Does Giving Ice Water to a Dog Cause Bloat?

Author: Jason Nicholas, BVetMed

Published: June 19, 2014

Updated: May 4, 2021

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dog drinking ice water
Quite a few people have emailed me in the last couple of days regarding a certain blog post that seems to be making the rounds again — it’s an article from 2007 warning about the supposed danger of giving ice water to dogs.

The author claims – quite emphatically – that drinking ice water caused her dog, Baran, to bloat.

While the author’s heart is likely in the right place, her facts and the conclusion she arrives at (and sadly propagated since 2007) are way off base.

First of all, if Baran even bloated, which, based upon the reported findings at surgery (“Baran’s stomach was in its normal anatomic position”), is seriously in doubt — it’s far more likely that it was caused by drinking a large volume of water in a short space of time following exercise than it was to the cold temperature of said water. But sadly, many of the important details are left out of the story.

The greater likelihood is that Baran was suffering from heat-related illness, probably heat exhaustion. It was this that caused him to drink so much water in such a short space of time, which can easily lead to nausea, which itself can show the reported signs of “dry heaving and drooling” and “was in some distress.” Yes, these are common signs of bloat in dogs — but it’s not the only condition they are associated with.

From here, the validity of the story unravels even further. While it is definitely correct to bring a dog exhibiting these signs directly to the vet, it is unlikely that the attending veterinary teams would have handled the situation the way the author describes.

One of the key statements that undermines the series of events as the author describes them is, again, the surgical findings… the “stomach was in its normal anatomic position.” Unless the stomach spontaneously derotated, which is possible, though highly unlikely, there was never any torsion (stomach twist) in the first place, and X-rays taken at the time of presentation at the first vet hospital and/or at the emergency clinic would have shown this. And if these X-rays showed gas accumulation, the “bloat” (dilatation) that the owner claims in the story, the attending veterinarian would have decompressed the stomach via stomach tube — not surgery.

Sadly, there are many holes in this story, this is just one (albeit a big one). And I’m not the only vet to debunk this story, you can read Dr. Patty Khuly’s response or Dr. Audry Harvey’s. These are just two other examples, there are many more. In fact, even, the wonderful “urban myth hole poker,” has a nice long article on this story.

But again, the goal is to educate, and the author’s heart is in the right place - spreading awareness of canine bloat (better called GDV, or Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus) is crucially important. So let’s capitalize on the popularity of this story and spread some real knowledge about GDV/Bloat, and let’s go a step further and spread some real knowledge about heat-related illness in dogs, too. After all, the erroneous advice and conclusion of the story don’t diminish the real dangers of GDV/Bloat and heat-related illness in pets. So please, read and share the information I’m presenting below — and especially do so if you made the mistake of previously sharing the erroneous story that prompted this post. If this factual information gets as many shares as the original story we’ll all have saved an awful lot of lives and an awful lot of pet owner stress.

Learn more about GDV/Bloat.

Read more about the difference between GDV and Food Bloat — and what to do if  your dog has eaten too much.

Learn more about heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Ironically, there is a very real danger related to giving ice to dogs. But it has to do with ice chewing and the tooth fractures it often causes. But that’s a topic for another post.

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