Can Dogs Eat Ice Cubes? (Fact or Fearmongering)

Don’t give your dog ice cubes or he will die! You may have seen an online anecdote or have been forwarded a message from your relative that forwards everything warning you about the perils of dogs ingesting ice cubes, fronted by a similarly ominous, scare-inducing headline. But is it accurate?

The Short Answer: He’ll Be Just Fine

Let’s cut to the chase: It is perfectly fine for a dog to have ice cubes. Your dog won’t die if you drop a couple of cubes in his bowl during the summertime to help him beat the heat. In fact, in the right context, putting an ice cube in front of your dog may provide you with some pretty spectacular free entertainment.

Where Did the Notion of Deadly Ice Cubes Come from?

Like a lot of sensationalized stories involving death by common objects, the notion of ice cubes killing dogs started as an online viral anecdote. It started showing up on the scene – and probably in your inbox as a “FW:” – around 2007. While the presence of the anecdote waxes and wanes over time, it’s left an indelible impression amongst dog owners.

The story’s basics involve an owner dumping or tossing some ice into his dog’s water dish, only to see his pooch exhibiting signs of bloat shortly thereafter. A trip to the vet and some exploratory surgery reveals that the ice cubes caused violent muscle spasms, and the dog is lucky to be alive. It ends with expected warnings of doom.

The account has long been debunked by veterinarians and websites wholly devoted to debunking urban legends and Internet myths. The reasons the story falls apart are fairly obvious – the big one is that it’s never backed with any reliable sources like a vet clinic. Despite this, the story and its associated concerns are still floating about in cyberspace.

If there is one silver lining to this blatantly false account, is that it’s put the problem of dog bloat into the consciousness of many a dog owner. It is an extremely serious issue that is worth being on your radar, even if it got there because of some falsehood.

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A Look at Bloat

Bloat, also known by its scientific name gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV, is a condition that is caused when a stomach fills up with air and places excess pressure on a dog’s diaphragm and other organs. It also compresses some large abdominal veins, which cuts off blood flow back to the heart.

What’s more, the air-filled stomach could end up twisting on itself – the “volvulus” part of the equation. If this happens, the blood supply to the tummy is completely cut off, which causes the stomach to choke off and essentially die. The dog’s overall health goes down very rapidly from here.

Studies indicate that this condition is most likely to occur in large breed dogs with deep, narrow chests, such as a Great Dane or St. Bernard. It’s also thought that male dogs are twice as likely to develop the condition than females. Dogs that tend to eat rapidly or exercise too soon after a meal may also be at a boosted risk.

The Causes of Bloat: Another Reason Why the Urban Legend Falls Apart

While there are a few theories as to what causes bloat, there has not been a pinpointed activity that directly leads to its development. It has been theorized through studies of the stomach gas that forms during the dilation process that the condition may be caused by swallowing excessive air, and the dogs cannot properly expunge this air.

The concept of bloat being caused by stomach muscle spasms, which is the underlying cause of bloat as brought about by ice ingestion in the urban legend, is not on the research radar. The fact that it is not considered a probable cause among research scientists is really all the proof you need to know the dangerous ice cube story is pure hokum.

What are the Signs of Bloat?

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The biggest signs you will notice if your dog has bloat are a swollen belly, dry heaving, and retching. These signs may be accompanied by various secondary symptoms such as abdominal pain, rapid shallow breathing, and severe drooling brought about by severe pain.

In the latter stages of the condition, your dog may go into shock and become pale. He will also develop a rapid heart rate and a weak pulse before eventually collapsing. As a dog owner, it is imperative that you recognize the early signs of bloat so you can aid your pooch before it gets to these scary stages.

How to Treat Bloat

The first step in treating this condition is to see a vet post haste. Don’t wait until your vet’s clinic opens if you notice the condition is happening after hours – find an emergency vet clinic in this case. You should call the clinic ahead of time to let them know you’re coming so they can adequately prepare for your arrival.

Treatment depends on how far along your dog is in the bloating process. Your dog will most likely be fitted with IV catheters to administer fluids, particularly if the dog is in shock. Antibiotics and pain relievers may also be administered.

The vet will also suck the air out of your dog’s tummy via a needle or a stomach tube. You should also expect x-rays to ensure volvulus has not occurred; if it has, your dog will most likely have to have surgery to “untwist” his stomach. It’s a scary ordeal, but it is one that may be necessary if you want to save your buddy’s life.

Give Your Dog Ice – He’ll Appreciate It

While bloat is a genuinely scary condition that you should not treat lightly, you can be confident in knowing that give your dog ice cubes will never cause the condition. So the next time it’s hot out and you want to give your four-legged friend some relief, don’t be afraid to give him ice cubes. The only reaction he’ll have is one of gratitude.

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