs drink from melted snow puddles.

Ice melts can also irritate your dog's paws. The pads will get quite dry in the winter and even crack. The ice melt can be very irritating – basically, it is the equivalent of rubbing salt in a wound.

Tips to Prevent Ice Melt Problems

To prevent ice melt problems with your pet, the best thing you can do is the following:

1. Keep all bags of rock salt out of the reach of your pet. Keep ice melts in sealed pet proof containers.

2. Don't walk your pet in areas where rock salt or ice melts have been used. (This may not be possible.)

3. Clean your pet's paws after coming in from outside when exposure to ice melts was possible. You an use a damp cloth or even a product such as the Paw Plunger to clean your dog's feet.

4. Don't let your dog drink from puddles of melted snow. These may contain ice melts.

5. Fit your dog with dog boots to protect your dog's feet and keep them clean.

6. If you use ice melts, hose down and wash off all traces of the ice melts when the weather improves to minimize further exposure to your pet.

7. Beware "Pet Safe" ice melts. Some products are labeled as pet safe but there are no regulations to prove that they are. Based on our product research, you should consider all ice melts as potentially dangerous.

If you ever suspect that your pet has ingested ice melts, please contact your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately.




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