Is Ice Water Really Dangerous for Dogs?

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You probably already know that there are certain “human” foods which are very dangerous for dogs – things like chocolate, caffeine and onions. But what about seemingly innocuous items like ice cubes and ice water? There is a great deal of misinformation out there regarding this particular item for dogs so it is important that you take the time to read correct information on the subject.

How the Controversy Began

Rumors regarding the dangers of ice cubes and ice water for dogs have been circulating since 2007, but the main culprit of the myth was a cautionary tale written in 2010. This article titled “No Ice Water for Dogs… Please Read ASAP” tells the story of Baran, a show dog who was given ice water by his owner following a competition to help him cool down. Within 30 minutes of drinking the water, Baran reportedly began showing signs of distress and was rushed to a veterinary clinic where he was diagnosed with gastric dilation volvulus, or bloat. According to the vet, the ice water caused Baran’s stomach muscles to cramp and twist, leading to a life-threatening situation that could easily have been fatal if the dog hadn’t received prompt veterinary treatment.

Since its publication, this article has received a lot of attention and a great deal of flack regarding its accuracy. The author of the article has even published replies to comments in hopes of clearing up any confusion. Regardless, the question of whether ice water is safe for dogs continues to circulate.

The Truth of the Matter

The long and short of the matter is that ice cubes and ice water are not dangerous for dogs. It is dangerous, however, for a dog to drink water (regardless the temperature) too quickly because they are likely to swallow a lot of air in the process – this is the more likely cause of Baran’s distress. When a dog swallows too much air during the consumption of food or water, it can lead to bloating in the stomach which contributes to the dangerous condition called gastric dilation volvulus. What actually happens with this condition is that the stomach bloats and twists, trapping air, gas and food inside the stomach and cutting off blood supply to the stomach and surrounding organs. As a result, the dog often goes into shock and may experience organ failure (or even death) if prompt treatment isn’t received.

Preventing Bloat in Dogs

Though giving your dog ice water to cool down is not dangerous, you should always be careful about cooling your dog too quickly. Rather than soaking your dog in ice water, try draping him in a wet towel or having him lie down on a cool surface. If the dog is cooled too quickly, it could cause the capillaries in his skin to close off which could interfere with the cooling of internal organs. Once your dog’s body temperature drops below 103° there is no longer any danger of heat stroke.

In terms of preventing bloat in dogs, it all comes down to keeping them from eating or drinking too quickly. Keep an eye on your dog as he eats and drinks to make sure that he doesn’t become overeager and take in lots of air as he drinks. It is also wise to avoid exercising your dog within thirty to sixty minutes of mealtime. Large breed dogs are particularly prone to gastric dilation volvulus because of their deep chests – it is often recommended that you use an elevated food bowl for these breeds.

As long as you are responsible about the way you feed and water your dog, you shouldn’t have to worry about bloat. Remember, ice cubes and ice water are not inherently dangerous but you should still be careful about how you use them.