A rumor which has circulated for years states that giving a dog ice water on a hot day can harm or even kill a dog due to bloating and spasms. Is this true or false?
It’s not true.
Experts have unanimously debunked this long-running rumor. Let’s first take a look at a version of the rumor which has circulated for several years. In the version below, we read the narrative of a dog owner warning about a situation which happened to a pet which suffered from bloat.
I am writing this in hopes that some may learn from what I just went through. We were having a good weekend till Saturday. On Saturday I showed my Baran and left the ring. He was looking good and at the top of his game. He had a chance at no less then one of the two AOM’s.
It did not work out that way. After showing we went back to our site/setup and got the dogs in their crates to cool off. After being back about 30 min. I noticed Baran was low on water. I took a hand full of ice from my cooler and put it in his bucket with more water. We then started to get all the dogs Ex’ed and food ready for them.
I had Baran in his 48″ crate in the van because this is the place he loves to be. He loves to be able to see everyone and everything. After checking him and thinking he was cooled off enough, we fed him. We walked around and one of my friends stated that Baran seamed like he was choking. I went over and checked on him. He was dry heaving and drooling. I got him out of the crate to check him over and noticed he had not eaten. He was in some distress. I checked him over from head to toe and did not notice anything. I walked him around for about a minute when I noticed that he was starting to bloat. I did everything I was taught to do in this case. I was not able to get him to burp, and we gave him Phasezime.
We rushed Baran to a vet clinic. We called ahead and let them know we were on our way. They were set up and waiting for us. They got Baran stabilized very quickly. After Baran was stable and out of distress we transported him to AVREC where he went into surgery to make sure no damage was done to any of his vital organs. I am very happy to say Baran is doing great, there was no damage to any vital organs, and he still loves his food.
In surgery the vet found that Baran’s stomach was in its normal anatomic position. We went over what had happened. When I told the vet about the ice water, he asked why I gave him ice water. I said that I have always done this. I told him my history behind this practice and his reply was, “I have been very lucky.” The ice water I gave Baran caused violent muscle spasms in his stomach which caused the bloating. Even though I figured his temperature was down enough to feed, and gave him this ice water, I was wrong. His internal temperature was still high. The vet stated that giving a dog ice to chew or ice water is a big NO, NO! There is no reason for a dog to have ice/ice water. Normal water at room temperature, or cooling with cold towels on the inner thigh, is the best way to help cool a dog. The vet explained it to me like this: If you, as a person, fall into a frozen lake what happens to your muscles? They cramp. This is the same as a dog’s stomach.
I felt the need to share this with everyone, in the hopes that some may learn from what I went through, I do not wish this on anyone. Baran is home now doing fine. So please, if you do use ice and ice water, beware of what could happen.
Several veterinarians and the Humane Society have responded to the rumor, claiming that it is false. Consider:
In June 2014 Fox17 quoted veterinarian Dr. Randall Carpenter who noted that a dog could bloat if it is overheated and dehydrated and consumes a large amount of water at once. It could be any temperature water, however, not just ice water. Dr. Randall also pointed out that a dog can consume cold water or ice cubes in moderation without risking bloat.
“Ice cubes and cold water are fine for pets as long as it’s done with some common sense,” Dr. Carpenter said.
Dr. Audrey Harvey
On the website dogtipper.com, veterinarian Dr. Audrey Harvey also addressed this rumor. She pointed out that a muscle spasm caused by ice would likely lead to vomiting, not bloat. She also said that if the ice water rumor were true, there would be a noticeable increase in bloat cases in the winter, as outdoor dogs in cold climates would be more prone to drink icy water. Dr. Harvey concluded:
I think that what is more likely is that dogs are given ice or iced water to drink when they are hot and thirsty, for example after heavy exercise. Under these circumstances, they are very likely to drink a lot of water very quickly, and this is a known risk factor for bloat. To prevent your dog getting bloat, feed several small meals a day instead of one or two large ones, don’t let them drink lots of water at once, and avoid exercise for an hour or so after mealtime.
KVIA New Mexico Report
A June 2014 report by KVIA in Texas quotes the Humane Society which flatly states that the rumor is untrue. “Reports from veterinarians and our own vet indicate that drinking ice or cold water is not inherently dangerous for dogs and does not cause bloat as claimed in the warning message. While the dog discussed in the message may have indeed suffered bloat, there is no evidence to support the claim that the condition was caused by ice. We suggest you always double check with your vet on things you’re really unsure of but ice is safe.”
Dr. Patty Khuly at PetMD addressed the suggestion that giving dogs ice water could be harmful. Khuly pulled no punches in her debunking of the warning, writing, “…the information is unproven, unreliably sourced, unverified, and utterly unnecessarily disseminated to the public — to the potential detriment of dogs who may indeed benefit from drinking cold water or getting ice cubes in their water to brake their drinking binges.”
In a 2015 post looking at this rumor, Nicole Sipe wrote for DogChannel.com, “Experts believe that dogs can bloat after eating or drinking too fast in general, regardless of the temperature of the water or whether or not the water contains ice cubes.”
The warning that ice water is harmful to dogs has been uniformly dismissed by veterinarians and the Humane Society.
Updated July 5, 2016
Originally published June 2014