Many common deicers are dangerous for dogs and can irritate their paws. Some can even cause serious illness if ingested. We hope this article, adapted from the New York Times, will help guide you in the right direction when shopping for pet-friendly deicer.
Rock salt, in particular, can be tough and jagged to a dog’s soft paw, said Dr. Erin Wilson, a veterinarian and the former medical director of the ASPCA Adoption Center on East 92nd Street in Manhattan. The crystals are comparable, in a human context, to a sharp stone lodged into a boot. If the dogs’ paws have any aberrations or cuts, the salts will burn.
Chemical de-icers — particularly those containing the antifreeze material known as ethylene glycol — pose, perhaps, the biggest threat: not only will a dog hold up its paws in pain and temporarily limp away, but the ingredients can also prove harmful should a dog accidentally ingest them. Salt is also dangerous.
“It can be really bad for their kidneys, or other organs,” said Dr. Wilson. “That’s why it’s really important, if your dog isn’t wearing booties, to wipe their feet, belly and undercarriage off thoroughly with a towel when you come home from a walk.”
For longer walks, Dr. Wilson suggested bringing a towel along. Once home, she said the dog owner should check a dog’s paw pads for cracks and toes for redness. She also recommends pet-friendly melting products, containing propylene glycol, to building owners and managers.
Shaina Stelzer, the owner of Brooklyn Haute Dogs, a pet care service based in Dumbo, advised dog owners to watch out for the thick, yellow salt that is often spread near the entrances to parks. Salt crystals that look like small golf balls are typically more dog-friendly, she said, as is salt with a bluish tint.
For comfort, many of her clients use Musher’s Secret, a wax, Ms. Stelzer said. Owners can coat the dog’s paws with it before a walk; petroleum jelly, like Vaseline, can also work. But in a pinch, the solution can simply be snow. “Have your dog put its feet in cleanish snow for a couple of seconds,” she said. “That usually relieves the issue.”
Booties are also a popular option. After living in Colorado for some time, Michael Friedland wasn’t aware of the chemicals that kept hurting his Labrador/husky mix when he returned to New York. On a walk one day, the dog began to whine, and seeing what looked like a puddle of water nearby, Mr. Friedland dipped his dog’s paws in it. It turned out to be liquid chlorine. “That was even worse,” he said.
So, alongside his father, Gary — who faced similar woes with his Jack Russell terrier — Mr. Friedland started Pawz, a Brooklyn-based company that produces rubber dog booties, in 2005. “Everyone would ask my dad where he got them from,” he said. “Because everyone kept experiencing the same problem.”
For dogs who may not enjoy the winter accessory, Dr. Wilson said praise or treats should be used in advance to prepare the pet. “You don’t want the first time you have to use them to be during a blizzard,” she said. When Dr. Wilson first dressed her Corgi in them, the dog went into what she described as “bootie paralysis,” falling over and refusing to walk.
“My best advice would just be for owners to examine the state of the sidewalk,” Dr. Wilson said. “If there’s no snow or ice present, there’s a good chance that a de-icer was used.”
In Riverside Park, James Hercher, 29, said his dog, Marlowe, and other dogs he has seen know to avoid the northern section, where the chemical de-icers are more commonly used. “The salt around here is a big issue,” he said. “It really messes with his head when it’s on the ground.”
On a recent afternoon, after a snowfall, Mr. Hercher found himself following Marlowe — at least as best as he could — near the park’s central bank, at West 85th Street, where the materials’ use is less apparent. Free of a leash, the 2-year-old Husky Australian Shepherd pranced in the snow, inviting other dogs nearby to play with him.
“These are actually my favorite days to walk the dog,” Mr. Hercher said. “It’s only us dog walkers out here. No one biking, no one running. Just us.”