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Ice Melt and Antifreeze

Dear Emma,

I live in the Midwest and we see a lot of snow and ice during the winter. I have 2 dogs who love to be outside, but I’ve heard that ice melt isn’t pet-friendly. Is there a safe way I can de-ice my driveway? – Marcia L.

Ice melt and snow go hand in hand. It helps keep our sidewalks and driveways free and clear of ice but it isn’t always nice to our furry friends. Technically there is no 100% pet-safe ice melt, there are some that are safer than others but they all carry some risk. Even “pet-safe” ice-melts can cause GI upset or irritate your pet’s skin. The safest ice-melt to use in a household with pets is one that has a propylene glycol base, however, you should still take precautions when your pet is around ice-melt. You can protect your pet’s feet with booties during the winter months. If your pet is bootie adverse like mine is, then pet wax like Musher’s Secret can help protect their paws, and make sure to clean their feet off once they’re back inside. Of course, you should not allow your pet to ingest ice-melt, contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect they might have, even the “pet-safe” kind.

Dear Emma,

My sister told me I shouldn’t use antifreeze because I have cats and it could kill them. I live in Michigan, so I need to use it. How toxic can it really be? – Janice H.

Antifreeze is incredibly toxic and one of the most common poisonings seen in small animals. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol which, even in small doses can be lethal, affecting the brain, liver and kidneys. Antifreeze can taste sweet which makes it inviting to eat for our pets. Signs of poisoning include uncoordinated movement, confusion, depression, vomiting, excessive thirst, excessive urination, diarrhea, increased heart rate, weakness and seizures.

If you have to use antifreeze in your home follow these simple steps.

  • Keep antifreeze containers tightly closed and stored out of the reach
  • Clean any spills immediately.
  • Dispose of used antifreeze containers properly.
  • Check the radiator of your car regularly, and repair leaks immediately.
  • Do not allow your dog to wander unattended where there is access to antifreeze (e.g., roads, gutters, garages, and driveways).

Additionally, the FDA has labeled propylene glycol safe and it is now used for antifreeze, look for antifreeze with this ingredient instead of ethylene glycol. As always if you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, even if it not showing any symptoms contact your veterinarian immediately.