Every now and then I see a story about how giving ice to your dog can kill him. It is usually followed by a Fact Checker claiming that the story about ice killing a dog is “False”.
This article is to set the record straight. So, here are some life-saving tips on giving ice to your dog. Just as with many other stories, there is a bit of truth in this comment. However, it is not entirely true, either.
The real truth about giving ice to your dog
Giving a calm and cool dog an ice cube or ice water in moderate amounts is unlikely to hurt him. But, if the dog is over-heated and panting, giving him large amounts of any kind of water is risky.
Drinking even tepid water in large amounts, especially over a short period of time can be dangerous. Adding a single ice cube to the water is not particularly risky for the dog’s well-being. However, giving your over-heated dog icy cold water right after heavy exercise is very risky.
Thoughtful dog owners may feel the need to quickly cool down their over-heated dog by offering them ice water. However, this is not the best or safest way to cool them down. It is much better to give them cool water in small amounts. It is also safer.
If you think your dog is at risk of a heatstroke
Some dog owners fear that their dog could have a heatstroke. If your dog has become seriously overheated and this is a real concern, cooling down your dog with COOL water is the first order of business.
Hydration is the next most important thing to consider. But, remember to offer small amounts of cool water. You do not wish to give him large amounts of water.
Drinking too much water can lead to water intoxication. Put a cool, wet cloth on his inner thighs to cool him down. A link to Dog Heat Stroke Survival Guide by William Brant, DVM can be found at the end of this article.
Ice water and the increased risk of canine bloat
One of the other common concerns shared in stories about dogs drinking ice water is bloat. While bloat can be life-threatening, it is not clear that ice or ice water plays a role in its development.
The cause of bloat is not well defined. So far, only risk factors have been clearly identified. Certain anatomic features may predispose specific breeds to bloat.
Dogs with a deep chest and otherwise large breeds are at greater risk of bloat. This has been fairly well documented.
Other things, such as stress, gut motility issues, genetics, exercise, and feeding practices have been associated with bloat. Although there are some studies looking at the above mentioned probable causes of bloat, they are not definitive.
So far, there are no studies looking at how ice or ice water might be involved in the development of bloat in dogs. In an effort to understand canine bloat better, Canine Health Foundation funded research on this topic.
The research was designed to help determine the underlying causes of canine bloat. There is a link to a free webinar on canine bloat at the conclusion of this article.
In conclusion, how do you feel about giving ice to your dog?
So, is it safe to give your dog ice or ice water? The answer is, maybe. Giving your dog ice or ice water in and of itself is not harmful. However, the safety really depends on the circumstances under which it is given.
Since small amounts of cool water are known to be safe, is there any reason to take any possible risk with your dog’s life? This is especially true when experiencing extreme humidity or heat. The risk is even greater if your dog has been exercising excessively and is panting heavily.
What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know About Bloat, a free webinar: http://www.akcchf.org/news-events/multimedia/video/bloat.html