Can Dogs Get Brain Freeze?

Nothing feels more like summer than enjoying an ice cream cone. Unfortunately, that means there is a good chance you could experience the dreaded brain freeze, a temporary headache caused by eating cold foods too quickly. The prevalence of the sensation begs the question, "can dogs get brain freeze, too?" Dogs getting brain freeze may not be scientifically proven (yet), but there are a few signs to look for that could signal that your dog is experiencing tingling of his nerves or sharp pains in the head area. Don't worry — there are ways to let your pup enjoy a nice, cold summer treat without worrying about the brain freeze!

What Brain Freeze in Dogs Might Look Like

Close up of Shih Tzu dog is eating an ice cream.

All over the internet you can find videos of cats, dogs and even otters seemingly experiencing brain freeze headaches. Their eyes widen, sometimes they open their mouths wide, making them look surprised. Since humans and dogs are mammals, it's not unreasonable to consider that these furry friends, just like humans, might experience brain freeze when enjoying a cold treat. Speaking to PetMD, Dr. Zachary Glantz, VMD notes, "A brain freeze in humans is technically called a sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, which essentially means 'pain of the sphenopalatine nerve.' It occurs when one of the blood vessels in the mouth or throat is cooled rapidly by something in the mouth (e.g., ice cream) which causes some dilation of blood vessels, which is perceived as pain." Humans, unlike other mammals, have higher cognitive functioning and know to eat cold treats at a slower rate or to stop and take a break if they get brain freeze. Dogs and other mammals may not know what is causing the pain and tingling in their nerves, and therefore may need humans to intervene and help put a stop to the brain freeze.

Putting a Freeze on the Brain Freeze

In the summertime, dogs get hot and do enjoy special treats to cool down. Although traditional ice cream is not recommended for dogs, there are many other acceptable frozen treats made specifically for dogs. (Love That Pet shares a recipe for homemade strawberry and banana ice cream.) However, dogs often eat very quickly, and it is likely they could get the brain freeze sensation. One way to prevent the possible reaction and tingling of nerves is to dole the snack in small pieces rather than giving him the entire thing at once. You can also mix traditional treats with frozen treats to help minimize some of the extreme chill. Petting your dog and massaging his head may also help relieve the excessive tingling.

Also, consider the temperature for which you serve your dog his water. Sometimes in the summer, it is nice to help cool it down with a couple of ice cubes, but the colder the water is, the better chance for brain freeze. Be sure to provide plenty of cool water, rather than cold water.

More Ways to Cool Down with Your Pet

Hopefully, you can spot the signs of brain freeze and help reduce and relieve the discomfort. If you find brain freeze becomes too painful for your dog and decide to end the cold treats, consider other ways to help your pup cool down this summer. Set up a kiddie swimming pool or a sprinkler in your backyard. Many dog-friendly water parks are also popping up all over the world and help to keep your dog active, social and cool. Summer is the perfect time to have fun with your pet, but always make sure you give him some time in the shade and an opportunity to cool down with fresh water or a cold, dog-friendly treat.

Contributor Bio

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.

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