If you live in a wintery environment, odds are you’re going to have to purchase some sort of deicer in order to keep your steps and driveway safe and free from slippery build-up.
But first, you need to understand that not all ice melts were created equal. This is particularly important if you’re a pet owner, as there are some ingredients that are quite effective, but can be toxic and downright harmful to your furry friend.
Before you decide on an ice melt, we need to cover the basics regarding pets and ice melting products, including discussing which kinds are and aren’t safe.
Is Pet-Friendly Ice Melt Necessary?
Simply put, if you have a dog, you should be using an ice melt that’s labeled pet-friendly.
Many of the more common forms of ice melt, like rock salt, can be very damaging to dogs’ paws and irritate their digestive tracts, while other kinds can be toxic and even fatal if accidentally ingested.
It’s important to note that even ice melts that are labeled pet-friendly are still not necessarily good for dogs, it just means they’re less harmful.
Consuming any type of deicer can cause a wide array of health issues, from moderate stomach upset and vomiting to outright poisoning.
For this reason, be sure to store any ice melt products in a safe place, away from your pet’s reach.
Signs that your dog has been was exposed to harmful ice melt include:
- Red, irritated paws
- Dry, cracked paw pads
- Sudden limping
- Excessive licking
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seizures or Tremors
- Muscle weakness
- Excessive thirst
Which Kinds of Ice Melts are Safer for Pets?
- Propylene glycol is generally considered safer for pets, though it shouldn’t be ingested, especially by cats.
Warning: Be sure not to confuse this with ethylene glycol (which is the main ingredient in antifreeze), as it’s extremely dangerous and can be fatal if consumed.
- Urea is one of the safer compounds in ice melts for pets, and you’ll often find it in products that also contain propylene glycol.
- Magnesium chloride is considered to be safer than other salts, and it tends to be less irritating to paws as well. However, it’s not as gentle as urea.
What to Avoid?
- Sodium chloride (or rock salt) is the most common ice melt. It can cause serious gastrointestinal issues for your dog if ingested, and even be lethal in high doses. Plus, it may also cause irritation to your dog’s paws and skin, and is best avoided.
- Calcium salts are extremely irritating not only to the paws, but for the skin, too. Plus, they can cause vomiting and diarrhea if your dog happens to ingest them.
- Ethylene glycol, as we mentioned earlier, is an antifreeze, which is something your pet should stay away from as far as possible.
Below are the best ice melt options for pets.
What’s the Best Ice Melt for Your Pets?
1. Branch Creek Entry Liquid Snow and Ice Melt
This is a liquid ice melt, which not only cuts down on mess, but it eliminates any abrasive texture your dog might have to walk over, and does wonders for saving his paws.
Additionally, it’s chloride-free and completely non-toxic, both to your children, pets, and even your plants.
It melts ice and prevents refreeze in temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and begins to act in approximately 30 seconds. It also has a neutral Ph, so it’s less likely to damage the surfaces it’s applied to, such as concrete.
As an added bonus, its extremely pocket-friendly, as just one half-gallon of this product is equivalent to 50 pounds of other ice melts!
- Convenient and easy to clean
- Safe for concrete
- Won’t work on thicker layers of ice
2. Green Gobbler Pet Safe Ice Melt
This pet-safe ice melt is far different than your traditional rock salt, yet it’s able to melt twice as much ice!
Completely free from sodium chloride, it contains magnesium chloride, which is both effective and less likely to irritate your dog’s feet compared to other salts.
This type of salt is also less corrosive to concrete, asphalt, and pavers, and the pellets are rounded, so they’re more comfortable to walk on. Just know that it may leave a bit of residue if you over apply it.
This product will start to work instantly in temperatures as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit, and there’s a money-back guarantee in case you’re not pleased with the results.
- No rock salt
- Environmentally friendly
- Safe for concrete
- Money-back guarantee
- May leave some residue
3. Harris Harris Safe Melt Ice Melter
Specifically designed with your pet’s safety and comfort in mind, this ice melt is composed of 100% magnesium chloride, which means there’s no jagged rock salt that may cause cuts or irritation.
In fact, it’s made from soft, rounded pellets that not only cover a lot of area, but are also easier on your dog’s paws. On top of that, it’s less corrosive to concrete and also eco-friendly, so you don’t have to worry about it damaging your plants.
This product works by generating heat onto whatever surface it’s applied to, and is effective for cold weather down to -13 degrees Fahrenheit.
In addition, it can treat large areas at a time, and even comes with a satisfaction guarantee if you’re not happy with your purchase.
- No rock salt
- Rounded pellets
- Satisfaction guarantee
- Not as effective on thicker ice layers
4. Safe Paw Ice Melter
Compared to traditional rock salt ice melt formulas, Safe Paw isn’t only far less dangerous for households with pets, but it also treats a larger area with far more effectiveness.
This not only means you’re taking steps to keep your dog safe, but you’re also saving money in the long run!
Guaranteed to be non-toxic, it’s active ingredient is propylene glycol, which is safe for both kids and pets, as well as for the environment.
Moreover, the timed-release formula means it keeps working for up to three days’ time in cold that can drop down to -2 degrees Fahrenheit, so you don’t have to worry about spreading it every day.
- Propylene glycol-based
- Environmentally safe
- Timed-release formula
- Not as safe for concrete
Are There Other Natural Alternatives?
Just because your ice melt is pet-friendly doesn’t mean it’s a desirable thing to have around your dog.
If you can make do without it, here are a couple other tricks you can try:
- Not everyone knows this, but alfalfa meal is actually a decent deicer. Not only it provides better traction, but it even helps melt smaller patches of ice.
- The sugar in beet juice works by lowering the ice melting point. However, to actually melt the ice, you’ll also need some type of salt, such as pickle brine.
How to Protect Your Dog’s Paws This Winter?
1. Get Your Dog Used to Wearing Boots. Booties put a very definite boundary between the pads of your dog’s paws and the cold, snowy ground. They help insulate his feet, and also keep salt from getting into the cracks between the paws.
Boots are great in that they’re kind of like a shoe for dogs, so you don’t have to worry much about what they walk on, but the downfall is that some pups don’t like the way they feel, and may even refuse to walk in them.
2. Use a Paw Plunger After Walks. This foot washer uses a combination of a gentle cleaning solution and soft bristles to clean your dog’s feet. Simply place your dog’s paws, one at a time, into the paw plunger and move it back and forth a few times to remove any salt residue or dirt buildup.
It’s a good way to quickly and gently clean your dog’s paws after a walk outside, but some dogs have anxiety about placing their feet in the plunger, which makes the process difficult.
3. Alternatively, Use Paw Wipes. These are exactly what they sound like, a pre-moistened piece of cloth that you can use to wipe off and clean your pet’s feet after walking outdoors.
While these wipes are easy to carry and quite convenient, it can be difficult to get into the deeper crevasses of your dog’s paws, where salt buildup can hide.
4. Cover Your Dog’s Paws with Wax. A paw balm is a thick substance that you can apply to the bottom of your dog’s paws to create a barrier between the pads and the ground.
While it might not be the best choice for dogs who like to lick their paws, wax is a great alternative for dogs who won’t tolerate wearing booties or using a paw plunger.
Tip: Since some ice melts can potentially irritate the skin, you may also want to cover your dog up in a coat or jacket.
5. Avoid Walking on Ice Melt. While it’s not always going to be possible, if the roads and sidewalks are covered with ice melt, take your dog to walk somewhere else, or drive to the park instead.