Now that summer has been making itself felt, our pets experience the stress of dealing with the heat and exhaustion that come with it. Humans sweat; while dogs are made to pant. Panting is a compensatory mechanism to relieve off excess body heat through evaporation. When panting is not enough to maintain a normal temperature and body metabolism is already compromised, this situation can lead to severe dehydration, circulatory shock and sudden heat stroke.
In a recently resurfaced 2007 blog post entitled “NO ICE WATER FOR DOGS…PLEASE READ ASAP”, an owner claimed that her dog, Baran experienced stomach upset for drinking ice water after an intense work-out session. Though the post didn’t mention Baran munching on some ice cubes, some violent reactions over the internet assumed such also occurred. The owner reported of choking, heavy drooling and heaving after Bran was given the ice water. The attending veterinarian reportedly blamed the ice water for the “violent muscle spasms that caused stomach bloating”. Bloating, in the medical sense is defined as an accumulation of gas, liquid or both inside the stomach causing pain and depression in the animal. The veterinarian opted to do an emergency surgery on Baran to further “check the vital organs” and make sure they are all in their proper positions. Though the post seemed to mean well and serve as a precaution, it caused a violent reaction in the world of pet owners and veterinary medicine. The assumption of the owner and the diagnosis of the veterinarian have no medical basis. Ice water cannot cause bloat in a dog.
The closest relationship water and bloat has is overhydration commonly observed in narrow-chested breeds such as Great Danes where sudden drinking of too much water – attributed to a long period of thirst causes upset in the stomach. Furthermore, chewing ice also has its damaging effects on the dog’s teeth – the same way as we humans try to chew stone-hard ice. The effect is purely mechanical. The claims in the viral post have entirely no basis and cannot be defended by science or medicine. The reason may not be apparent why such assumption and diagnosis came about; however, those who have seen this resurfaced post in Facebook must not be alarmed.
Giving ice water to a heavily panting dog on a hot weather is actually a veterinarian’s suggestion to owners, especially of dogs bred for the arctic such Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. Signs of dehydration include dry gums, skin tenting, sinking of the eyes and a sudden collapse caused by shock. Aside from a hot weather, dehydration can also be caused by vomiting, diarrhea, fever, heat stroke or any kidney or liver related illness. The best way to address this is to give electrolytic solutions, apply cold water on the paw pads and undersides, and place the animal in a colder room. According to Dr. Khuly of PetMD.com, the information on the controversial post was “unproven, unreliably sourced, unverified and utterly unnecessarily disseminated to the public”.