Ice Melter and Your Pets

Ice Melter and Your Pets

Pet owners beware — Overexposure to chloride-based ice melters can harm your pets

Be Green Lawn Care in Delafield, WLiving in Wisconsin means you are no stranger to harsh winters, and neither are your pets. When the snow begins to fly, plows, shovels, snow blowers and sidewalk salts become the familiar friends that keep our lives moving. Old man winter blows a mean north wind in our state, but we have learned well how to keep our regular routines despite cold and icy challenges. Furry family members, sometimes seen wearing fluffy doggie sweaters, also rely on their necessary daily routines, including outdoor activity. Whether or not snowfalls make you and your four-legged friend romp with delight like pups, overexposure to common salt-based ice melt products can have some “not so fun” effects on your pet.
Chloride-based (salt-based) ice melters are used extensively around homes during the winter to remove ice and snow from areas where foot traffic is likely, such as on sidewalks, driveways, patios and porch steps. Given the number of homes where pets are present, the potential exists for these valuable members of the family to be exposed to these products, even if the pet is wearing this season’s fashion forward doggie booties. Here are some tips to help pet owners better understand the potential effects of accidental overexposure to these products, and what alternatives are available.
Realistically, there are three ways a pet can come into contact with chloride-based ice melters: 1) They can walk on the solid particles or hydrated (liquid) product; 2) They can consume the product either accidentally or intentionally; or 3) The solid particles, dust or hydrated product may get into their eyes, ears, noses, mouths and fur. Each scenario is worth a closer look, noting that consistent contact over the long winter months can become quite common and go without notice. Even slight exposure to chloride-based ice melters can irritate and harm paws, skin and eyes without proper attention.

Skin and footpad contact

Chloride-based ice melters present a low hazard to skin when used as directed, as brief contact is essentially nonirritating. Therefore, single, short exposures to the solid particles most likely will not cause a problem to the feet of dogs or cats. However, prolonged (hours) or repeated contact may cause skin irritation; in some cases even burn. Solid particles may become lodged between toes or caught in the fur surrounding the foot pads, which would prolong contact and increase the potential for irritation, as well as ingestion. Additionally, if the product has hydrated (becomes liquid), the salt solution may cause the footpads to become dry and cracked. Therefore, chloride-based ice melters should be used carefully in areas where animals have routine access, or not at all in areas where prolonged contact could occur, such as in a kennel. Owners are advised to inspect and wash their pets’ foot pads after contact to remove any intact solid particles or salt solution. In the unlikely event that severe irritation is observed, a veterinarian should be consulted.


With respect to exposure via consumption, most pets probably will not intentionally consume a chloride-based ice melter. However, it only makes sense to store the product in a manner that eliminates any opportunity for exploring pets to conduct a “taste test.” The most likely method of ingestion is when they lick their feet or fur. If incidental ingestion does occur, it is not likely to cause injury, as the toxicity of this product is low. However, continued consumption in small amounts over time could cause the build-up of overexposure effects. If a pet inadvertently consumes large amounts, gastro-intestinal irritation or ulceration may occur. In this case, vomiting should not be induced, but if it occurs naturally, offer the animal plenty of drinking water and consult a veterinarian.

Eye contact

To avoid potential eye contact, pet owners are advised to keep pets away when the product is being applied to surfaces. Dust, residue and hydrated product can also potentially adhere to any exposed area of pet contact. If the product does contact the eyes, or if it settles on other areas, some irritation can be expected. The product should be gently washed out of the eyes or other areas if such exposure does occur. If washing measures are not taken, prolonged contact may result in more extensive injury.
Another way to prevent overexposure is to avoid using chloride-based ice melt products and seek innovative, chloride-free alternatives, which are 100% biodegradable and designed to be both pet and environmentally friendly. Ice melting products are currently available that melt quickly up to zero degrees, and are water soluble, easy to clean and less damaging to surfaces. This winter, when considering the safety of your winter walkways, you can easily make choices that are safer for your pets and the environment, too!
Patti Beres is the owner of Be Green Lawn Care, LLC, specializing in earth-friendly lawn care solutions. Holistic practices and organic-based products provide the foundation for nutrition-conscious yard care, keeping lawns green and weed free in a “greener” way. Be Green Lawn Care is family owned and operated with over 25 years of expertise and quality service. Contact Patti today to schedule your next seasonal application! For more information, call 262-361-4034, email or visit

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