When it comes to snow, ice and dogs, we dog lovers have two questions: Is rock salt safe for dogs and, if not, what pet-safe ice melt can we use? After all, there is nothing worse than having our dogs — hyped up and ready to go for their walk — bounding out of the house, pulling you with them, and then slipping on the icy stairs, causing you to slip too. It’s imperative that we don’t even go down that icy, slippery slope by using a pet-safe ice melt.
Is rock salt safe for dogs?
No, rock salt is not safe for dogs. It’s not safe for humans to put that high level of salt on bare skin either. For dogs, it gets on their paws and next thing you know, they’ve scratched themselves with those salty paws or have licked them and ingested the rock salt. Dogs can get anything from skin and mouth irritation to burns. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, if dogs ingest rock salt it can cause anything from upset stomach to vomiting and diarrhea. And, if it elevates the sodium level enough, it can cause tremors and seizures.
What is rock salt? It is just like what you use to put on your fries but not purified for human consumption.
“Typical rock salt is made with high percentages of sodium chloride,” explains Victoria Mack, the Customer Service Specialist for Natural Alternative, a safety-first lawn–and-garden product manufacturer that makes pet-safe ice melt. “It is not made uniformly, meaning you will need more product to melt the snow and ice. Together with the high percentage of salt and using more product, you are putting your pets at a higher risk of getting internal and external burns.”
Is ice melt safe for dogs?
Traditional ice melt is not safe for dogs because of the high level of ingredients used, which are typically — but not always — one of the salts: sodium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium chloride.
Victoria tells Dogster, “Ice melt can be comprised of several different raw ingredients. Traditionally, ice melt is a blend of chlorides to make a product that melts snow and ice to create safer winter walking and driving conditions. Ice melters now can also come in a chloride-free form, such as calcium magnesium acetate (C.M.A.). And, those 100% C.M.A. ice melters work completely different than traditional ice melters.”
Just like with rock salt, your dog can have the same health issues with ice melt that is not safe for pets.
“Choosing an ice melt that is not pet friendly can cause your pets to have internal and external burns, vomiting, upset stomach and the list goes on,” says Victoria. “This is because ice melters are made to heat up fast to create the melting effect on the snow and ice. Choosing a product that isn’t pet-safe can heat up to temperatures that cause issues with our furry family members.”
What is pet-safe ice melt?
Basically pet-safe or pet-friendly ice melts contain safer ingredients and/or the chlorides at lower levels. This doesn’t mean your dog can go to town eating them, as they can still cause issues like stomach upset.
Victoria says that “there are a variety of ingredients that can be used in pet-friendly ice melters, but it is how it’s made and the percentages of the ingredients that make the true difference.”
She explains that her company’s Natural Alternative Ice melt is a four-way blend of powerful ice melting chlorides, but it’s blended with percentages that are pet friendly. The shape of the granules also helps it cover more square footage, so you use less product overall when compared to traditional ice melters.
Her company also has a 100% C.M.A product for a chloride-free option. This product is not a blend. “It is a C.M.A. pellet treated with a bio-based activator for faster melting and lower freezing temperatures,” she says. “It is less corrosive than tap water and melts to 15oFahrenheit. C.M.A. will dehydrate snow and ice, turning it into an oatmeal-like consistency making it easier to remove from walkways.”
How to use pet-safe ice melt
First off, store pet-safe ice melt in an area that your dog cannot get into, in a container or on a high shelf in the garage. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, some pets like the taste.
Read the directions on the label before using any ice melt. If ice or snow are in the weather forecast, Victoria says to apply it before snow fall then reapply as needed. For her company’s product, more is not necessary and she says there is no need to overapply. She warns that you should avoid over application of any ice melt product.
What to do if your dog ingested ice melt or rock salt
First of all, prevention is key here. Don’t let your dog ingest rock salt or ice melt. To keep it off your dog’s feet during winter months, you can:
- put your dog’s feet in dog boots or booties
- use dog paw wax, which acts as a barrier between your dog’s paws
- clean your dog’s paws off after walking outside in areas that have rock salt or ice melt
“For the pet’s safety when walking through towns or areas where you don’t know what ice melter product was applied, we always recommend rinsing their paws to make sure the ice melter is removed from their pads,” says Victoria. “If rinsing isn’t an option, check their paw pads to make sure there are no granules in between their pads. It is normal for a dog to want to lick their paws after they walk across an area that has been treated with a deicer. Rinsing will remove any salt from their paws, helping to prevent licking. With our product even though it is pet-friendly, we still recommend checking their paws for any granules that may be in between their paw pads. Lodged granules can cause excess licking due to irritation if stuck and the dog can’t remove it on its own.”
If your dog has any of the following symptoms, immediately contact your vet or you can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435.
- neurological signs, like tremors or seizures
- more than mild diarrhea
- more than mild vomiting
How to get pet-safe ice melt
You can find pet-safe ice melt online or at lawn and garden stores. Read the label and make sure it says pet-safe. Pet safe doesn’t mean your pet should ingest large quantities anymore than we humans should, so take precautions.