When the snow starts to fall the world quickly turns into a winter wonderland. Despite the pristine white beauty, hazards lurk that can harm your four-legged friend.
Winter officially starts in the Northern Hemisphere on December 21, but the weather usually starts to shift months beforehand with snow, ice, and sleet becoming familiar challenges to your pet’s safety.
Even a mundane act such as a dog eating snow and ice is not without risk. Winter can put a damper on your dog's normal outdoor routines.
If you take the right precautions you can make sure your dog not only stays safe over winter but can also enjoy his favourite outdoor activities when the temperature drops.
In this article, we will explore some common winter pet dangers and how you can keep your pup safe, such as winter dog boots and pet-safe ice melt.
What is Pet Safe Ice Melt?
Winter can be a dangerous time of year for your fur friend. The road salts and ice melts we use to keep our streets and sidewalks free of ice and safe for us, are less than safe for pets.
There are safer alternatives, like pet-safe ice melts, but they aren't foolproof and still pose some risk.
Additionally, just because you use a pet-safe ice melt, your pet is likely to be exposed to non-pet-safe ice melts when you are not on your own property.
Types of Ice Melt
When shopping for pet-safe ice melt, you’ll encounter a lot of different brands and types of ice melt on the market. You’ll want to take the time to read the ingredients and warnings on the ice melt label. Does it say that the ice melt is safe for use around pets?
Classic Rock Salt
One of the most common is sodium chloride-based, which is basically rock salt. The term ‘rock salt’ is a bit misleading. It might sound safer but it’s not. In fact, exposure to rock salt can quickly irritate your dog’s skin. It does take ingestion of a large amount of rock salt to lead to poisoning danger.
Ethylene Glycol-Based Ice Melt
Ethylene glycol-based ice melts are extremely dangerous. They contain the same active ingredient as antifreeze which is deadly when ingested. Even ingestion of a small amount can rapidly lead to kidney failure and death.
Propylene Glycol Based Ice Melt
Pet safe ice melts are often made with a propylene glycol base. However, some brands use urea as the active ingredient which is relatively pet safe but not as effective as other types.
Propylene glycol is considered safe for dogs but can harm cats by impacting their red blood cell formation when ingested. Also, the ice melts are dangerous for goats, cows, and other ruminants because the urea can quickly lead to ammonia toxicosis due to the fermentation process of the grazer’s digestive tract.
Calcium chloride is a common ingredient in ice melt before it is cheap and easily mined. However, it can destroy paved services when used for an extended time of year. Ice melts that contain calcium chloride are dangerous if ingested and can easily burn your dog’s paws.
Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA)
Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA). CMA is frequently used on roads to remove heavy and dangerous ice buildup. It is extremely powerful and highly corrosive. It is often combined with other ingredients such as salts to further boost its strength. Interestingly CM is considered less toxic than chlorides if ingested but it can burn the pet’s skin and is somewhat expensive.
Crystalline amides depend on the power of the sun’s rays to effectively break down ice and snow with no corrosive properties. This is by far the safest pet melt that you can use. It is considered safe for children, pets, and plants. It also does not destroy paved surfaces. It is often combined with glycols to truly penetrate heavy ice buildup. One thing to note about this form of ice melt is that it is expensive. In fact, crystalline amides are probably the safest ice melt for pets.
Is Pet Safe Ice Melt Really Safe?
Pet safe ice melts are not completely safe. Of course, they are safer than standard ice melts but pet-safe ice melts are not without risk.
Exposure to the pet’s skin can still lead to chemical burns and irritation, and some ice melts are toxic when ingested.
Dog Ingestion of Ice Melt
The biggest risk faced by pet owners is a dog eating snow and accidentally ingesting ice melt or road salt.
A dog eating snow can accidentally ingest ice melt or the pooch might lick his feet after a long walk and accidentally lap away ice melt. The ingestion of even a small amount of ice melt is dangerous to your furry friend.
Ingestion of ice melt leads to mild to severe toxicity, depending on the type of ice melt. Your dog may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Excessive thirst
- Trouble walking
- Sudden drop in blood pressure
- Increased urination
- Muscle tremors
- Kidney failure
Treatment of Ice Melt Ingestion in a Dog
If you suspect that your pet has accidentally ingested ice melt and you are unsure if it is pet-safe ice melt (non-toxic ice melt) then you should seek immediate veterinary care.
Ingesting around 4 milligrams of sodium per kilogram of body weight can easily lead to the death of the animal. Sadly, the mortality rate hovers at 50 percent or greater regardless of treatment.
If you suspect your dog has ingested ice melt then prompt life-saving veterinary care is imperative, especially for small dogs which are very susceptible. Give the animal access to freshwater to help flush out the salt and quickly seek emergency medical care.
Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your pet. Usually, a complete blood count is carried out along with a urinalysis and biochemistry panel.
If your dog’s veterinarian believes that there is still ice melt in the animal's stomach, then they will use activated charcoal to absorb the toxin and flush out the pet’s body before the chemicals have a chance to enter the animal’s bloodstream.
Flushing out the dog’s system with intravenous electrolytes helps restore electrolyte balance and water balance over the course of two to three days.
Recovery From Ice Melt Toxicity in Dogs
Make sure your dog has access to fresh, clean water during the animal’s recovery process. It will take lots of time and recuperation before your pet feels 100 percent.
Sadly, many pets might suffer from long-term effects such as kidney damage and require lifelong care after ice melt poisoning. Talk to your vet about your options and the best ways to manage your pet's health and recovery.
Paw Damage From Ice Melt
A variety of commercial ice melts are widely used to effectively de-ice sidewalks, parking lots, driveways, and other regions. Many homeowners and business operators are unaware that ice melt is toxic or dangerous to pets. They are rarely aware that there are pet-safe ice melts available.
Standard ice melts contain the active ingredient of chlorides such as potassium chloride, sodium chloride and magnesium chloride which are harmful and caustic chemicals. Ice melts are also loaded with large amounts of sodium salts.
When your dog walks across the ice melt it can damage the animal’s delicate paws by causing severe chemical burns. The ice melt becomes stuck in the paws and leads to chaffing, cracking redness, blistering, and bleeding.
Dog Boots to Protect From Ice Melts
Do dogs need boots for winter? If you regularly walk your dog in areas that use ice melt then you might want to invest in a pair of dog boots.
Dog boots are designed to protect your pooch’s delicate paws from ice melt, rough surfaces, and icy/snow accumulation in hair between the pads. The dog booties are usually lined for added warmth and protection.
Slip the dog boots on your pet’s feet. When shopping for booties, you’ll notice that there are two kinds of closures: Velcro or loop and hook. Velcro closing booties usually have reflective strips to see your pet at night and they are easy to put on.
The fabric of dog boots is usually a breathable mesh fabric with strong water-wicking features. Many of the booties are antimicrobial and have rubber soles or grip pads for better traction in ice.
Ice Melt Safety
You cannot keep your dog indoors all winter. The animal will have to go out to take care of personal business, for fresh air, and exercise. You also can't know if the products used outside of your property are pet safe, so you need to be prepared.
You’ll want to take extra steps to protect your pup from ice melt poisoning.
- Provide your dog with ample water prior to walking the animal so the dog does not eat snow or ice.
- Put booties on your dog’s feet.
- Discourage your dog from eating snow or ice.
- Wash your dog’s feet immediately after every walk to remove any accumulated ice melt from the paws.
- Never leave your dog outdoors unsupervised.
- Store ice melts out of your dog’s reach.
- Use only pet-safe ice melt.
- Monitor your dog for signs of ice melt toxicity and paw damage.
Dog Winter Safety FAQs
While ice melt is one of the most well-known winter dangers for pets, but there are other cold-weather hazards o consider too.
Here are some of the most common winter pet safety questions from pet owners and some helpful resources to keep your pet safe.
Why do dogs eat snow?
Some dogs eat snow for fun or because it's cool and refreshing. If they are looking for a drink on their walk, then snow is an easy and widely available option in the winter.
It could also indicate kidney problems such as kidney failure, hormonal diseases, disorders of the endocrine system, or Cushing’s disease.
All these conditions can cause a dramatic increase in water intake, causing your dog to seek out sources of water, such as obsessively eating snow.
Is it okay for my dog to eat snow?
When walking your dog, it might eat snow. If you are wondering if it’s okay for your dog to eat snow the answer is - yes, in small quantities as long as the snow is clean and contains no ice melt or other harmful substances.
If you like having snowball fights with your pup, then it's not uncommon for your dog to catch and munch on a few of the balls while you play.
However, eating copious quantities of snow can impact your dog’s internal body temperature and cause intestinal upset.
Can dogs get diarrhea from eating snow?
A dog eating snow can lead to the pup having a stomachache due to a reduction in the stomach’s temperature which can irritate the digestive tract and cause diarrhea and vomiting.
A little nibble of snow is unlikely to cause a problem, but if your dog obsessively eats snow, then a digestive reaction is much more likely.
Should dogs wear sweaters in the cold?
If you frequently walk your dog in wintry weather, then a sweater is beneficial. The Canada Pooch Snowsuit is an ideal choice to keep your dog warm during the winter months. The full-body snowsuit is water-resistant to keep your pup dry.
When cold weather starts to roll in, find out if your dog needs a coat to keep them warm and safe.
Is it too cold to walk my dog?
Winter can be unpredictable, so even in places that generally have milder winters, a super cold day could surprise you. But how cold can it be before it's just too cold for your dog's regular outdoor activities?
Your dog's breed and coat types are going to play a role in the kind of cold weather they can handle. When temps drop below freezing, it may be time for your dog to spend more time indoors and bundle them up properly for shorter outdoor excursions.
Check out How Cold is Too Cold for Your Dog to find out if it's safe to go for your dog's regular walks or if they should be spending more time inside.
Can Dogs Get Frostbite?
In addition to protecting your dog's paws from road salt, dog boots will help protect your dog from the cold and snow too. Your dog's paws are susceptible to frostbite, especially if the snow and ice start to ball up in longer fur around the paws.
Their ears, nose, and tails can get frostbitten too if they aren't properly dressed for the weather. Frostbite can happen in as little as 15 minutes depending on the weather, so make sure you know how to protect your pooch and what to do if your dog does get frostbite.
Learn how to protect your dog from frostbite so that he can enjoy his favourite winter games and activities.
The Dog Days of Winter!
Even when the mercury falls, your dog will still enjoy an outing. You’ll just have to implement a few safety measures such as using pet-safe ice melt, preventing your dog from eating an excessive amount of snow, wearing protective booties, washing your pet’s feet to remove any ice melt buildup, and putting a protective jacket or sweater on your pooch to keep the animal warm.
Check out our 25 Tips for Walking your Dog in Winter to be extra sure your dog is getting the exercise and enrichment he needs, even if the weather is less than comfortable.
What precautions do you take to keep your pooch safe in the winter? Let us know in the comments below!