What Happens When You Give a Dog Ice Water?

A greyhound drinking a supervised increment of water on a hot day.
A greyhound drinking a supervised increment of water on a hot day. (Image: Melpomenem/iStock/Getty Images)

It's been years since a story first floated around social media about the dangers of giving a dog ice water. As the story goes, a dog drank ice water on a hot day and became gravely ill because the cold water caused stomach spasms leading to bloat. Ice water doesn't cause bloat, but drinking or eating too quickly may. Your dog will be fine with a cold drink, provided he takes his time with it.

Water and Bloat

Very simply, bloat is when a dog's stomach fills with food, fluid or air, which puts pressure on other organs, potentially causing breathing difficulty and decreasing the blood supply to vital organs. Though the exact cause of bloat isn't known, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes rapid eating, overeating and overdrinking are risk factors for bloat. Bloat's relationship to water isn't about temperature, but is a matter of too much, too fast.

Ice is Nice

If your dog's feeling warm on a hot summer day or under the weather, feel free to add a cube or two of ice to his water dish. He'll likely appreciate the refreshing change when he's looking to chill out a bit. In fact, you don't have to keep it to water; freeze a tray of salt-free chicken or beef stock ice cubes to slip into his water once in a while. It will add a bit of interest to his water, which is especially helpful for the dog who's feeling punky and not too interested in drinking.

Cool It -- Slowly

If your dog's overheated from a bout of vigorous exercise or from an extremely hot day, hold off on the bowl of water until he's had a chance to cool off. A hot, panting dog may drink too much too fast. Instead, pat him down with a cool -- not cold -- wet towel, followed by a light mist of cool water with a hose. Though heat stroke is a dangerous prospect for a dog, dropping his body temperature too much too quickly can put him in shock. Offer him small amounts of cool water after his body temperature is closer to the normal range, around 103 degrees Fahrenheit.

Drink Responsibly

If your dog loves water a little too much, monitor his water intake so he doesn't overindulge too quickly. If you can't be there to slow him down, give him smaller amounts of water, leaving bowls in different locations. Or, offer him ice cubes to quench his thirst at a slower pace. You don't have to limit cold treats to ice cubes; in addition to stock, you can freeze fruit juice -- with no added sugars -- or yogurt into cubes for a frosty treat. He also may appreciate a piece of frozen banana or strawberry as an especially tasty cold snack.

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