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Myth Ice Water Can Cause Dangerous Bloating in Dogs

Outline
Long running Internet warning claims that pet owners should never give their dogs ice water and cites a case of a show dog that suffered severe bloat after drinking water with ice in it.

Bulldog Drinking

© Depositphotos.com/ Denis Aglichev



Brief Analysis
The claims are untrue. Reports from veterinarians indicate that drinking ice or cold water is not inherently dangerous for dogs and does not cause bloat as claimed in the warning message. While the dog discussed in the message may have indeed suffered bloat, there is no evidence to support the claim that the condition was caused by iced water.

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Example

Beware giving ice water or feeding ice cubes!
This is something all dog owners should know. Even with the smallest breeds
need to remember never to give dogs iced or very cold water.

This was posted on another board with permission to cross post in the hopes
of saving another dog from having to go through this awful experience.

After showing we went back to our site/set up and got the dogs in their
crates to cool off. After being back about 30min. I noticed **** was low on
water. I took a hand full of ice from my cooler and put it in his bucket
with more water. (Note: I use a small Playmate cooler at ringside with ice
water in it also. Have for over 15 years now) I use small 2qt. buckets in my
crates. He had maybe ½ a bucket when I placed him in his crate after coming
back from the ring. We all then started to get all the dogs Ex'ed and food
ready for them.

I have an 18 foot trailer with AC and set up, as a rolling kennel it fits 7-
42" crates, and MY express Van holds 1- 48", 1- 42", and 3- 36", crates. All
the crates in the van have 24 " box fans over them. I had **** in his 48'
crate in the van because that is the place he loves to be. He loves to be
able to see everyone and everything. After checking the dogs and thinking
they were cooled off enough we fed everyone. As we were walking around
removing the feed dishes from the crates, one of my friends stated that ****
seamed like he was choking. I went over and checked on him and he was dry
heaving and was drooling. I got him out of the crate to check him over and
noticed he had not eaten. He was in some distress. I checked him over from
head to toe and did not notice anything. I walked him around for about a
min. when I noticed that he was starting to Bloat. I did everything I was
taught to do in this case. I was not able to get him to burp, and we gave
him Phasezime.

We jumped on the golf cart to take him down to the Show vet to find out that
he did not have a bloat kit, He referred us to the clinic that was to be on
call, but we found out that the clinic was closed. After finding another
clinic that was open we rushed **** to that one. We called ahead and let
them know that we were on our way. They were set up and waiting for us and
they got **** stabilized very quickly. After **** was stable and out of
distress we transported **** to AVREC where he went into surgery to make
sure no damage was done to any of his vital organs. I am very happy to say
that **** is doing great, there was no damage to any vital organs, and he
still loves his food.

In surgery the doctor found that ***** stomach was in its normal anatomic
position. The Doctor and I went over the events of what happened up to the
point of **** Bloating. When I told him about the ice water he asked why I
gave him ice water, and have I always done this. I told him my history
behind this practice and his reply was "I have been very lucky for the past
15 years." The ice water I gave **** caused violent Muscle spasm in his
stomach which caused the bloating. Even though I figured his temp was down
enough to feed, and give him this ice water his internal temp was still
high. Dr. Vogf stated that giving dog's ice to chew or ice water is a big
NO, NO; there should be no reason for them to have ice/ice water. Normal
water (room Temp.), or cooling with cold towels on the inter thigh, is the
best way to help cool a dog. How Dr. Vogf explained it to me was like this:
If you, as a person fall into a frozen lake what happens to our muscles?
Think about that, then compare that to your dog's stomach.

I felt the need to share this with everyone, in the hopes that some may
learn from what I went through, I do not wish this on anyone. **** is home
now doing fine. He does not like the fact that he has to be walked on lead
in the yard to keep him from running. He hates not being able to go out and
rough house with the others, but is doing great. So please if you do use ice
and ice water, beware as what could happen.


Detailed Analysis


According to this warning, which has circulated via email and social media since 2007, pet owners should be aware of the dangers of giving their dogs iced or very cold water.  The message claims that giving dogs iced water can cause a dangerous condition called bloat. It describes a case in which a show dog suffered bloat and had to receive urgent veterinary treatment after drinking water with ice in it. The message claims that the attending vet, a Dr. Vogf, warned the dog's owner that ice water caused bloat and she therefore took it on herself to broadcast the story via the Internet in an attempt to warn other dog owners.

However, veterinary experts have dismissed the claims in the message as false. Bloat is a real condition and can certainly be very dangerous to dogs. But, there is no credible evidence to support the claim that iced water can cause the condition.
 
In an article about the myth, Patty Khuly, VMD, MBA, notes:

Though undoubtedly well-intentioned, the problem is obvious: The writer is misguidedly offering up her story as a helpful truth. When, in fact, the information is unproven, unreliably sourced, unverified, and utterly unnecessarily disseminated to the public - to the potential detriment of dogs who may indeed benefit from drinking cold water or getting ice cubes in their water to brake their drinking binges.

Frigid water gastric "cramping" is a falsehood akin to those that inform you that your hair will grow back coarser if you shave it (myth), or that you shouldn’t go swimming for 30 minutes after eating lest you drown in a fit of cramps (myth).
And veterinarian Dr. Audrey Harvey concurs, noting:

There have been rumors that ice and ice water causes a spasm of the stomach muscle in dogs, leading to a swollen stomach, and potentially fatal bloat. These rumors are not true.

Dog Drinking

© Depositphotos.com/ gvictoria

Dr Harvey adds:

I think that what is more likely is that dogs are given ice or iced water to drink when they are hot and thirsty, for example after heavy exercise. Under these circumstances, they are very likely to drink a lot of water very quickly, and this is a known risk factor for bloat.

And, Dr. Page Wages of Oberlin Animal Hospital answers the question  "Can bloat be attributed to feeding your dog ice or ice water?" as follows:

Not directly.  If your dog drinks the ice water or eats the ice cubes too fast, there is a potential to lead to bloat.

Furthermore, while there are plenty of detailed veterinary resources describing bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus) and how to deal with it, none that I have seen identify iced or cold water as a possible causative factor for the condition.

Thus, while the warning message may well describe a real incident of bloat, the condition was almost certainly not the result of a few ice cubes in the dog's water. Other factors such as how quickly the dog actually drank the water are the more likely cause. The message notes that the dog was "low on water" before his owner added ice cubes and refilled his drinking bucket so it could well be that he had already gulped a good deal of water in a short period of time, a known risk factor for bloat.

The message does not identify the dog's owner. Earlier versions of the message name the dog as "Baran", and the dog show as the Steel Valley Cluster. However, the current social media version blocks out the dog's name and omits the name of the dog show in an apparent attempt to protect the dog and his owner's identity. Moreover, I could find no references to a veterinarian named "Dr. Vogf" other than in versions of the above warning.

It is important that Internet users verify via credible sources any pet (or human) health related information their receive before sharing it with others. Sending on false or misleading health warnings can do more harm than good.

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Last updated: July 11, 2013
First published: July 11, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

References
Ice Water, Bloat, and Internet Urban Mythology
Ask Dr. Audrey: Does Ice Cause Bloat?
Can Ice Cubes Cause Bloat?
ASPCA Pet Care - Bloat