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Are Ice Cubes Dangerous For My Dog?

Cooling dogs down with ice cubes in water is causing concern for some people.

There’s been a lot of interest in a post that’s gone viral on Facebook recently, about the alleged dangers of giving dogs ice cubes in hot weather. This has gathered a great deal of interest… but there are some serious problems with it which need to be addressed.

What is the claim being made?
Supposedly, the post is reporting the death of a dog from heat-stroke, and the author claims that this is because the owner gave the dog ice-cubes in their water to try and cool them down.
They go on to claim that this is dangerous because by cooling the dog’s insides down, you are inducing them to increase their core temperature, therefore triggering heat stroke.

Is it true?
Basically, no. While it is theoretically the case that eating cold things can warm you up, that is only to maintain your core temperature – if the dog is already uncomfortably warm, their cooling systems are already working to the max. By cooling them down (very slightly!) with ice-cubes, you’re actually helping them.
There is a grain of truth in it – if you force-fed your dog a lot of ice, then they might indeed initiate a shivering response, raising their core temperature – although even then, their temperature will probably stabilise at about normal, and I’d be more worried about overcooling them leading to hypothermic shock!

Theoretically, it could also lead to constriction of the blood vessels in the tongue, reducing heat loss slightly – but of course, the ice melts quickly and most of the heat loss is via warm air from the lungs, so this isn’t likely to be significant.
Bottom line – a few ice cubes in their drinking water isn’t going to trigger the out of control rise in temperature that this post claims. There is NO evidence that giving a dog ice cubes in cold weather increases their risk of heat stroke.

But what about the advice that drink hot drinks help cool you down?
Different species, different physiology! Unlike dogs, humans can sweat to cool down – and drinking a warm liquid helps to trigger peripheral temperature sensors in the mouth and throat (not the central ones in the hypothalamus that monitor core temperature), increasing the sweating rate across the skin. As we sweat more, we tend to cool down a little bit faster than we otherwise would. However, this does NOT involve altering our core temperature, it just makes us more comfortable.

What is heat-stroke?
Heat stroke occurs when the animal is unable to lose heat faster than it’s being generated or absorbed. Dogs are at particular risk because their physiology is adapted to keep warm, not cool – so, for example, they cannot lose significant amounts of heat by sweating, and must pant. Heat stroke may occur due to being trapped in a hot space and unable to escape – e.g. a car, greenhouse or conservatory – or from exercising too vigorously in hot weather. In either case, the symptoms are the same – excessive panting, drooling, dark tongue, weakness, vomiting, collapse and ultimately abnormal bleeding, seizures and death. Dogs really do die in hot weather, it’s far more common than most people think.

What should I do if I suspect my dog has heat-stroke?
Get them into the shade, offer them water, pour cool (but best to avoid ice-cold) water over them, and call us straight away.

Originally appeared on Vet Help Direct.