Ice melts are a part of life for those winter months or for those living in colder climates. But, this product can be especially dangerous to dogs. This guide will include a round-up of the six best pet-safe ice melts that are out there, as well as some great tips on how to keep a dog safe during colder seasons or in a colder climate.
As a dog owner, it is important that you always check the ingredients within products you want to use around the house or garden; or wherever your dog visits. Not all products are suitable for dogs, and in fact, many are not and can cause a range of health problems or even be fatal. This is certainly true for ice melts.
The pet-safe ice melts I will be reviewing fully can be found just below.
At a Glance: 6 Best Pet Safe Ice Melts
Safe Paw Ice Melter
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Box Glove Ice Melt
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North American Salt Sure Paws Ice Melter
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Diamond Crystal Sno-Paws
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Ecos Ice Melt
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Morton Snow and Ice Melt
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What are Ice Melts?
Ice melts are applied, usually in advance of snow and ice. Or, they can be spread on top of ice and snow that has already formed. Ice melts lower the freezing point of water, which prevents the build-up of ice and breaks up the pre-formed ice into a liquid slush.
Most ice melts will come in crystalline or powdered form and will be applied manually to the frozen surface. They can also be sprayed via specialized vehicles. Ice melts contain several ingredients, some of which are potentially very dangerous to pets.
The ingredients include the following:
- Sodium Chloride
Sodium Chloride is basically salt. Some ice melts will use rock salt, others will include ordinary table salt, with the only difference being the size of the grains. In the best-case scenario, salt will cause excessive thirst in a dog, but it can be fatal if consumed in high amounts.
- Calcium Chloride
Calcium Chloride is one of the more commonly used chemicals for ice-melting globally. Calcium Chloride can be used as a desiccant and food additive. If a dog ingests this chemical, it can cause mouth ulcers and stomach upsets; if it is walked on, it can cause serious paw irritation.
- Magnesium Chloride
Magnesium Chloride is used to help lower the freezing point of ice and to reduce the ice sticking to the ground. If a dog was to ingest ice melts that contain Magnesium Chloride, they could end up with the gastrointestinal upset. In rare cases, hypermagnesemia could occur; but this would likely only be if the dog consumed large amounts and already suffered from renal disease.
Urea is generally considered a safe chemical for pets in reasonable amounts. This is a very common chemical, often used in many fertilizers.
- Ethylene Glycol
Ethylene Glycol is extremely toxic to animals. It is also the main active ingredient in antifreeze. Animals can be drawn to this chemical due to its sweet taste, but the consequences could be deadly.
- Propylene Glycol
Propylene Glycol is much safer than ethylene glycol, although a similar chemical. It reduces the freezing point of liquids and is a common ingredient in many human medicines, and surprisingly, in our store-bought whipped cream!
- Calcium Magnesium Acetate
Calcium magnesium acetate is a popular de-icing substance used to treat sidewalks and roads by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. Calcium Magnesium acetate is considered more environmentally friendly than other ice-melt ingredients and is essentially non-toxic to animals – although it can cause mild eye or skin irritation.
How to Tell if Your Dog Has a Reaction to Ice Melts?
Even if you choose to use pet-safe ice melts, not everyone else will, and so the chances are that your dog could be exposed to non-pet-safe ice melts at some point in his life. If your dog comes into contact with ice melts that are not pet-safe, he may suffer the consequences. Here are some things that may indicate a reaction:
- Cracked, chaffed, red or bleeding paws – we recommend snow boots to prevent this.
- Irritated or reddened skin
- Excessive paw-licking
- Reluctance to walk
- Obvious signs of pain when walking, such as whines or cries.
The above symptoms could occur in a dog who has had contact with an ice-melting product that is not pet-safe. However, there are additional symptoms that may indicate that your dog has potentially ingested non-pet-safe ice-melts, these include:
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Extreme Thirst
- Lack of Coordination
- Loss of Consciousness
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it is essential to contact your vet immediately, as prompt care is crucial. These symptoms are not automatically a death sentence for dogs, and with fast and proper medical treatment, most initially healthy dogs will make a full recovery.
How Pet-Safe are the Ice-Melts Designed to be Used Around Dogs?
No ice melt is 100% safe for a dog. This is because most ice-melting products will include some kind of salt, leading to sickness and paw irritation if a dog comes into contact with it. The ice melts in this guide are advertised as pet-safe products but should still be used with caution.
As an owner, there are a couple of extra steps you can take, along with purchasing a pet-safe ice melt, to keep your dog as protected as possible. And these are to use as little ice melt as possible and to spread the ice melt around before the snowfalls.
Best Pet Safe Ice Melts
#1. Safe Paw Ice Melter – Our #1 Top Pick
It is easy to use the Safe Paw Ice Melter because of the easy-shake flip-up lid, and when sprinkling, you will note that a green tinge is left, showing you the areas you have treated. This is great for keeping dogs from that area as an extra precaution and saves you time and money by not having to repeat treatment.
The Safe Paw Ice Melter is 100% salt and chloride free and recommended by veterinarians. However, I have a little concern with the mention of ‘special glycols’ in the ingredients, as it is not specified what they are, and as glycols are alcohols, there are varying levels of danger. As with any ice-melt product, I would recommend using Safe Paw with caution.
You can use this product safely around outdoor carpets and rugs, and it will not stain, nor will it have any damage on grasses, plants, or foliage. Safe Paw is non-toxic and biodegradable, with a very long shelf life that should make it a long-term solution. The price is fair, and this product is rated very highly online by consumers, veterinarians, and Canine Weekly!
- 100% Salt-Free
- Leaves Obvious Coloration When Sprinkled
- Veterinarian Recommended
- ‘Special Glycols’ is Concerning
#2. Box Glove Ice Melt – Our #1 Budget Pick
Arriving in an eco-friendly biodegradable burlap sack, the Box Glove Ice Melt is a 100% natural product sourced in Salt Lake City and distributed worldwide. The brand’s selling point is that the ice melt is 100% natural mineral, mined right here in the U.S. – while this is true, the natural mineral is Magnesium Chloride; as discussed above, this poses a slight risk to dogs.
The risk of Magnesium Chloride is minimal, compared to other ingredients, but it is there never-the-less. The ice-melts work quickly and are highly effective at their job. Storing can be an issue, with some consumers citing unbreakable clumps, so it is best to store the Box Glove ice melts at normal room temperature to avoid this.
Many owners have praised this as the kindest ice melt for their dogs and are united in their findings of no discomfort, irritation, or upset after their dogs had contact with the ice melt. The price is highly affordable; less than $1 per pound of ice melts, and the shipping time is also impressive. For an all-American natural, pet-safe ice melt that doesn’t harm the purse, this is a great product.
- Mined in America
- 100% Natural
- Biodegradable Product and Packaging
- Great Value for Money
- Very Effective
- If not stored at room temperature, it will not last long.
#3. North American Salt Sure Paws Ice Melter
North American Salt Sure Paws Ice Melter isn’t the most affordable pet-safe ice melt, but it is certainly effective. Using sparingly, you will get good value for money, as a little really does go a long way. The shape of the pellets is pretty unique and seems to give them traction to remain in place on slopes and slanted borders, which is a huge advantage.
Unlike many other ice melts, this one doesn’t stick to your feet so easily and therefore doesn’t accompany you into the house. The pellets are bright white, so it is a little difficult to see on fresh snow and ice, but they work so quickly that it’s soon clear to see where has been treated. The easy pour jug makes the application straightforward if a re-application is needed.
The North American Salt Sure Paws Ice Melter is 100% all-natural organic and won’t harm any vegetation. It also carries the ‘Climate Pledge Friendly’ certification, which means the ingredients are considered safe choices, and that brand is doing its bit to help preserve the natural world.
Unique Shaped Pellets – Stick to Slopes and Slants
100% Natural and Organic
Climate Pledge Friendly Certification
A Little Pricey
#4. Diamond Crystal Sno-Paws
Diamond Crystal Sno-Paws is free from chlorine and salt, containing organic performance-boosting chips instead to melt the ice, without the need for harsh chemicals. I like the blue tint, which makes applying to granules really straightforward, and how this product works down to 5°F, which is much more advanced than many others in this category.
This ice melt works on all surfaces, including asphalt, and leaves no stain or residue behind. However, you are advised to clear the area afterward for good concrete maintenance. If you’re in an area that suffers from black ice, this product could be a great solution because the blue granules are easy to spot; so alerting others to the hazard.
It claims to be veterinarian preferred, although there are no reports I can find to back this up. The Diamond Crystal brand has been providing ‘salt solutions’ to American families since 1886, so it must be doing something right to be still retailing today. The Diamond Crystal granules aren’t as fast-acting as other ice melts, but they are kinder for animals than most.
- Blue Granules – Easy to Spot
- Long-Standing Brand
- Chlorine and Salt-Free
- More Affordable Products are Out There
According to the Brand Website: ‘Product Not For Sale in Virginia’ – It may be via Amazon, but I’m unsure why this state has been excluded when shopping direct.
#5. Ecos Ice Melt
Now, the Ecos Ice Melt is the most expensive on the list, but with so many animal and environmentally friendly aspects, it had to be reviewed. This product is 100% natural, non-toxic, biodegradable, and plant-based. It is made in the USA with cruelty-free and renewable ingredients – it has not been tested on animals and is packaged in recyclable containers.
But, does it work? The answer is, yes, very well. 93% of consumers have rated the Ecos Ice Melt as four stars or above, with consumers describing it as a ‘must-have product’ and ‘simply terrific.’ The ice melts work on any surface, even wooden decking. I found that there was no toxic smell and that the application is simple. Top up, not required.
Although this product is expensive, it is top of the class regarding ingredients, effectiveness, and how pet-friendly it is. However, there are some slightly alarming ingredients; however, although natural; Magnesium Chloride, Hexahydrate, Calcium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, and Sodium Chloride should be used with extreme caution around dogs. I like the transparency of the product and that nothing is hidden under ‘special ingredients.’
- Safer for pets and vegetation
- 100% natural, plant-based, non-toxic, biodegradable
- Made in the USA
- Cruelty-free ingredients
- Never tested on animals.
- Top End of the Price Points
- Ingredients are not 100% Safe as Advertised.
#6. Morton Snow and Ice Melt
Made from 100% Urea, Morton Snow and Ice Melt is a safer choice for pet owners and designed with the support and advice from veterinarians for greater peace of mind. Morton has been around since 1848; to be still standing today is a testament to the quality of their products.
This ice melt works and fast! It is also great value for money, as one 8 lb just will cover around 340 square feet. It is salt and chloride free, so much kinder to paws, although I find that non-slip dog socks are a useful product to provide extra traction on snow and ice, as well as paw protection.
Only a very thin layer is needed, and although the ice melts quickly, it isn’t as rapid as other more chemically-induced products. The price is average and fair for the ingredients and size of the tub. It is easy to use, with an easy flip-up lid and the easy-grip handle makes the application comfortable and straightforward.
- Large Coverage Area
- Fair Price
- Long Established Brand
- Easy to Apply
- Not as Fast Acting as Some
Pet Safe Alternatives to Ice Melts
Most commercially manufactured ice melts can harm dogs, so if you want to avoid even the pet-safe versions, there are some things you can try. However, it is important to note that homemade remedies can still contain harmful components and may not be as effective as store-bought products.
If your dog has particularly sensitive paws, then you may want to try one of the following:
- Sand / Kitty Litter
Sand may help to melt ice and snow somewhat, but its primary goal would be to provide traction for the dog.
It would be good to consider using sand on a slippery outdoor surface for a senior dog or dog with mobility issues throughout the seasons and in all climates – but please note that the sand will also be hot in hot weather. Kitty litter is a useful product for providing extra traction but won’t affect the melting of the ice.
Ash can also be used to provide better traction on an icy surface. In addition, ash is dark in color and so absorbs heat well, potentially melting the ice gradually. Ash should blow away easily, so it requires a little-to-no clean-up and is an inexpensive household substance you may already have.
- Warm Water
For a quick fix and a temporary solution, pouring warm water over ice and snow will melt it. However, it will return quickly in some climates and seasons and possibly be more slippy than it previously was.
Digging out the snow and ice with a shovel is the traditional way of removing it from places we don’t want it to be. It is effective, 100% dog safe, but it can be backbreaking work! Nowadays, there are electric snow shovels on the market that seem to be very useful.
Frequently Asked Questions
To get greater control over the ingredients in ice melts, you can make your own. This is a simple venture; very inexpensive, but it is unlikely to be 100% effective. To make a quick-and-easy homemade solution, combine ¼ of rubbing alcohol with six drops of dish soap and half a gallon of hot water. Then pour this into a spray bottle or watering can and spread as desired.
As you have no influence over what products are used away from your home, it is best to take preventative measures when walking your dog during winter or in colder climates. Dog boots are a great idea if your dog will take to them. Or, if not, ensure you wash your dog’s paws when you get home and consider using a paw balm in addition.
Snow and ice bring its dangers, but it also brings so much fun for a dog, and some breeds are purposely designed to withstand these conditions. As long as you take preventative measures and keep a close eye on your dog, there is no reason to avoid snow and ice.
Any of the products in the guide will be safer than non-pet-safe ice melts, but there are some differences between them. For example, if you want an all-natural, cruelty-free, and organic product, then the Ecos Ice Melt is a great choice – albeit the most expensive in the guide. Our budget-friendly pick, Box Glove Ice Melt, is also a 100% natural product but much less costly.
Morton Snow and Ice Melt were designed with the help of veterinarians, is fairly priced, and is from a long-standing brand. But, it isn’t the most fast-acting of the products. Diamond Crystal Sno-Paws is free from chlorine and salt and has easy-to-spot blue granules – it is also more affordable than most, but if buying direct Virginian residents, luck out.
North American Salt Sure Paws Ice Melter is a relatively expensive product but highly effective. I liked the unique shape of the pellets and that the product has Climate Pledge Friendly Certification. However, our best pick is the Safe Paw Ice Melter. I found the label of ‘special glycols’ concerning, but it is veterinarian recommended, non-toxic, and 100% salt-free.
Dr. Lillian is a D.V.M. passionate about promoting awareness of dogs. She shares her expertise through her blogs on canineweekly.com and provides animal care services, including internal medicine, dermatology, and emergency care. Dr. Lillian is committed to contributing to animal welfare.