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Debunked: Is it potentially dangerous to give dogs ice during high temperatures?

A viral post shared thousands of times during the heatwave warned against giving K9s ice, but is it true?

A VIRAL CLAIM on social media has suggested that giving dogs ice in hot weather could be counterproductive, making them even hotter and causing death.

A post claims to contain a word of caution from an anonymous “vet” who says that ice increases dogs’ body temperature and that they were aware of a dog dying as a result. 

The post warns: “Giving ice cubes to dogs in the heat has the opposite effect of cooling [because] it triggers the canine anterior hypothalamus “to warm up the body.”

“It recognizes something icy cold has been absorbed, and subsequently, the bodily temperature rises to compensate for this,” it continues.

The ‘vet’ instead recommends reducing a dog’s temperature gradually in extreme heat in order to cool them down, including giving them tepid water and administering wet towels to their skin.

However, giving ice to healthy dogs doesn’t pose any risk during normal summer temperatures – though it can be risky for dogs who are suffering from heatstroke, or when it is very hot.

Screenshot 2022-07-22 at 17.55.59 Viral post shared over 100 times on Facebook alone with thousands of reshares Facebook Facebook

The post has appeared at least 117 times on Facebook and one version of the post has been shared 10,000 times alone.

According to social media data aggregator CrowdTangle, the claim’s popularity spiked this month as record-breaking heatwaves occurred across the Northern Hemisphere. 

However, the DSPCA explains that the weather determines how safe it is to give dogs ice. 

“Giving iced treats or ice cubes is okay in Ireland’s normal summer temperatures, but not in extremes like we had recently,” DSPCA spokesperson Gillian Bird told The Journal

She also said that if an animal is showing signs of heatstroke or if it looks like “vet treatment should be sought immediately”, ice should be avoided. 

University College Dublin’s Veterinary Hospital resident Vicki Rhodes also said that when a dog is already suffering from heatstroke, changing its temperature too quickly can create problems. 

“You can put them into shock with ice, you’re meant to reduce their temperature slowly,” she told The Journal

“If it’s just normal panting, a little bit shouldn’t be dangerous, but don’t go for ice if it’s heatstroke.”

She echoed the post’s recommendations of using towels soaked in tepid water to bring the temperature of a pet down. 

“People freeze pet food so their dogs can lick it and that’s fine,” she said. 

Tim Kirby, a veterinary surgeon, also said that he gets asked whether ice is safe for dogs every summer.

While he thinks it’s a “good idea” to put ice cubes in a water dish, it can be hazardous to give them to dogs directly – but not for body-temperature reasons.

“The ice cubes can fracture and splinter which can cut their mouths or displace one of their teeth,” he said. 

If a dog is hyperthermic (too hot), it would be unlikely it could consume ice according to Kirby.

“It wouldn’t be in a position to drink, it could be in shock so we would put towels with cool water on the skin and put them on fluids if they came in,” he said.

“We wouldn’t even try to give them water so certainly not ice cubes.” 

All three experts recommended seeking professional veterinary help if a dog appears to be suffering from extreme overheating – but agree that ice cubes are only an issue in that situation, and not when they are healthy in normal temperatures. 

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