For many of us, winter weather means it’s time to put down that layer of salt. After all, you don’t want to hurt yourself or be liable if anyone slips on your sidewalk!

Ironically, in your effort to keep everyone safe, you might be endangering the very ones you want to protect. That’s because ice melt is dangerous for pets. And it’s not just the ice melt on your property. Ice melt that is universally used on roadways and walking paths is usually not pet-friendly and can cause serious harm and even death.

Here’s what you need to know to keep your pets safe this snowy season.


Know the chemicals.

Ice melt is made up of chemicals like sodium chloride (the same as table salt) and calcium salts (calcium carbonate, calcium magnesium acetate, and calcium chloride). Sometimes it also contains potassium chloride, magnesium chloride and/or urea (carbonyl diamide). These chemicals lower the freezing point for water, causing the ice to melt and turn to slush. In addition to having an effect on ice, they also cause damage to concrete, cement, soil, and water, as well as plants and animals.

That’s where your pet comes in. It may be tempting for your dog or cat to sniff around at ice melt because of its salty taste. Or they may walk on it and get it on their paws, and then lick it off. But even table salt is dangerous for them in large quantities.

If ingested, ice melt can cause anything from mild indigestion to severe vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration, and even death. Just 4 g/kg of sodium chloride can be deadly, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. According to Pet MD, ethylene glycol-based ice melts contain the same active ingredient as antifreeze. They are deadly if ingested. Calcium chloride also can cause mouth ulcerations and irritation.  So, what do you need to look out for in your pet? An abnormally high body temperature, a racing heart, and rapid breathing are all signs of elevated blood sodium levels. Keep reading for more signs and symptoms.

Ice melt is also a skin irritant. It can cause irritation, dryness, and even burns on your fur babies’ paws or between their pads. If they scratch or rub their face, the ice melt can get in their eyes. If a small piece of salt makes its way in between your pet’s pads, it can be highly uncomfortable and have a chance of being swallowed.

If you’re thinking you can just check the package and make sure these ingredients are not listed, think again. Unfortunately, not all ice melt packages provide a full list of ingredients.



Are there any ice melts that are safe for pets?

You can buy ice melts that are labeled ‘safe for pets’, but even these are not completely safe, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. They are simply safer options. If ingested, they can still cause gastric distress. Also, while safe for dogs, ice melt with propylene glycol can be damaging to cats’ red blood cells, according to PetMD.

Products safe for pets usually are urea-based. They are some of the safest options for dogs and cats, but if you have goats or cows, beware. Urea can cause ammonia toxicosis in animals that have that type of digestive tract.


How to Prevent Exposure

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keeping your pet away from dangerous ice melts is your first defense.

    • Avoid areas that are slushy or where it looks like ice melt has been applied.
    • Don’t let pets sniff or eat road salt, ice melt, etc.
    • Don’t let pets run and play in an area that looks like it has been treated with ice melt.
    • Wipe your pet’s paws with a damp cloth to remove any ice melt as soon as you come in from outside. This way, your fur baby won’t accidentally ingest it when licking his/her paws.
    • Store the ice melt package far out of reach of curious pets.
    • If you want to protect your fur baby’s paws, consider paw wax or doggie booties.
    • Instead of ice melt, try products intended to provide traction, such as sand, gravel, kitty litter, and wood ash.



Watch for these signs and symptoms.

Keep a close eye on your fur baby, If you notice him/her walking gingerly or licking his/her paws, there could be a problem. Also, look for these signs of possible exposure to ice melt:

    • Skin irritation/burns
    • Mouth ulcers
    • Increased urination
    • Excessive drooling
    • Nausea/gastrointestinal upset/vomiting
    • Body and muscle weakness
    • Seizures

Call your veterinarian right away if you believe your pet has ingested ice melt and is exhibiting symptoms. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center also is available 24/7 to answer your questions. A consultation fee may apply.

Pet health insurance can help cover the costs if anything should happen to your fur baby. Make sure you are fully covered in event of an emergency.



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or


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