Ice cubes aren’t inherently bad for dogs – they are just frozen water after all. It’s what a dog does with them that could be harmful. Depending on your dog’s character traits, ice cubes may or may not be a good idea.
Ice cubes may not be appropriate for big dogs, young dogs, and very active chewers. Large, square ice cube blocks like the ones dispensed by your automatic ice maker are too big and too solid – they can damage your dog’s teeth. Even worse the slippery ice cube could go down the wrong pipe causing choking.
For these types of dogs it would be better to give them crushed ice which is easier on the teeth. Crushed ice will not be as likely to cause choking either. To simply cool down a dog in hot weather adding the crushed ice to water will be a welcome relief for her.
Some dogs simply like to lick the ice cubes. If this sounds like your dog then you can feel safe in giving one to her. It’s best to put the ice cube in a bowl as you don’t want your dog to lick the floor nor do you want the moisture to cause damage. Just as importantly, leaving ice cubes on the floor is a recipe for a slip and fall by a human member of the household!
Where the Myth Comes From
People used to think that ice cubes were bad for their dogs especially when they saw signs of illness afterwards. However, we now know that those signs of illness can be attributed to other things.
One of the most circulated myths is that ice causes bloating in dogs. Causes of bloating include being underfed, feeding a dog only once a day, feeding hard-to-digest foods, and parasites. Additionally, if your dog has a deep chest and thin waist (like a greyhound), she is at risk for a bloated stomach. If your dog is bloated or has bad digestion looking at her food is one of the first steps in fixing the problem.
When Not to Give Your Dog Ice
While it is appropriate to give your dog ice or ice water when she is hot it is not appropriate for life-threatening heatstroke. In such an event only an emergency vet will do. She will need professional medical care if she has gotten to the point of heatstroke as this means that her body temperature has increased significantly.
When your dog has bad teeth, no teeth, or bad swallowing reflexes ice cubes are not appropriate. Instead give shaved or crushed ice to her. Ice cubes can break her teeth or cause wounds on her gums. Bad swallowing reflexes mean she will be prone to choking.
Alternatives to Ice Cubes
Dog treat manufacturers have made chew toys that can be filled with peanut butter or a specially-made dog paste. You simply fill the cavity in the chew toy with the paste and freeze it. Give the frozen toy to your dog and she can slowly lick the frozen paste out without danger of choking or damaging her mouth.
There’s also special dog ice cream available made out of good stuff for your dog. You shouldn’t give your dog ice cream made for humans. High-fat dairy should be limited and even non-dairy ice creams contain too much sugar and fat. The special dog ice creams usually come in a powder form – you simply mix with water and then freeze. Ice is not bad or dangerous to give to your dog but sometimes a frozen treat made specifically for dogs is a better option.
By Gabrielle Allemeier
About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.