Skip to main content

Maryland Dog Magazine


Feb 23, 2015 07:27PM
By Steve Vernik

Over the past few years, people are becoming more aware of how dangerous salt is for their pets and property.

Companies realized that Rock Salt tends to be sharp and jagged, it is like sharp little rocks cutting into their paws and causing irritation. They take off the sharp edges of the rock salt and round it off so it isn't as jagged and voila, pet-friendly ice melter. They then earned the right to put “Pet-Friendly,” or “Safer for Pets/ Paws” on their label. But wait… the jaggedness is not the only problem.

Those little round salt pellets can get lodged in between the paws of the pet and get to the very sensitive skin where the animals natural moisture reacts with it and that salt can heat up to around 170 degrees causing burns and irritation. Then the dog starts to lick its paws and ends up adding more moisture and then the salt is on their sensitive lips, they may rub their eyes, then their eyes are burning, and then you have a relatively high vet bill. If you have this ice melter in an area where the pets can lick it, they will. All animals are attracted to salt. Then you have more serious problems and more expensive vet bills with possible internal scarring and gastronomical distress, and possible organ damage.

Chemicals to Avoid Chlorides: Salt is chloride based and the most dangerous form of ice melter. It is also the cheapest because it is mined from the earth and made into the shape you see and packaged. Here are some examples of many Chlorides used – Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, and Calcium Chloride. CMA: Calcium Magnesium Acetate is not a really effective ice melter and doesn’t last long. Chances are if there is CMA, it is mixed with salt and or other chemicals to boost its power. CMA is toxic and also extracts moisture from the surface, so be mindful of CMA products on wood decking, rubbers, plastics, etc. Urea: Urea is a pretty decent ice melter. It is less toxic and less corrosive than Chlorides. Urea isn’t treated and modified, it is somewhat toxic and is a pollutant (according to the EPA) because of nitrates. Urea is also expensive and it is expensive to make safe. These are the main ingredients used in ice melting,

These are the main ingredients used in ice melting, there are others that are less common because of their ineffectiveness or cost prohibitive nature. Many times companies will make different blends of these and although it is considered safer for pets and the planet than rock salt, there are still dangers associated with them. There is a product that most veterinarians recommend that is safe that uses a modified crystalline carbonyl diamide - it is similar to Urea, except that it is chemically modified to not be a pollutant and the slight toxins are altered so they are no longer toxic. The granules act like a sponge and have particulates that disrupt the hydrogen bonds. The granules are then infused with a pet/eco-safe glycol (this glycol is blended with components that power up ice melting capabilities, traction agents, special inhibitors that make this product safer, and food grade colorant).

Read the warning labels of any product that you bring into your home or around pets and children. After walking your pet immediately clean their paws with plenty of lukewarm water and dry them. Pet booties are one solution that most dogs take a while to get used to, but persistence will keep their paws safe. The best thing you can do is educate yourself about your options. In today’s market there are plenty of safer alternatives to what was available many years ago; there is no reason to put children, the environment or pets in danger.

STEVE VERNIK Director of Operations for Gaia Enterprises, Manufacturers of Safe Paw Ice Melter and Pet Enthusiast. For more information visit