The Downside of Ice Melt
This blog post was originally published on Keen For Green in February 2011, but it's such useful information that we like to repost it every winter.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I can tell you that we in the Midwest have had the snowiest, iciest, coldest winter in decades, and it's really gotten me thinking. Since I became a dog mom in January of 2002 I've heard that ice melt is bad for dogs. This has led me to always keep a mat at my front door and religiously take off my shoes the moment I enter the house. I've also stopped using any ice melting product in the back yard, my dog's domain. But is there any truth to this ice melt rumor? If so, what exactly can ice melt to do a dog?
According to the ASPCA, it is the sodium chloride and calcium chloride in the most common ice melts that is potentially damaging to the puppy in your life. If your dog walks on an ice melt containing one of these chemicals, her paws can become dry and cracked. And if she licks her paws or eats the ice melt (the ASPCA cautions that she can also ingest it by drinking from a puddle of melted snow containing ice melt), her problems can get worse. The ASPCA lists symptoms from as mild as excessive drooling and loss of appetite to as severe as decreased muscle function, coma, and death.
A Grist article from 2009 does a fabulous job of reviewing three major brands of ice melt that claim to be safe for either pets, local vegetation, or both. The author begins by disclosing her own reasons for seeking out a safer alternative for ice melt: she worries what all the sodium and calcium chloride will do to all the plants it comes in contact with.
In short, traditional ice melt may be a convenient, cheap, and easy way to get the upper hand on all this snow and ice, but it's certainly neither a safe option for our pets or our land. Greener ice melts tend to be more expensive and much less convenient to locate, but they are not the only option. Anything that gives you traction can be a substitute. Sand is my favorite (and cheapest) alternative, but people also have success using sawdust and kitty litter. What do you use to battle the winter weather?