Dealing with Dogs and Ice Melt

Winter is a great time for dogs as the fresh air and falling snow can be an excellent excuse to get outside and play. That being said, the cold weather, snow and ice can create many hazards for your pet. One of the biggest dangers that winter poses to dogs is in the form of the ubiquitous ice melt. This substance is also called rock salt, and it is used to melt ice and snow on roadways and paths. What many pet owners may not know is that ice melt can be toxic and even lethal to dogs. If you live in an area where ice melt is used, it is important to know how to protect your dog from this danger.

What is Ice Melt and why is it Harmful?

Ice melt is made up of many chemical compounds that are harmful to dogs. A typical ice melt blend could contain sodium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate, calcium carbonate, or magnesium chloride. All of these substances are caustic on a dog’s paws, and can cause cracking of the pads and irritation. Furthermore, if ingested they can cause a myriad of health problems, and in extreme cases even death.

Typical symptoms of ice melt poisoning in dogs include loss of appetite, dizziness, weakness, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, or comas. In large quantities, sodium chloride can even cause fatalities. Sodium chloride is lethal in quantities of about 1 ounce per 2.2 pounds of body weight. This means that if a 9-pound dog ingested 4 ounces or more of sodium chloride, they could die.

How to Protect Your Dog From Ice Melt Toxicity

Fortunately there are ways to protect your dog against the dangers of ice melting chemicals. The following are some precautions to take if you live in an area where ice melt is used:

  • Supervise your dog while he or she is playing outside. Do not let your dog eat snow or drink water that might contain ice melt.
  • Wipe down your dogs paws and coat with a damp cloth after walking in areas where ice melt is used.
  • Invest in doggie boots to protect your pet’s paws.
  • If you use ice melt, keep the bag or container tightly sealed and out of your pet’s reach.
  • Try to purchase non-toxic forms of ice melt that are safe for pets. Check the ingredients if you are not sure about the safety of the composition.
  • As an alternative to ice melt you can use sand or kitty litter to provide traction on ice.
  • If you suspect your pet has ingested ice melt and is displaying symptoms of toxicity, contact a veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline immediately.

Winter should be a time of fun and frolicking for your dog, and not a potential hazard. By being aware of the dangers of ice melt and following a few simple steps, you can ensure that your dog does not succumb to the poisonous effects of this toxic substance.


Helen Billet is a freelance writer based in MA. She shares her home with 2 dogs, 4 cats and a handful of fish. And oh yes, her husband and 3 kids too.

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