Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ
There has been a lot of hubbub on the Internet about dogs getting bloat after drinking ice water, but is it truth or myth?
The story I reference above certainly has all of the elements of a true story. It was written by somebody who shows dogs. It has been copied and pasted on countless websites. It has legs (several years of posting and reposting to date).
So what does the story say? To summarize, it recounts a medical adventure of Baran the show dog. Baran was apparently given ice water after his show and then his owner “noticed that he was starting to bloat.”
“I did everything I was taught to do in this case,” said the owner. “I was not able to get him to burp, and we gave him Phasezime.”
After rushing Baran to the veterinarian, he was stabilized and his vital organs were saved. The veterinarian then told the owner that it was ice water which caused the bloat to occur.
Could the ice have caused bloat?
It’s stories like this that spread the rumor that bloat is caused by ice, but I have a few issues with this story in particular. I have never personally heard of ice water causing bloat. I asked half a dozen of my colleagues, both emergency vets and board-certified surgeons from around the country, and they all agreed that it doesn’t make sense. Even on snopes.com, where I found the story, Dr. Audrey Harvey says, “Firstly, while ice may cause a muscle spasm, this is more likely to cause vomiting. Secondly, if ice caused bloating, then we’d see more cases of bloat during winter in dogs that live outdoors in cold parts of the country, where their water bowl ices over, and this isn’t the case.”
Also consider the following:
- There is no proof that Baran bloated because he drank cold water.
- There is no scientific proof that “a handfull of ice” causes bloat.
- Cold water is likely to warm up quickly once it reaches the stomach – just like when you swallow a large ice drink.
- The author writes “I was not able to get him to burp,” but, how do you make a dog burp?
- Phasezime (actually called Phazyme), which contains simethicone, does not help with bloat (another urban legend).
- “Violent muscle spasms” should cause the stomach to contract, not to bloat or distend.
- Drinking too much water and having it cause bloat (“water bloat”) is very unlikely. Water passes out of the stomach very quickly.
In conclusion, this story is a classic and sad case of “I read it on the internet.” The fact that Baran bloated after drinking cold water is most likely a coincidence. It is more logical that he bloated, for example, because of stress related to the dog show.
The story does raise a good point though: if your dog ever suffers from heatstroke, first cool his entire body with water, then rush to the closest vet. Read more about heatstroke here>
Above all, ask your veterinarian if your dog is at risk for stomach torsion. If he is, then the best thing you can do is a preventive procedure (called a gastropexy) which does not prevent bloat, but will prevent twisting of the stomach.
Remember, anybody can write anything on the Internet. I would encourage you to trust information written by a veterinarian and to ask your own veterinarian whenever you’re in doubt. The moral of Baran’s story is that you should not believe everything you read.
More Urban Legends
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.