Ice Not Necessarily Responsible for Deadly Condition in Dogs

Yesterday afternoon, my mother-in-law was scrolling through Facebook and came across a post warning pet owners about giving dogs ice water. The article explained that giving a dog ice water could result in a deadly condition known as bloat. In my experience as a veterinary technician, I have not heard of anything like this happening from giving a dog ice water so I was skeptical of the report.

This morning, Fox 17 News posted an article debunking the myth that ice water causes bloat in dogs. They interviewed a local veterinarian in Grand Rapids, MI. He explained that although it could be possible it is highly unlikely that giving ice water directly causes bloat.

Bloat is a serious condition in dogs that could result in death. That’s why I felt the need to write a little bit about it this morning. Bloat and torsion is lay speak for gastric dilatation volvulus. GDV occurs most frequently in large breed working dogs. It is a condition I became all too familiar with as an Army vet tech. The stomach flips over tying off the esophagus and the intestine so that nothing can come into the stomach and nothing can go out of the stomach. When this happens, the stomach begins to fill with gas, which causes the stomach to swell and the abdomen to bulge. Often, it will appear as though the dog had swallowed a basketball. If left untreated, the dog will die.

I remember a case in the vet clinic where one of our working dogs had GDV. It was a German shepherd dog. To test for GDV, we used a stethoscope to auscultate the abdomen. Using our free hand, we gently flick the abdomen and listen. If it sounds hollow, like a basketball, bloat is the clinical diagnosis. To relieve the pressure, we used an 18-gauge needle as a trocar. Carefully inserting the needle into the abdomen allowed the gas to escape through the hub of the needle. Upon relieving the pressure, emergency surgery is necessary to reposition the stomach.

There are a couple of ways to prevent this condition. We often advised the dog handlers that they should not work a dog immediately after feeding it. High activity, such as running, jumping, or agility, immediately following the dog’s breakfast or lunch could cause the stomach to flip over. Another way to prevent this condition in active dogs is surgery. I knew a working dog that had his stomach surgically modified so that it could NOT flip over. It has been so long, I can’t remember the name of the surgery but it is definitely a lifesaver.

Recently, I wrote about heat stroke. In the first aid procedures for heat stroke, it is okay to cool the dog with cool, not cold, water. In a severe case such as heat stroke, the literature explicitly states not to give ice water. I deduce that you wouldn’t give an overheated dog ice water because it could send the dog into shock. The cooling process should be gradual and it should stop just a couple degrees higher than the dog’s normal body temperature (101.5° F).

For the Fox 17 News Report, click here.

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