What’s in a Pet Friendly Ice Melter?
A walk down most retail outlets and certainly any pet store will reveal a selection of ice melters in plastic jugs, all with a puppy’s face staring back at you from the label. It may take some staring at the label to realize that the product is an ice melter – as the cute dog is blocking your view of the ice - but that is intentional. This is a “Pet Safe,” product, and your pet is understandably much more important than the ice.
This recent trend in ice melt marketing of products billed as “Pet Safe,” implies that everything not labeled as such is Not Pet Safe. While there are products that should not be used around pets the absence or presence of “Pet Safe” in a name does not make it so. So rather than listening to the cute puppy on the label, you should take a moment to understand what constitutes as “Pet Safe.”
When you are buying something labeled “Pet Safe,” what exactly are you being sold?
The first thing you need to be aware of is that sometimes labels lie. This may be intended as marketing spin, but having been in the industry for as long as we have, we are routinely shocked by the claims we read on packages we find. Ice melting products are currently an unregulated industry, so always keep that in mind when reading product claims and make informed decisions. Don’t always trust the puppy. When reviewing a Pet Safe ice melter, skip the advertising copy and read the ingredients. Beware of packages that claim to be safe but do not list what’s in the product.
The two most common concerns regarding pets and ice melters are:
Ingestion – the fear that your pet could eat a poisonous amount of the product.
Dry paws – concerns that the chemical on the ground can get into your pets
paws and dry out the soft pads.
ingestion, it is highly unlikely that your dog will eat enough salt to get
sick, however avoid sweet smelling products that may have an appealing taste
for your pet. According to the ASPCA’s
“can potentially produce effects such as drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, vocalizing/crying, excessive thirst, depression, weakness, low blood pressure, disorientation, decreased muscle function and in severe cases, cardiac abnormalities, seizures, coma and even death (www.aspca.org).”
suspect that your animal has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian
immediately or the
Hygroscopic chemicals such as calcium chloride and magnesium chloride that draw moisture from the air or an over application of traditional rock salt, is often to blame for dried out paws. Avoiding the use of these chlorides where animals will spend a great deal of time is advisable.
The most common, and often sole ingredient in ice melters labeled “Pet Safe,” is Urea (sometimes listed as Carbonyl Diamide or Carbamide Resin). Urea is a bio-degradable chemical that is most commonly used in fertilizers. Although Urea won’t harm your pet’s paws, it also won’t melt your ice. An over application of Urea, which is inevitable as you struggle to melt ice with it, can have damaging effects to the surrounding vegetation and contamination to water runoff. Also the price per pound of Urea makes it a very expensive and highly impractical ice melter. If the goal is general safety and not an ice melting agent, sand or other aggregate that gives traction to an icey surface may be advisable.
Most ice melters sold by us or even our competitors, except for calcium or magnesium chlorides, if used according to their label instructions will not harm pets with normal contact. You must however, always be aware of your pets, their health and their behavior. The safest thing you can do is avoid the use of ice melting chemicals altogether. If you must use a chemical be aware of your pet at all times and immediately remove the slush and dissolved product after it has done its work. Taking a moment to wipe off your pet’s paws will also be a big help. Your pet will thank you.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 1-888-426-4435
Ossian Inc. has been developing and manufacturing high performance ice melters since 1974. Based in the heart of the U.S. snowbelt, Ossian operates the most active private de-icing lab in the United States, working to reduce our country's dependency on salt and pioneering alternative de-icing technology.