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Should dogs be given ice-cold water when it’s hot? Or could it be dangerous?

Is iced water safe for dogs? Vet Tony Buckwell offers some key advice.

spaniel drinking water

Should dogs drink ice-cold water in the heat?

Q: Can dogs drink ice-cold water? I have heard conflicting advice.

A: There has been concern, particularly on social media, that giving dogs iced water to drink puts them at risk of developing bloat. However, as far as I am aware there is no real evidence to suggest that this is the case and any association is much more likely to be the result of a thirsty dog ingesting too much water too quickly, and thereby swallowing a significant amount of air. It is the ingestion of excess air that unbalances the stomach, and thereby predisposes it to twisting over upon itself and causing bloat. (Read more on dog bloat here.)

Can you give your dog ice cubes?

Drinking water containing ice cubes 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. (Read how to keep your dog cool in hot weather.)

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 water containing ice cubes would cause vasoconstriction of blood vessels in the tongue and of the 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. Although allowing dogs to drink iced water is not necessarily dangerous, it is probably advisable to allow the ice to melt first before offering your dog the cooled water to drink and to ensure the dog does not drink the iced water too quickly. (Also read why you shouldn’t allow your dog to drink from puddles.)