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Dogs and ice water: Is it safe?

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Fact or fiction?

Many dog owners have always been told never to give their dogs ice water. We wanted to know: Is it safe?

Dog drinking ice water

If you do a quick internet search on giving your dog ice water, you'll find a lot of conflicting information. For years, prevailing wisdom has said never to give your pooch a bowl of ice water, even if they've been running around in the hot sun. But is there any real reason to avoid it?

The myth

ice cube

According to the myth, giving your dog ice water can cause bloat, which could then lead to gastric dilation volvulus. GDV is a condition in which the stomach twists on itself, potentially reducing your pet's blood supply. If it's not treated, it can lead to necrosis of the stomach wall (the literal death of the stomach tissue).

GDV is indeed a very serious condition, but can it be caused by ice water? According the vets we interviewed, no. The reality is, it's more likely that the dog has ingested too much water too quickly, swallowing a fair amount of air along the way.

We can see the need to give your pup loads of ice water after a heavy play session, especially if they tend to be hot when they're inactive, but despite the lack of danger of GDV, we don't recommend it.

First, giving your dog too much water really can be dangerous. Usually, dogs who drink too much water too fast just vomit it up, but if they don't, bloat is a real concern. As for it being ice water, consult your vet. But think about it: If you're hot and reach for a cold glass of ice water and sip it down too quickly, what happens? What should be cooling leads to pain and discomfort. It may not be harmful, but why make yourself (or your dog) miserable.

Other side effects of ice water

  • Fractured teeth — Dr. Kathryn Primm of Applebrook Animal Hospital in Tennessee says she sees a number of fractured teeth in her practice. While she admits the aren't always attributed to ice, she warns against letting dogs chew it (as your dentist would likely tell you, as well). "Fractured teeth are very painful and require surgical extraction, so it is not worth the risk in this case," she says.
  • Vasoconstriction — Dr. Jeffrey Levy tells us that cold can cause some vasoconstriction. In addition to being counterproductive when a dog is trying to cool down, it could inhibit heat exchange and the perfusion of nutrients to tissue. It could also slow many metabolic activities in cells and inhibit the contraction of the muscular components of certain organs (and the neurological activity associated with the organ). He also says cold and constriction are bad for the activity of lymphocytes, which are cells that have immuno-protective properties.
  • Masking underlying problems — If your dog is always hot (sleeps on top of covers or on the floor, pants in the winter, etc.), that may be a sign of another problem. Dr. Cathy Alinovi tells us that most of these issues can be solved with diet. She says that "ingredients can make a dog warmer (chicken) or cooler (fish)." Consult your vet if your dog is having trouble regulating their body temperature.

Ice water or no?

While ice water in and of itself isn't the culprit it's been made out to be in various email chains, we still wouldn't advise it unless your vet instructs you to give it to your dog.

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