Not all anti-icing methods are safe for our four-legged friends.

With the winter season in full force—and snowstorms, flurries, sleet, and rain regularly in the forecast—you know it's important to bundle up before you head outdoors. Unfortunately, your pets can't always do the same, and some de-icing agents can pose serious threats to your canine companions. "While de-icers are great for melting snow and ice, they can lead to chemical burns on the paw pads of our four-legged friends," says Dr. Jamie Richardson, Medical Chief of Staff at Small Door Veterinary. "These chemicals, when exposed to dogs, are harmful to not only their paws but their digestive and nervous systems as well, since your dog is likely to lick their paws or the ground they walk on."

man walking dogs on a snowy sidewalk
Credit: Mitchell Funk / Getty Images

How do you keep your pup safe while keeping sidewalks and driveway clear during the cold weather season? We asked Dr. Richardson for advice and here's what she had to say.

Avoid certain anti-icing agents with certain ingredients.

Not all anti-icing agents are created equal. "Avoid anti-icing agents that list sodium chloride or calcium chloride as an ingredient," Dr. Richardson says. "Many products may claim to be safe for dogs and the environment, but they are likely just safer than the most common brands out there. Always check the back of any anti-icing agents that you use to ensure that they are marked safe for children and animals, then double-check that the ingredients included in it are safe in the event your dog were to lick the driveway."

Instead of salt crystals, sprinkle sand or dirt.

Even if they're marked canine-safe, Dr. Richardson says that salt crystals can still be dangerous for your dog. "Not only can ice melts made of salt crystals be sharp and uncomfortable for dogs to walk on, they can burn the pads on their paws," she explains. Using sand or dirt, as well as wood ash, is a good alternative to help keep your driveway safe for both you and your dog.

Keep a quality shovel and icepick handy.

A good shovel and ice pick can go a long way in de-icing and dog-proofing your driveway this winter. "When in doubt, employ the old-fashioned method of shoveling your driveway and using an icepick to clear away stubborn snow and ice," Dr. Richardson says. Invest in a shovel with a steel or aluminum tip and remember to lift from your legs—not your back—to get the job done faster (and more efficiently).

Outfit your dog with boots.

While you can control how you remove ice on your own walkways, Dr. Richardson says your neighbors without pets may not have the same considerations in mind. "If you are unsure of what type of icing agents have been used in and around your neighborhood, outfitting your dog with boots provides a safe layer between your dog's paws and possibly toxic anti-icing agents," she explains.

Employ common sense.

When in doubt, Dr. Richardson says to use common sense when deciding what de-icing methods are safe for your beloved pooch. "If an ingredient isn’t safe enough for you to eat, then it's certainly not safe enough for a dog to lick," she says. "If a dog consumes too much snow salt, it can lead to dehydration or prove toxic—depending on the amount consumed and the weight of the dog."


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