I scream, you scream, your dog screams for ice cream! The craving for this frozen treat is certainly not limited to humans. Your dog definitely knows what’s up when they see you attacking that pint of Ben & Jerry’s. And they really hope you’re going to share. But can dogs eat ice cream?
Ultimately, it depends. It depends on your dog’s tolerance for dairy products and it depends on what ingredients are listed in the particular ice cream.
Not all ice creams are created equal, so if you are considering giving your dog a cool, refreshing summertime treat like ice cream, do so carefully and in moderation. A few licks will not harm your dog as long as you know when to cut them off.
Read on to learn if your dog should actually meet Ben and Jerry, what ice cream ingredients are red flags, and what alternatives are out there that will satisfy your ice cream-craving pooch.
Can Dogs Eat Ice Cream or Other Dairy?
Like many humans, some dogs’ stomachs do not handle lactose very well. Lactose intolerance develops in adult dogs that do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase, which is what works to break down lactose. Some dogs are lactose intolerant and cannot digest dairy products easily, meaning indulging in such foods brings on lots of gas, diarrhea, bloating, upset stomach, and even vomiting.
If you know your dog has lactose intolerance issues, it is best to not give them any ice cream, yogurt, milk, cheese, butter, or any other product that contains dairy. Your nostrils and your living space will thank you.
If your dog does not have a dairy sensitivity, however, you can give them a little bit of ice cream in moderation. Vanilla ice cream is the safest human ice cream to feed your pet because there is less flavor and fewer ingredients added to it. Just be sure to read the ingredient list to make sure there is nothing in there that is potentially harmful to your dog.
Red Flag Ingredients in Ice Cream
Can dogs eat ice cream beyond just vanilla? If you are thinking of feeding your dog ice cream, you must read the list of ingredients. The biggest red flag to watch out for is xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in many human sweets you cannot let your dog eat. It is often the main sweetener used in sugar-free ice creams. If you see any foods labeled as “sugar-free,” it most likely has xylitol in it and should never be anywhere near your pet.
When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Xylitol poisoning can be fatal and is a fast-acting toxin that should be treated as soon as possible. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning include tremors, shaking, lethargy, weakness, and vomiting.
Other ingredients and flavors in ice creams to avoid giving your dog include:
- Chocolate (the theobromine in cacao is toxic)
- Rum raisin
- Macadamia nuts
- Coffee and caffeine
- Traditional ice cream toppings like sprinkles, chocolate-based toppings, and candy
If for any reason your dog ate something containing these ingredients, call animal poison control right away so they can tell you what to do next. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline is available 24 hour a day, seven days a week. Talk to your veterinarian for extra measure.
Ice Cream Alternatives
Can dogs eat ice cream if it doesn’t fall under the above flavors? If you make your own, absolutely. Instead of feeding your dog human food, you can either make it yourself or try one of the various dog ice creams that are on the market like Frosty Paws, which can be found in the frozen aisle of many grocery stores. You can easily make your own dog-friendly ice cream or “pupsicles” to treat your four-legged best friend on a hot day.
It’s best to avoid giving your dog sugary food in general. Foods like human ice cream that are high in sugar can lead to diabetes, tooth decay, and obesity. DIY-ing your dog’s ice cream is a safer and healthier alternative. Plus, making it yourself is easy and doesn’t require more than two or three ingredients.
DIY Ice Cream for Dogs
One of the most popular ways to DIY dog ice cream (or in this case, frozen yogurt) can be done using just two ingredients: peanut butter and yogurt. Simply mix plain Greek yogurt and peanut butter in a blender, then freeze it in an ice cube tray. Your dog will benefit nutritionally from the probiotics yogurt provides and from the protein content in the peanut butter.
Instead of using an ice tray, freezing dog ice cream in a Kong toy is also a great way to keep them occupied and provide them with mental stimulation. When there is a frozen treat inside of a Kong, it takes longer for the dog to get it all out. This provides the perfect opportunity for them to work on valuable problem solving skills. After all, mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise: Dog trainer Nicole Ellis of the American Kennel Club finds that just 15 minutes of mental exercise (like scent games) make dogs more tired than a 30-minute walk.
DIY Lactose-Free Ice Cream
Though yogurt is much lower in lactose than other dairy products (yogurt contains 5 grams of lactose per cup, whereas ice cream contains a whopping 12 grams), if your dog does not handle it well, you can make dog popsicles by freezing lactose-free treats.
Bone broth and pumpkin puree are great for freezing, for example. For a popular vegan option, you can puree fresh fruit like banana slices and/or blueberries in a blender. You can even skip the blender step and freeze plain fruit like bananas, blueberries, or even watermelon on its own to feed your dog later.
Other safe frozen fruits your dog can have include cantaloupe, pineapple, and mango. Just like all dog treats, these are “sometimes”-foods and should be given to your dog in moderation.
Making doggie ice cream or popsicles is an easy and cost-effective way to offer your pooch a tasty summer treat of their very own. The best part? You know everything that is going into your dog’s ice cream is safe for them. Going the DIY route with dog ice cream is better for your dog than grabbing a carton from your freezer or offering them a lick from your cone, because there are fewer ingredients, less sugar, and much lower lactose content.
Go Doggy, It’s Sherbert Day
Can dogs eat ice cream? As you have probably gathered, the answer is yes and no. The safest option when feeding your dog ice cream is to make your own, but a taste of plain, xylitol-free vanilla ice cream is OK too. Remember to read the ingredient list on human ice cream before sharing with your pup.
Eating ice cream is one of the best warm-weather pastimes. With all of the dog-safe versions out there, your pup can enjoy the frozen treat with you. The bottom line? As with all dog treats, give it to them in moderation.
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