Much has been written about the dangers of deicing products containing salt and other, harmful chemicals to dogs, cats and other domestic pets and wildlife. Rocksalt and other forms of salt can be very harmful to pets if they ingest it through licking a treated surface directly, or if any salt makes its way into their food or water bowl via ice melts containing dangerous ingredients.
Why pets can be at risk from some ice melts
Ingesting too much salt can be incredibly harmful to a cat or dog. Too much salt entering the body can cause blood sodium concentration to increase to a dangerous level, which damages the kidney and causes excessive thirst and lethargy.
Salt can be absorbed through skin and paws too, making it even riskier to use rock salt as a deicer in areas where dogs can reasonably be expected to walk. Additionally, some deicers are based on urea, or urea-derived ingredients, which are also toxic to pets coming into contact with them. Urea ingestion can lead to excessive salivating and irritation to the gastrointestinal tract.
Additionally, the combination of salt and melting ice can cause a heat reaction, meaning that a surface can become hot and uncomfortable to walk on with ‘bare paws’. As a contrary, as it sounds, the simple act of deicing a pavement with rock salt can cause burns to a pet’s delicate paws.
If a dog or cat’s paws feel painful for uncomfortable, they are more likely to lick them for some relief, which in turn transfers the offending products onto their lips, mouth and tongue and on into their digestive system, affecting the bloodstream and internal organs.
What makes a pet-friendly ice melt safe?
Given these risks, it is clear that great care must be taken when choosing a deicing product to use this winter. It is prudent for owners to check the labels of any commercially available products before buying them as they may still contain rock salt, but lesser quantities of it with rounded edges for a softer impact.
Nevertheless, the salt remains a risk, so look for products stating that they do not contain any rock salt or urea whatsoever. Urea can also be known as carbonyl diamide or carbamide resin and is also used in many fertilizers as a source of nitrogen. Excess levels caused by ingesting urea, or absorbing it through the skin, can lead to blood and kidney problems in cats and dogs.
what ingredients make ice melt harmful for pets?
Other chemicals to steer clear of include chlorides, which can cause internal irritation and kidney problems in pets, calcium salts, which can lead to diarrhoea and skin complaints and glycols, which are also a key ingredient of antifreeze and can be deadly to pets if eaten.
The aspects that make an ice melt safe for pets and concrete, therefore, include a lack of salts, urea, chlorides and other harmful chemicals. The safest preventative solutions are those derived naturally from organic sources that do not work against your cats’ and dogs’ internal systems, nor cause them irritation when they come into close contact.
Some examples include sand, grit, gravel and cat litter, which all offer excellent traction but do not speed up ice melting. For the latter, there are specialist, pet-safe ice melter products on the market that are aimed at pet owners and that clear icy surfaces quickly and efficiently without causing any harm to concrete or other surfaces, while posing no risk to animals or plant life.
Keep your pets safe this winter
Despite the urge to rush out and get rid of the ice and snow that could cause you and your pets to slip or injure yourselves this winter, there are many alternative ways you can employ to keep your dogs and cats safe during an icy snap.
If your pet is amenable, there are several types of winter-friendly boots, feet and leg coverings available to protect their feet and prevent contact with jagged ice particles or toxic ice melt products. If you choose this option, make sure the soles have an adequate grip to ensure your pet doesn’t go flying off on slippery surfaces. Go for waterproof boots or foot coverings too, to help keep their feet warm and dry.
Keeping your pup warm all over is also important, so you may wish to invest in a suitable coat to help him or her stay cosy when out for a winter walk. Check on your dog’s condition regularly during the walk and stop if you see signs of distress, such as shivering, lethargy, pulling at the leash or general whining or upset.
Learn your pup’s limits and stick to them, especially if they are elderly, pregnant or need aid while recovering from an injury or illness. Keep your dog on the leash if there is any danger of him or her dashing across an icy road or path, as cyclists and drivers will be less able to suddenly stop in icy conditions or when passing through snow, frost or water.
After a walk, wipe your pet’s paws to remove any salt or ice melter products they may have inadvertently picked up along the way. At the same time, check for scratches, cuts and other signs of injury or toxicity caused by walking on rough ice or from any slips or falls. Always provide somewhere warm and protected for your pup to rest and sleep in the winter that is large enough for them to move about comfortably in, but draught-free and cosy enough to aid them in conserving body heat.
Best Pet-friendly Ice melt products
Check out our range of pet-friendly and safe deicers
EcoGrit’s range of ice melts and associated products, including shakers, spreaders and larger tubs for wider areas are organic, naturally-sourced and free from harmful chemicals that cause toxicity, including rock salt and urea. They are pet-friendly ice melts and readily available online, along with further information about keeping yourself, your loved ones and your four-legged friends safe this winter.
Check out the range of Ice melt products Ecogrit has on offer: