I struggled to keep my young Newfoundland cool over the summer. She had fans near her bed and a shaded area in the garden. She absolutely loved lying in a paddling pool which I put ice cubes into. She loved playing with the ice cubes and eating them so much that I have continued to give her them as a treat even now the weather is cooler. However, someone has since 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 excessive air intake. When the stomach bloats, it can twist and cut off blood supply to it and the 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 is a life threatening condition without fast treatment. Larger, deep-chested breeds are more prone to this problem, so it is something you need to be conscious of. General feeding guidelines suggest feeding from raised food bowls and splitting meals into twice-daily, smaller portions. Avoid feeding straight after a walk or when the dog is very excited. However, rather than ice cubes being the problem, it is more the shock of cold water hitting a warm stomach that could make it spasm and then twist. If your dog is not overly hot, either from exercise or the weather and is not bolting vast quantities down, 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. However, any attempt to rapidly cool an overheated dog can cause problems. It is far better to prevent overheating in the first place. Cool rooms (especially with a tiled floor) 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 place to relax. A paddling pool 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 shuts off the skin’s capillaries, stopping the cooler blood on the outer edges from travelling down into the body. If your bitch does overheat, then using a wet towel and fan is a good way to quickly cool, but not shock, the body. I would continue with what you are doing, but just leave out the iced water in the pool and only a few cubes as a fun treat when she is not overly hot.