What to look for in a pet-safe ice melt

There are hundreds of ice melt products available on the market. So how do you know which ones are safe for your dog?

If you live in a cold climate, you understand the importance of buying the right ice melt. It’s easy enough to find one that works, but when you share your life with a dog, you have to be a lot choosier. Many of the more well-known products contain harsh chemicals that can burn the sensitive skin on your dog’s paws, or harm him internally when he licks it off. Even some “pet-safe” ice melts aren’t as safe as they claim to be due to their sharp edges. So what’s a pet parent to do?

The first step is to understand why certain products are dangerous so you can learn to avoid them. While it’s undoubtedly important to read the ingredient list, it’s also helpful to look at the shape of the granules. Rock salt, for instance, is a common go-to for many consumers, but it’s actually one of the most unsafe options for melting snow and ice due to its sharp, flakey granules. “Imagine going outside in the cold and walking barefoot on rock salt,” says Randy Kaplan, Senior VP of Sales at EcoClean Solutions Inc. “Sounds awful right? If you want to protect your pet’s paws, you should invest in an ice melt product that’s well-rounded — in more ways than one.”

Besides being more comfortable for pets to walk on, rounded ice melts are very effective. While rock salt typically takes a while to react with snow and ice, rounded pellets bore through the surface at a fast rate. Once they break the bonds of the ice, the resulting salt and water solution melts whatever is left – without destroying the ground beneath it.

“Standard rock salt contains the mineral form of sodium chloride, which is only effective until 25°F,” says Randy. “As snow melts, the leftover rock salt/water mix will seep into the concrete. The absorbed mix will then refreeze and melt again as temperatures fluctuate below and above 25°F. It’s this freeze-thaw process that leads to concrete spalling and flaking.” Other de-icers are effective in colder temperatures, which makes concrete spalling much less of a risk.

The final factor to consider is packaging. Hauling a large ice melt bag increases the chances of spills – and imagine how edible a large pile of salt might look to your pup. Open bags can also put nosey dogs at risk, so be sure to invest in a sealable container that’s easy to handle.

All in all, buying the right ice melt means saving your sidewalk, your back, and your pet’s paws. It’s still important to wipe his feet every time you return from a walk (who knows what type of de-icers your neighbors are using!), but at least you can rest assured that you’ve made the safest choice for his wellbeing.


Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.