De-icing is a fact of life for many of us living in colder climates. It helps melt snow and ice on driveways, yards and sidewalks, keeping us safe from slips and falls – but it’s important to be aware of the dangers our pets face from many de-icing products. Read on to learn about the dangers of de-icing, safer alternatives and other ways you can protect your pets during wintertime.
Are De-Icing Products Safe for My Cat or Dog?
Many commercial de-icing products are not safe for pets. They contain chemicals such as potassium and magnesium chlorides, or calcium salts (such as calcium carbonate, calcium chloride, and calcium magnesium acetate). These compounds can cause irritation or even chemical burns on your pet’s paw pads, and can also cause gastrointestinal issues if ingested – which may well occur, since your pet is likely to lick their paws clean after walking outside.
Another common de-icing product is rock salt crystals. These are also dangerous for pets, as they are not only sharp and uncomfortable to walk on, but if pets consume snow salt, it can lead to dehydration. Sodium chloride, which makes up snow salt, can even prove toxic to pets depending on the amount consumed and the weight of the pet.
How to Protect Your Pet from De-Icers
To protect your pet from harm during winter, avoid using any anti-icing agents on your property that include the ingredients listed above. When out walking your dog, try to avoid taking them to any areas covered in de-icer or salt; stick to snowy lawns instead of de-iced sidewalks if possible.
You can also consider equipping them with boots! Boots are a great way to protect your pup’s paws from harmful products, as they provide a safe layer between their paws and the toxic anti-icing agents. They also help to prevent the fur in between the paw pads from collecting ice and snow that can become painful.
When it comes to boots, fit is super important. They should be comfortable, not too tight, and need to actually stay on. It’s also a good idea to get your dog used to booties before they have to wear them outside. Start by putting the boots on indoors and giving your dog lots of treats, pets and praise as they get used to walking with them.
Some of our favorite dog boot manufacturers include:
- WagWellies by wagwear: These protective booties that are great for protecting your dog’s paws. However, as they’re rubber, they aren’t breathable so you shouldn’t keep them on for long periods at a time as the paws will get sweaty and damp.
- Ruffwear: They make great cold weather boots, some of which are more breathable options than the WagWellies.
For dogs who just won’t tolerate boots, and for outdoor cats, our top tips include:
- After a dog walk, or when your cat comes inside, soak their paws in warm water and use a soft towel to dry them thoroughly. Many cats and dogs dislike having their paws handled, so you may want to get them used to this process in advance. Provide plenty of treats, pets and praise while training them.
- Check their paws carefully for any sores, cuts or irritation. If you notice anything unusual, get them checked out by your veterinarian before the problem becomes more severe.
- Carefully trim between-the-toes fur, so that it doesn’t accumulate ice and snow.
- Apply specially formulated paw wax, like Musher’s Secret, to their paw pads to protect them before going outside.
Chemical anti-icing agents and rock salt can cause irritation, cuts or even burns to your pet’s paw pads, and can cause gastrointestinal issues if they lick their paws clean after walking outside.
What are some Pet-Safe Alternatives to Anti-Icing Products?
Thankfully, there are a number of de-icing alternatives you can use to help keep your property safe during winter:
- Use the old fashioned method of shoveling your driveway and using an icepick to clear away snow and ice.
- Apply sand, dirt, gravel or wood ash over the top of snow and ice. While this won’t melt the snow/ice, it will help to provide grittiness and make it safer to walk.
- Consider using cool or lukewarm water to defrost windscreens and paths, but be careful as this may turn to ice.
- There are a number of pet-safe commercial de-icing products available that do not contain salts or chlorides, such as Morton Safe-T-Pet Ice Melt.
- Contact your city’s officials and ask them to use pet-safe and environmentally friendly de-icers to help keep your pets and others’ safe!
If In Doubt, Contact Your Veterinarian
If you notice any signs of irritation or soreness on your pet’s paws, any potential gastrointestinal distress, or believe your pet may have ingested any anti-icing agents, contact your veterinarian for advice straight away. When it comes to your pet’s health, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
We’re here 24/7 for Small Door members via the app over the winter if you have any concerns or questions about keeping your pet safe.