Commonly, we see commercial ice melting products on public and private property this time of year. Which of these products is safe for pet’s feet and if ingested?
Here’s the quick version. If you take your pet for a walk this time of year and you see they are licking their feet more than they would in the summer months, get a wet towel and wipe their paws clean.
If after licking their paws they develop nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme thirst or anything worse, get them to your family veterinarian for care. The more serious things that can happen are loss of consciousness, lack of coordination and extreme lethargy.
One of the reasons this happens is because not all ice melting compounds are safe for pets to walk on or ingest. Another reason is, you never know what someone may want to throw out on top of ice in hopes it will provide traction or melt it away.
If one wants to be conscientious to their neighbors and others who walk pets, what should they get that will melt ice and not be caustic or toxic to pets?
The first answer is, there is no such chemical that comes without risk. There are, however, pet friendly compounds out there and some that are much safer.
Most ice-melting compounds contain some type of salt. That’s not to be confused with table salt even though some people throw table salt out on their sidewalks. Ingesting too much table salt will first make a dog vomit and, if enough is ingested, they could become much sicker and need supportive care.
If you must, look for urea-based ice melts. Urea is a type of salt dogs (and other animals) produce when they (we) make urine. There are very few reports of a dog’s feet being irritated significantly by urea-based products.
Urea or carbamide is also used as a fertilizer component, so I assume it may be for sale in bulk locally from agricultural chemical suppliers. Commercial formulations usually include a blue or green dye to help pet owners distinguish between safe and unsafe products.
Like everything though, too much urea can harm vegetation, pets and people, so use it only as directed. It melts ice well down to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
One product I checked uses carbonyl diamine, (another urea name), special glycols, soaps and a proprietary traction substance and is said to be good to about -2 degrees.
You might want to consider a natural product to protect against slips and falls on ice instead. Sand, sawdust, wood shavings,and straw will work. These have the side benefit of not contributing to waterway runoff contamination. Most types of kitty litter contain clay compounds, which can be readily tracked in the house and are difficult to clean up.
If you think your dog’s feet are affected, look for the incessant licking and chewing activity first. Redness, chaffing, cracks or bloody spots in the house mean its past time to take a look at the foot pads.
In the worst cases, pets will vocalize in pain when walking or perhaps even at rest. Watch for the vocalization and a sudden turn to the paw where the licking and chewing occurs. Some dogs learn too, and will refuse to walk across certain products spread on surfaces.
Finally, after securing the pets’ paws and bellies, make sure whatever you spread is also friendly to your surfaces. Some can etch or cause scaling in concrete, as well as being harmful to reinforcements. Wood and composite decks are also vulnerable.
Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email firstname.lastname@example.org.