It’s that time of year again, the white fluffy stuff is falling from the sky and the ground is very slippery. The de-icing products are coming out again in an effort to protect ourselves from slipping and falling, but do we need to protect our pets from these products?

De-icing products will typically contain any of the following:

  • Sodium Chloride

  • Magnesium chloride

  • Calcium salts

  • Potassium chloride

  • Urea

The most common interaction between your pet and de-icing products is by direct contact – your pets’ paws will contact the products while walking down the sidewalk. The good news is, very little of the product, if any, will be absorbed through your pets’ skin so there is no concern for toxicity when only the skin has been in contact. De-icing products can cause skin irritation, and most the irritating product is calcium salts. Urea-based products are the least irritating. If contact and skin irritation occur, remember the saying “The solution to pollution is dilution”. Rinsing your pets’ skin with water can go a long way, you can also use a gentle shampoo if necessary, to remove the product from the skin.

Concern can arise when your pet ingests de-icing products. Most of the products need to be ingested in large amounts in order to lead to true toxicity – high levels of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, and calcium can all raise concern especially in older or other compromised pets (such as kidney or heart disease). When ingested in smaller amounts, they can cause some stomach irritation that may lead to vomiting and/or diarrhea. Calcium chloride is the most irritating to the gastrointestinal tract. In larger amounts, some of these products can cause muscle weakness, behaviour changes, heart abnormalities, seizures, coma, or worse and your pet would definitely require hospitalization and treatment. Urea-based products are one of the safer products when it comes to ingestion, as our small pets need to ingest a large amount in order to experience a problem (this is a different story for cattle and horses which are very sensitive to urea).

Proper storage and use of these products can help prevent exposure to your pet. If your pets’ paws are known to be sensitive to de-icers, using paw protectors such as boots and rinsing the paws after walks can help to prevent skin irritation.

If your pet ingests any de-icing product, we recommend you contact your veterinarian with the product type as well as how much your pet may have ingested so they can direct you on the next steps to keep your pet safe and healthy!

Written by Dr. Kristen Wilson
Learn more about Dr. Kristen Wilson here.