Ice melts and rock salts

Pets may be exposed to ice melts that have been spilled, applied to sidewalks, or improperly stored. The most common clinical signs are vomiting. Other effects include diarrhea, salivation, depression, and loss of appetite, disorientation, increased thirst, seizures and even death.

Before initiating treatment for ice melt products, it is critical to know the ingredients and the animal’s health status. Electrolyte levels should be taken to determine the possible toxin.

Inducing vomiting is controversial if the product contains large amounts of potassium chloride. Activated charcoal does not absorb the salts in ice melts.

If an animal walks on or rolls through the product etc. bathe the pet and monitor it for skin irritation. Also monitor and correct abnormalities in hydration status, electrolyte concentrations, and heart muscle activity.

There are many brands of de-icing products on the market. The most common ingredients in these ice melts are sodium chloride, calcium carbonate, and calcium magnesium acetate. A few ice melts contain urea.

Sodium Chloride

Sodium toxicosis is possible after large ingestion of ice melts, salt, or rock salt. A dose of 4grams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of sodium chloride can be lethal in dogs. Ingesting large amounts of sodium levels can be lethal in dogs. Ingesting large amounts of sodium can lead to increased urination. Large amounts of ingested sodium can also lead to swelling of the brain. Also, the digestive upset along with the increased urination may lead to dehydration, further worsening the patient’s condition.

The clinical signs of sodium toxicity are primarily neuroligic. The severity of the signs is related more to the suddenness of onset rather than the magnitude of signs.

Diagnosis of sodium toxicosis is based on serum concentrations and a history of sodium ingestion.

Treatment goals are to replace water and electrolytes. Diuretics may also be of some use. The fluid of choice is 5% dextrose IV. The diuretic recommended is furosamide.

Potassium Chloride

Signs associated with elevated potassium levels include muscle weakness, GI disturbances, and cardiac conduction disturbances. Ingestion of potassium chloride tablets has caused bowel strictures and ulceration.

Treatment includes administration of lactated ringers and furosamide. Due to the irritating nature of potassium chloride-induction of vomiting is controversial. Activated charcoal does not bind potassium.

Magnesium Chloride

Elevated magnesium concentrations can cause low blood pressure and cardiac abnormalities, weakness, and neurological signs.

Treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Vomiting may reduce the amount of absorption if induced with in two hours of ingestion.

Calcium Carbonate and Calcium Magnesium Acetate

These products may cause vomiting and eye irritation. Treat gastric upset symptomatically.


This product is more toxic to ruminants (cows) the monogastric animals (dogs, cats, people). Ingestion if urea by dogs usually results in local irritant signs such as hyper salivation, GI signs of vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Treatment includes inducing vomiting and monitoring the animal.

According to National Animal Poison Control (800 548 2423) an alternative to the salts is sand or kitty litter.  Also, of the ice melts available-those containing sodium chloride are the least toxic.

Again-most of the danger comes from ingestion of the products

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