I have a young Newfoundland bitch who struggled to keep cool last summer. She had fans near her bed and I built a shaded area in the garden. One of the things she absolutely loved was a paddling pool that I put ice cubes in. She liked to lie in it and also played with the ice cubes and ate them. She loved them so much that I’ve continued to give her ice cubes as a treat/toy even now the weather is cooler. However, someone has now told me that ice water can cause bloat. Is this true?
James Farrell advises...
Bloat is a risk in dogs that bolt their food or water due to excess air intake. When the stomach bloats, it can twist and cut off blood supply to it and surrounding organs. The trapping of food and air inside the stomach causes gases to build up and the stomach gets bigger, putting more and more pressure on other organs. It can happen very quickly, and without fast treatment it is a life-threatening condition. Larger, deep-chested breeds are more prone to bloat, so it’s something you do need to be conscious of.
General guidelines suggest feeding from raised food bowls and splitting meals into smaller, twice-daily portions. Avoid feeding your dog straight after a walk, or when she’s very excited (when you’ve just returned home from work, for example). Rather than ice cubes being the problem, however, it’s more the shock of cold water hitting a warm stomach that could make the stomach spasm and then twist. If your dog is not overly hot, either from exercise or the weather, and is not bolting down vast quantities of food, then there is very little risk. A few ice cubes to gently play with and eat if your girl is not overheated will be fine. Any attempt to rapidly cool an overheated dog can cause problems, though, and it is far better to prevent overheating in the first place.
Cool rooms (especially ones with tiled floors) and shaded resting spots are ideal for heavy-coated dogs, as even on a relatively mild day they are still wearing a big fur coat and will appreciate a cool spot. A paddling pool, especially for a water-loving Newfie, is a great idea, but I would avoid putting ice in it, as a freezing plunge is actually less cooling internally than a temperate one. Freezing water just shuts off the skin’s capillaries, thereby stopping the cooler blood on the outer edges travelling down into the body. If a dog does overheat, then a wet towel and a fan is a good way to quickly cool – but not shock – the body. I would continue with what you are doing (aside from putting iced water in the pool), and giving her only a few ice cubes as a fun treat when she’s not overly heated.