The Truth About Ice Water and Bloat

As the weather heats up, so does a widely-spread warning about the dangers of giving dogs ice water.  

This well-intentioned rumor, which claims ice water causes bloat, has been circulating the internet for years. Fortunately, it's just that—a rumor!

We want to take the opportunity to set the record straight for concerned pet parents and help stop this belief in its tracks.

Our doctors have never seen any documentation to support the idea that ice water causes bloat. In fact, frozen treats and toys are often considered a great way to help keep dogs cool and comfortable during the summer months, when more common emergencies, such as heatstroke, are likely to arise.

That said, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Allowing a dog to chew items harder than their teeth—including ice cubes—can lead to dental fractures.

  • Ice should also be avoided in a heat stroke emergency, as it can cool the dog down too much and cause hypothermia. If overheating occurs, it is better to spray the dog down or place them in a tub of cool water and seek immediate veterinary care.

So, what is bloat, and what causes it?

Bloat is a generic term commonly referring to gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV. This life-threatening condition occurs when a dog's stomach twists and becomes distended, resulting in shock or even death.

Dilatation means that the stomach is distended but is located in its correct place in the abdomen and has not twisted. Volvulus indicates that dilatation has occurred in conjunction with torsion or twisting of the stomach.

Symptoms include:

  • Restlessness

  • Pacing

  • Salivation

  • Unproductive attempts to vomit

  • Abdominal distension and/or discomfort

  • Lethargy

  • Stiff gait

  • Rapid or labored breathing

  • Weakness

  • Collapse

Bloat almost always occurs in large, deep-chested breeds, like Great Danes, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Labrador Retrievers, Weimaraners, Standard Poodles, and Boxers, but we are not entirely sure why.

Current theories suggest that bloat develops from drinking too much water or exercising too vigorously immediately after eating. Others suggest that the rhythm of the stomach's contractions become disrupted, causing air to be trapped and the stomach to twist. However, the truth is that most cases of bloat defy a good explanation.

In addition to breed, risk factors may also include genetics and age.

If you have questions about other petcare myths you've heard and the more valid concerns that arise during the warm weather months for your dog, please don't hesitate to call your veterinarian. Don't have one yet? We can help you find a local veterinarian!

Contributing DVM