If you have pets, whether they spend time outdoors or stay inside, you might be concerned about the safety of your driveway salt. Even indoor pets can come in contact when the salt is tracked in on shoes.
So, are there pet-safe options? Not when it comes to salts. Look for ice melts, and avoid salt altogether if you have household pets.
Why Are Driveway and Sidewalk Salts Dangerous?
First, it’s important to look at what concerns you might have when it comes to salting your icy sidewalks. Not all salts made for melting snow are pet-friendly, and even those that say they are might have adverse effects on your pets.
Pets eat things, often stuff they shouldn’t eat. Your basic rock salt contains trace amounts of cyanide, which can be hazardous to cats and dogs (and wildlife). When digested, rock salt can lead to seizures if your pet eats it in large quantities.
Not only that, but salt heats up when it’s on the ice and snow (that’s how it makes it melt)—that heat can hurt your pet’s feet. A hot chuck of salt between your dog’s toes can be extremely painful and damaging. Your pet is likely to lick their pained feet to get rid of the salt, which can cause burns on their tongues, too.
To get an idea of what this feels like, you can put a bit of rock salt in a baggie with a few drops of water. Once you seal the bag, feel the salt and water mixture. You feel it starting to get hot. Imagine this on the sensitive pads and between the toes of your pet’s feet.
The Alternatives to Salts and Some Safety Tips
Knowing there are risk factors for pet health with your choice in rock salts, it’s important to look for brands that say they are made for households with pets. You want to look at more than just the name.
Rock salt, by any name, is still rock salt. Even if it’s smoothed out to not poke rough edges into your pet’s paws, it’s still made with the same ingredients. It’s best to avoid ice melters that contain any of the following ingredients, which are all harmful to pets in some way.
- Calcium Chloride
- Calcium Magnesium Acetate
- Magnesium Chloride
- Potassium Chloride
- Sodium Acetate
- Sodium Chloride
Instead, look for propylene glycol-based melters, if you have dogs. Urea is often the main ingredient in this. Glycols are one of the most pet-safe, but they can harm cats.
Whatever products you end up using, keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Keep your ice melter stored where pets (or children, for that matter) can’t get into it.
- Consider getting winter booties for your dog to protect their feet if you live in an area with lots of snow and ice.
- If you don’t use booties, use a protective balm like the super popular Musher’s Secret to protect paw pads from salt.
- Wash your pet’s feet with warm water, and dry them off, each time they come in from outside.
Some of these tips are useful in the summer months, too. When it’s hot out, booties or Musher’s Secret help protect your dog’s paws from hot pavement. A warm water rinse helps get lawn fertilizers and pesticides off their paws before they ingest them.