I've always given Spark ice cubes on hot days going back many years but a recent post I saw on social media has me confused. What’s your take on it? – Lou
This is a really common thing within the pet world, so it’s interesting that you brought it up Lou. There has been a lot of interest around this recently in the hot weather, and one veterinarian’s online post has gone viral; warning about how ice cubes are dangerous because they trigger the anterior hypothalamus to increase the body’s core temperature, not decrease it.
So, is there much truth to it? In short, no. Or at least not via the hypothalamus. In theory, if a dog ate an awful lot of ice, it might have a small shivering response, which raises core body temperatures and possibly some momentary constriction of the blood vessels in the tongue, which reduces heat loss, but it doesn’t have an effect on the hypothalamus. This is part of the brain which only works to control core body temperature, and therefore stays relatively constant, while the body responds to peripheral temperatures.
It’s easy to believe the advice though. Many people have heard the saying that a warm drink will cool you down, and so why would a cold drink not warm you up? Well this is only applicable to humans. A warm drink will trigger temperature sensors in the mouth and throat, not the hypothalamus, and will increase sweating. On the other hand, dogs do not use sweating as a form of cooling down, apart from through their paws. Instead they use panting. And so, this theory doesn’t work for them.
So, are ice cubes actually ok for dogs? Yes, in moderation and under supervision. Ice cubes can come with their risks, such as damage to teeth, and some people believe that they cause bloat, but that is also not true. Gulping lots of water quickly causes air to also be swallowed, and that may cause bloat, but ice cubes themselves don’t. But if given in moderation, and under supervision, your dog may enjoy them and it may be beneficial to helping him cool down ever so slightly.
In the hot weather, there are some other things you can do to help your dog which are more effective though. Firstly, a damp towel to lie on, or an ice pack wrapped in a towel to lie next to, will help cool him down very effectively. He may also love to play in a paddling pool, and splash around to cool off. It’s also important to remember to use pet safe sun cream where your dog has pink skin, to avoid burns, and finally, never leave your dog in a hot car, even just for a few minutes.
I hope this has debunked some myths for you!