Myths, controversy, and not a small amount of scaremongering surround the topic of whether it’s ever okay to give dogs cold water. So what’s the truth of the cold-water question? Is it better to give cold or warm water to your dog? Contrary to popular belief, cold water isn’t actually bad for dogs. However, there are still lots of things you can learn. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about dogs, water, and ice!
Should Your Dog Drink Cold Water?
Forget whatever you’ve heard before now, there’s no evidence that cold water, ice cubes and/or ice water on their own are bad for dogs. In fact, the real issue isn’t about temperature at all. It’s about speed—how quickly the dog in question drinks the water.
While the temperature of the water isn’t important, it can be dangerous for your dog to drink any type of water if they drink it too quickly. That’s because rapid water intake can cause them to swallow a lot of air in the process. And this can lead to bloating—often a true source of worry for a dog parent, which we’ll explore in more detail in just a moment.
To understand why bloating is a risk factor, let’s look at how dogs drink:
- As dogs don’t have full cheeks, they can’t suck up water like humans.
- Instead, dogs use their tongues—a process called inertia.
- The tongue extends out and curls to create a ‘ladle’ to scoop up the water.
- They then retract their tongue very quickly and close their jaw to swallow.
- And that’s why dog drinking is very splashy and noisy!
What Can Happen If Dogs Drink Cold Water Too Fast?
With their famous lapping-scooping method of drinking, dogs are at risk of swallowing too much air when they drink. Particularly if they drink too fast. And when dogs swallow too much air when eating or drinking, this can cause bloating in the stomach—leading to a dangerous condition called gastric dilation volvulus. So it’s not cold or ice water that can make your dog sick. But drinking too fast can.
But when and how does gastric dilatation and volvulus (Canine GDV) happen? The condition is most common in deep-chested dogs when their stomachs are filled with too much air. In turn, this causes their stomach walls to stretch, hence ‘dilatation’. This dilatation means the stomach can flip and twist on itself (and that’s where the ‘volvulus’ part comes in).
How to prevent gastric dilatation and volvulus
The best way to prevent GDV is to keep your dog well-hydrated throughout the day. If your dog drinks regularly, they shouldn’t get too thirsty and gulp down too much water all at once.
On a similar note, it’s also advisable to give your dog more than one meal per day. By spacing meals out, your dog won’t get totally ravenous! And then they’ll be less likely to inhale lots of air when eating. You can also try splitting meals into two portions to give your dog a moment to pause in between mouthfuls. This can prevent that dreaded bloat. Think about it—have you ever had stomach pains after stuffing yourself at an all-you-can-eat buffet? It’s much worse for dogs!
Another tip is to avoid excessive exercise right after eating, as this can exacerbate the problem further.
Are some dog breeds more prone to GDV?
Generally speaking, deep-chested breeds are more prone to GDV. And that risk increases with age.
Deep-chested dogs have long but narrow rib cages that sit lower on their body. Some of the most common deep-chested breeds are the:
- Great Dane
- Saint Bernard
- Irish Setter
- German Shepherd
- Doberman Pinscher
- Standard Poodle
- Old English Sheepdog
However, GDV can still occur in smaller, non-deep-chested breeds. So whatever dog breed you have, the speed your dog eats or drinks is always something to keep an eye on.
Other GDV symptoms to look out for
While prevention is the best cure, it is always handy to understand what symptoms to look out for in case your dog does get GDV. Here are some of the most common ones:
If you suspect your dog has GDV, take your dog to the emergency vet right away. The vet will stabilise your dog, remove excess gas from the stomach and then assess the condition of the stomach and spleen through surgery.
What Temperature Water Should Dogs Drink?
Now you know the dangers of GDV, you might still be wondering: “After all this, what temperature water should my dog drink?”. Well, research shows that dogs prefer cool water. But there’s no harm in feeding your dog ice water in the summer to cool down. Of course, while you might enjoy a piping hot cup of tea, dogs shouldn’t be given boiling water as this could risk burns on their tongue and in their mouth.
Dog drinking water FAQs
- Can dogs drink cold water in winter?
Yes! But this study shows that dogs with a colder body temperature preferred slightly warmer water. So if it’s a bit chilly, offering your dog room-temperature water might go down better.
- Can dogs drink carbonated water?
Love a can of refreshing soda? Well, it’s probably not a good idea to share with your dog. Carbonated water can increase the risk of gas build-up, the main cause of GDV. And sodas themselves often contain xylitol which is poisonous to dogs—so a big No-No!
- Can dogs eat ice?
Putting ice cubes in your dog’s water in summer is a great way to cool them down. Remember: it’s fast drinking that’s the problem for GDV and not the temperature. But hard ice cubes could pose a potential problem for your dog’s teeth. So crushed ice can be a better option to keep cool and avoid tooth damage.
- Can I give my dog a warm drink?
Dogs have a very sensitive oesophagus, so giving your pet hot drinks can be harmful. Even cold coffee and tea are also out as caffeine can make your dog sick. But room-temperature water is okay!
Is It OK To Bathe Dogs With Warm Water?
So we’ve covered the water temperature for drinking. But what about getting clean?
When bathing your dog, the water should be lukewarm. If the water is too hot, this can increase your dog’s heart rate and strain his heart. Which can be a particular problem for puppies and older dogs. So make sure the water is no more than 37 degrees Celsius (or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
On the other hand, what if your dog is overheated in summer? Can you give him a cold shower? UK animal welfare charity, the RSPCA, advises that very cold water could induce shock in a hot dog. But cool water is a great way to cool him down and prevent heat stroke. You could also spritz your dog with cool water from a spray bottle.
So, now we’ve cleared up all the myths surrounding dogs and cold water, one of the most important points to remember is to keep your dog well-hydrated. This will not only stop your from dog drinking too fast all at once and developing GDV, but avoid other symptoms of dehydration too. Such as:
- excessive panting
- dry nose, gums and/or eyes
- low energy or lethargy
- low or no appetite
- slow response times
- sunken eyes
- infrequent urination
- dark urine
- weakness when walking
- low skin elasticity
It’s a great idea to take a travel water bottle or bowl with you to keep your dog hydrated on the go. And if your dog doesn’t seem to enjoy drinking from her stationary dog bowl at home, why not spice things up with a doggy water fountain?