By Dr. Burks, Associate Veterinarian

glass-of-ice-water-in-sunbeam-600x600There is a lot of hubbub going on about a blog post stating that you cannot give ice water to dogs. The original article was written in 2010. Why it is gaining popularity now, I have no idea. The story describes a show dog who drinks ice water after a show, then becomes violently ill, and needs emergency surgery. The dog survives. It is unclear whether the dog had a heat stroke, was bloated, or suffered some other unknown illness. Since Dr. Lamar discussed heat stroke here last week, we will discuss bloat today.

Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (commonly caused bloat)

GDV is a condition that we see in large breed dogs where the stomach fills with air or fluid (dilation) and twists on itself (volvulus).

We don’t know the exact cause of GDV, but we do know that is more common in large, deep chested dogs (Great Danes, labs, Chows, etc.) and in older dogs.

It is more common if a dog exercises after a large meal or a large amount of water or if they bolt their food.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Distended, painful abdomen or hunched back
  • Retching, either nonproductive or with white foam
  • Severe discomfort, pacing, vocalizing.

These are two very good GDV videos:

Video #1
Video #2

What to do:


  • For large breed dogs, feed multiple small meals per day.
  • Do not allow them to bolt their food. If they eat rapidly, consider a food toy or maze or specially designed food bowl to slow them down.
  • Do not allow them to drink large quantities of water at a time. Again, 10-20 laps, then wait 5-10 minutes, then repeat until no longer thirsty.
  • For dogs that are at extreme risk (for example, 1 in 3 Great Danes will bloat in their life) a preventative gastropexy (stomach tacking) is recommended. Please discuss it with one of our doctors during your next appointment. It is ideal to do it at time of spay/neuter, but any time is appropriate for at-risk dogs.

If you are noting symptoms of bloat, there is NOTHING you can do at home for him. He must be rushed to a veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. If it happens at night, DO NOT wait for your vet to open in the morning. Take him to a 24-hour emergency center. A true GDV requires surgery, and the longer he goes without surgery, the lower the survival rate.

If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from heat stroke, immediately move them to a cool area (in front of the AC, into the shade, etc.)

  • If possible, take your dog’s temperature rectally. Again, 99-102.5 is normal; above 104.0 is a red flag.
  • GET YOUR DOG TO A VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY if they are showing distress or their temperature is elevated.
  • If you notice any unexplained bruising on their body, see a vet IMMEDIATELY!

If, for any reason, you are unable to get to a veterinarian, use lukewarm to slightly cool water to submerge your dog. The majority of heat is lost through the head and legs so make sure to saturate the head, ears, legs, and groin. Don’t use freezing water, as this is too much of a shock to their system.

In this situation, allow your dog to drink SMALL AMOUNTS of water to cool down. Let him lap 10-20 times maximum, and then take it away. If he holds it down and is still interested, repeat the process in 5-10 minutes. Do this slowly until he is no longer thirsty.

Now that I am done scaring everyone, please know that with proper preventative care, these risks are low for most dogs. Also know that at no point did I say that ice water is a risk factor for either of these conditions. If consumed in moderation using the above drink/wait/drink technique, ice water should be fine. Please also note that chilling the water is not necessary.

Ice cubes can be a problem for a different reason: broken teeth. Ice cubes are too hard for pets to chew. If you are going to feed ice as a treat, make a doggy SnowBall and feed him crushed ice. Do they make bacon-flavored syrup?

Well, readers, I hope I haven’t scared you too much!

Do you have any experience with either bloat or heat stroke?
Do your dogs enjoy chewing ice?

Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading!