De-Icer Debate: Pros, Cons & Protecting Our 4-Legged Friends

Jan. 27th, 2016 by W Scott McAdam Jr.

Snow and ice are hazardous to humans and dogs alike, with salt and calcium chloride two of the more common paths to preventing slips and falls. However, both have limits and drawbacks to consider.

Salt – Simple old sodium chloride is the most common de-icing agent. Salt doesn’t melt snow and ice, but creates a chemical reaction to break down the ice crystals by lowering the freezing point of the water molecules. While economical, it loses effectiveness below 10 degrees. 

Calcium Chloride -  A highly effective snow and ice melter, calcium chloride reacts similarly to rock salt, but also generates heat when it comes in contact with water molecules. It is also effective at much lower temperatures and can melt snow and ice even when it is 20 below zero. 

Another option to consider are pet-friendly de-icers, which do not contain any chlorides that can be damaging to paw pads. Chloride-containing compounds can cause lesions or burns on unprotected paws. The downside of these products is their high cost-to-weight ratio. 

Unsure which option is best for you? We’re glad to address any of your questions and help you attain the safety and comfort that you—and your four-legged friends—seek this winter.

This "Ask the Plant Expert" column appeared in the Jan. 20, 2016 edition of the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, the Forest Park Review and the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark.