AVMA offers advice for protecting pets when ice accumulates

By: Mark Vest | Metro | Published March 8, 2023

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METRO DETROIT — When ice accumulates, it’s important to take steps to prevent slips, falls and injuries for people as well as pets, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Prevention from slips and falls may include the use of de-icers to keep sidewalks, steps, driveways and roads clear of ice.

While de-icers pose some risks to pets, so does the ice; in addition to the risk of slips and falls, ice and icy crust on snow can cause cuts and abrasions to a dog’s paws.

“When using de-icers, understand that all of these products have the potential to harm your pets or make them ill,” the release states. “Some, like calcium-based products, may be more toxic, while others, like those containing urea, might be less toxic but also less effective in colder temperatures. Most of these products are relatively safe and may cause nothing more than an upset stomach or mild skin irritation. Too much contact or ingestion could lead to dry, cracked, bleeding or burned paws, or diarrhea and vomiting.”

The AVMA recommends that pet owners call a veterinarian if their pet shows signs of illness or injury.

According to the release, there is no requirement for de-icers labeled as “pet-friendly” to meet any agreed-upon standards.

“Your best source of information for pet-friendly de-icers is your veterinarian,” the release states.

Chemical de-icers should be used according to their recommended application amount, with a shovel used to clear areas of slush and salt after products melt the ice, according to the release.

“To lessen the risk of de-icers, always supervise your dogs while outside to prevent them from ingesting salt off the ground,” the release states. “When returning home, use a towel to clean off your dog’s paws, legs and belly and remove any de-icers that may be hitching a ride in your dog’s fur or between their toes. Check paws for any signs of irritation, cuts or swelling.”

Putting booties on a dog’s paws can also reduce the risk of injury or illness.

“Every dog reacts differently, and it may take patience and training to make booties part of your winter routine,” the release states. “You can also apply wax-based petrolatum or lanolin products to protect paws from ice and cold — just talk with your veterinarian first to determine which products might be best for your dog. For those who do not want to use de-icers, products such as sand or kitty litter can provide some additional traction on icy surfaces, but it won’t melt the ice. While the urge to hibernate is understandable in the winter months, it’s important that you and your dogs get outside for some exercise, fresh air and playtime together, even in the cold and snow.”

To learn more about keeping pets safe, visit the AVMA website at avma.org/ColdWeather.