Vets say keep dogs away from ice melt

Salt-based products are usually harmless but can be toxic when ingested in large amounts.

Eliana Schreiber

The ice melt products that keep sidewalks from getting dangerously slippery could be harmful to man’s best friend.
 
 
While ingesting small quantities doesn’t always create adverse results, if pets ingest a large amount of ice melt products, it can have poisonous effects.
 
 
The issue usually occurs when household pets — mainly dogs — break into bags ice melt products are stored in, said Ahna Brutlag, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s college of veterinary medicine. 
 
 
“Dogs will eat anything. … They’re not discriminate creatures,” said Brutlag, who’s also the associate director of veterinary services for Pet Poison Helpline. 
Though ice melts made of salt can be harmless when dogs lick their paws or step on the salt, dogs shouldn’t ingest more than one teaspoon per kilogram of body weight.
 
 
The Pet Poison Helpline receives calls every year about whether these types of products are considered safe for pets, she said. 
 
 
Similar to humans, salt is not necessarily harmful, but ingesting too much creates toxic results.
 
 
“With … any of these salt-based ice melts, the issue is really all from the dog eating large amounts of whatever that may be,” Brutlag said, referring to other types of ice melts like calcium chloride.
 
 
Brutlag said people also call asking if standard ice melts are harmful because there are similar products sold in pet stores marked “pet safe.”
 
 
The pet-safe products don’t contain salt, but instead are made up of a compound called urea, she said.
 
 
A dog could still potentially be poisoned from the pet-safe products, but the toxic dose is significantly higher than that of standard rock salts, Brutlag said.
 
 
Depending on how much dogs have on their paws, the salt could cause them to go into hypernatremia, which is high sodium levels in their blood, Dr. Curtis Sanford of Minneapolis Veterinary Hospital said.
 
 
Sodium chloride and potassium chlorides aren’t dog friendly because they cause electrolyte abnormalities by elevating the blood’s chloride level, Sanford said. He added that larger dogs had a decreased risk if they licked the salt off their paws.
 
 
“If you have a small dog and it licks a little bit off its paws, [it] may be enough to cause toxicity,” he said.
 
 
Minneapolis uses typical rock salts like sodium chloride and calcium chloride for roads and sidewalks, said Minneapolis Director of Transportation Maintenance and Repair Mike Kennedy. He said the city doesn’t use products made with urea.
 
 
“We try to be careful and … put it down in the right amounts [so it’s] not harmful to the environment, not harmful to pets,” Kennedy said.