Is it safe? Vet Tony Buckwell offers some key advice.

Should dogs drink ice cold water? The temperature is soaring and your faithful gundogs are lying in the shade, panting heavily. It’s tempting to think there would be nothing kinder than to put some ice cubes in your gundog’s water bowl – but is it safe or can it cause health problems? (Read how to keep a dog cool in hot weather.)

If dogs drink ice-cold water can they get dangerous bloat?

Q: I have heard that I should 
not allow my dog to drink 
iced water in hot weather because 
it causes bloat. Can you tell me 
if this is true? If not, can I safely give my dog iced water?

A: As far as I am aware there is 
no real evidence to suggest 
that allowing dogs to drink iced 
water will cause them to develop 
bloat. Bloat – the correct term is gastric dilatation-volvulus syndrome, or GDV –  is a nasty condition which starts when the stomach fills with gas and 
fluid then rotates, effectively preventing emptying. (Read more about bloat in dogs here.)

Fast drinkers

Any problems are  much more likely to be the result 
of a thirsty dog ingesting too much water too quickly, thereby swallowing a significant amount of air, which unbalances the stomach and predisposes it to twisting over 
upon itself, causing bloat.

Allowing your dog to drink too much water too quickly will usually cause the dog simply to vomit it back up, but if it doesn’t then bloat can become a real concern, particularly 
in deep-chested breeds, such as setters, that tend to be more prone 
to developing GDV. (You should also read why you should never let your dog drink from puddles.)

Pain and discomfort

Drinking iced water might also 
be painful for the dog. Think what 
often happens when you drink iced water too quickly on a hot day. 
What should be a cooling drink 
more often than not leads to pain 
and discomfort; the same may well happen to your dog. Most of us have had the sensation of “brain free” from gulping down ice cream.


Another concern is that exposure 
to cold causes vasoconstriction — 
a narrowing of blood vessels in the region exposed. So it is reasonable 
to assume that drinking iced water would cause vasoconstriction of 
blood vessels in the tongue, lips 
and gums. This is counterproductive when a dog is trying to cool down, since it will decrease or inhibit heat exchange between the superficial blood vessels in the mouth and the expired air, which is essential if the 
dog is to lose heat by panting.

So it’s best not to let dogs drink ice-cold water

So, on balance, I’d say that allowing dogs to drink ice-cold water is probably not to be recommended.

This article was originally published in 2018 and is kept updated.