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myth busted! dr. ernie ward: ice cubes and cold water don’t kill dogs

You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet – even if your Facebook friends post it.


Over the past couple of weeks an “Internet-ancient” social media myth from 2007 began panicking dog lovers about the dangers of giving your dog ice cubes. “I am writing this in hopes that some may learn from what I just went through,” begins the letter from a concerned pet parent. She recounts how a dog at a dog show developed bloat and gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) and nearly died. The author of the letter blames the bloat on ice cubes and cold water. I blame it on coincidence and bad luck with the story transmitted infinitely by the power of click, like, and share. Welcome to the Dog Story Universe circa 2014.


First of all, I think the letter started out with the best intentions. The owner of the dog sincerely believed her dog nearly died after overheating and drinking ice water. The attending veterinarian allegedly legitimizes the owner’s fears by falsely claiming that ice water can cause “violent muscle spasms in his stomach, which caused the bloating.” The vet further explains, “If you, as a person, fall into a frozen lake what happens to your muscles? They cramp. This is the same as a dog's stomach.” That's simply not true. This is where coincidence and bad luck come in. There were many risk factors described in the letter than could’ve triggered the bloat/GDV. The ice water simply threw the last punch and got blamed.


What doesn’t get discussed much is that according to the letter the dog in question was 1) left in a crate in a van 2) during the day 3) at a dog show. Stress plus heat plus at-risk breed plus rapidly giving a large volume of water is a pretty good recipe for bloat. Making things even murkier, the owner gives a drug called “Phasezime.” What the heck is “Phasezime?” I’m sure it’s misspelled but I’m not exactly sure what this is or why it was given to a dog in distress who has dry heaving, drooling and starting to bloat. The owner further writes, “I did everything I was taught to do in this case.” My advice: if your dog is in distress or starting to bloat, skip your home remedies and get to the vet immediately. 


Bloat and GDV are serious, life-threatening canine conditions that both vets and dog lovers fear. I recently wrote on the latest theories on the causes of bloat and over the past 40 years we’ve learned a few things:

1) Feeding your dog two to four times a day seems safer.

2) Slowing the rate of food ingestion using food puzzles appears to help.

3) Avoid high fat diets or those with added oils high on the ingredient list.

4) If you have an at-risk breed, consider preventive surgical gastropexy.


Age, breed, family history, food gulping, and fear or stress are all considered important factors in the development of bloat. Ice cubes? Not so much.


As a lifelong pet advocate, any incidence of bloat makes me sad. I’ve had to perform numerous surgeries to treat bloat/GDV over the years, and, unfortunately, not all make it. I truly believe this pet owner was simply trying to prevent anyone from experiencing the tragedy she and her dog experienced. The unintended consequence was that ice cubes have been falsely accused as the cause of bloat and GDV in dogs. And the Internet never forgets, even when it’s wrong.


It’s okay to give your dog ice cubes as treats if you choose. I’m more concerned about your dog chipping a tooth than developing GDV as a result of chomping on ice. If your dog becomes overheated, start cooling it down by rinsing it with cool water and don’t allow it to rapidly gulp large volumes of water, with or without ice cubes. Even better, do me a favor and don’t leave your dog in a parked car, ever.


If you see the “ice cube and ice water kills dogs” post on your Facebook timeline, tell your friends it's not true. 

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Posted by Sue Kornfeld
on May 31 2016 18:17

Thank you for your comments on GDV, water consumption and ice. During the summer I've always felt it better to have room temperature water available to my pets no matter what the species during hot summer days. Ice or ice cold water can hurt my stomach if I drink it rather than sip it.

Posted by Elizabeth Hampton
on July 08 2014 01:56

I believe the lady is saying that she gave dog phazyme. It is an anti gas medication like gas-x, alka seltzer, etc. it has been used in cases of bloat, but not as a cure. It works by allowing the gas bubbles in the intestines and stomach to come together for easier passage, which in some cases can buy more time to get to the vet for actual treatment.

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