If you are part of the raw feeding community, you might have heard about the debate on whether feeding your dog food/bones frozen or cold is harmful. Many of us raw feeders have been feeding our dogs raw bones straight from the freezer without a second thought. Sometimes it’s intentional, other times, maybe you’d forgotten to thaw your dog’s meal out to room temperature. We’ve all been there.
At first look, it seems a bit illogical - wolves and fox feed in the winter, often decaying and frozen prey, and even we, humans, take great joy in frozen desserts without a single thought of harmful side effects. Is there scientific proof that feeding dogs cold or frozen food has a negative effect on their GI system? Do the benefits (longer lasting, harder to chew, ect.) outweigh any potential negatives? We will also discuss the theory that giving your dog “ice cold water” will cause bloat.
Let’s start with the concern about feeding ice water. You may have seen a blog post going around where the writer is claiming that they gave their dog ice water, they got bloat from that, and then the dog died. Upon further research, I came across an interview with Dr. Randall Carpenter, DMV, who states:
“‘If the dog is overheated and dehydrated, and desperate for fluids and they consume huge, huge amounts of ice cubes or water all at one time, it could create a situation where the dog could bloat,” Dr. Carpenter said.’
But that’s true for large amounts of any temperature water, he added.
He says just consuming cold water or ice cubes in moderation will not cause bloat, saying ice cubes and water when the weather is hot is a good thing.”
Now that we have addressed the ice water issue, let’s look at feeding bones or raw food cold to our dogs. I contacted Dr. Judy Morgan - a holistic veterinarian that encourages only feeding food at room temperature. Dr. Jody Morgan, DVM, is a specialist in integrative medicine, combining both “traditional” and holistic pet care. A photo has been circulating about her post regarding the fact that dogs “shouldn’t have frozen bones because it is bad for their spleen.”
Unable to find any scientific evidence to back this claim up, I reached out directly to the source of this widely circulated information.
Real Dog: Is it dogs with specific conditions that should steer clear of frozen food, or all?
Dr. JM: Frozen food is absolutely fine as long as it is warmed to room temperature before feeding. TCVM food theory (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) states that the "Spleen" or "Digestive" function does not like too much cold or damp.
For good digestion, food and beverages should be consumed as close to body temperature as possible. So, raw feeders that feed frozen raw food need to defrost and bring to at least room temperature before feeding for best utilization of the food. (Europeans drink warm beer and drinks for this reason.) Dogs with "damp" conditions such as heart failure or liver failure with edema, ascites, or fluid in the lungs would be more prone to deleterious effects of feeding cold food.
Real Dog: What's the science behind the harm of feeding dogs frozen food/bones?
Dr. JM: See above. Comes from a few thousand years of Chinese medicine.
Real Dog: Is there proof that dogs can get brain freeze from eating cold foods?
Dr. JM: Not that I know of, but their anatomy isn't much different from ours, so why not?
I am grateful that Dr. Judy Morgan was willing to speak with me regarding this - but the scientific evidence is lacking in either direction. I very much agree with her stance on varying proteins in a dog’s diet, though:
Real Dog: How much variety do you recommend at a minimum for a dogs’ diet?
Dr. JM: Variety? As in protein types? Food brands? Some experts recommend finding one protein source and one food that agrees with the dog and sticking with that. I disagree. I think dogs fed only beef, or only chicken, or only fish will have nutrient deficiencies over time. By varying protein sources and food brands you are more likely to cover any micro-deficiencies that might occur. You are also less likely to suffer the deleterious effects of a mistake in supplementation in a batch or batches of food (as in the latest recall with too much vitamin D in the premix). For my own dogs I rotate through some red meat, some pork, some poultry (duck, chicken, turkey mostly) and I include organ meats. Sometimes I grind my own raw food or gently cook my own grinds. Other times I use pre-made foods from companies I know well and trust as far as sourcing, quality, and completeness.
We are well aware of the benefits that come with nutritional diversity. That’s why at Real Dog Box, we switch up the proteins in our monthly boxes and make sure you get a variety of seafood, organ meats and muscle meats to provide varied nutrition. Dr. Morgan also mentions Traditional Chinese Medicine as “evidence” of the “spleen not liking too much cold or dampness,”, but upon further research TCVM cites “cold” and “hot” proteins(such as duck being cold and chicken being warm), which are determined by… not the actual temperature of the food. In my opinion, this doesn’t relate to the temperature debate by any means. Even if you subscribe to the TCM practice, it’s not specified not to feed a certain food frozen.
Let’s talk about some of the benefits and reasons people might feed bones frozen or food at cooler temps:
1-Longer Lasting - Storing bones in the freezer preserves their lifespan and also makes it last longer when given as a chew for enrichment purposes. The bone becomes harder to chew, thus making the dog have to work harder to get the meat off the bone. This means your dog is getting the benefits of having to work harder for their chew, and doesn’t go through it as quickly so it could possibly be easier on the digestive system. This may not be fit for smaller dogs or those with dental challenges.
2-Hot Weather - You know the feeling you get after spending time outdoors on a hot day and can’t wait to have something cool from the fridge? From my experience, the dogs’ seem to love having a cool treat to cool them off. Just like humans, they can get overheated too. Not to mention, teething puppies love the soothing feeling that only cold temperature brings!
3-Convenience - Maybe you are in a rush and don’t have time to set out the premade raw you stuck in the freezer last week when you were meal prepping. Maybe you are running late for work and just scooped the food into your pup’s bowl and are headed out the door. We’ve all been there.
Many companies that sell raw bones frozen actually recommend to keep them frozen, even when feeding to your pup.
So, with all of these sources having different opinions, where does the debate end?
Bottom line - It doesn’t. That is up to you!
Despite our interview with Dr. Morgan, there is no scientific evidence stating feeding dogs frozen food is harmful. If you come across research that states otherwise, send it our way! Though Dr. Judy Morgan has wonderful credentials and advice, the science behind her opinion is lacking any “meat” (pun intended) to sway my opinion.
Even though we have come to the conclusion that there is no scientific evidence on cold food being harmful for dogs, ultimately, as with anything you choose to feed, the choice is yours. As dog owners, it is our responsibility to make sure we are doing the best we can regarding their nutrition and health. They can’t decide for themselves, so it is up to us to decide for them. Do your research, look for the facts, and make an educated opinion for yourself and your pup. What works for one dog might not work for another.
And remember - you know your dog better than anyone else.
If you are on board with feeding cold - great! Welcome to the party! We have ice cream. Speaking of which, check out our peanut butter ice cream recipe for a nutritious, cool snack that your dog is sure to enjoy.