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Can Dogs Eat Ice Cream? The Essential Guide for Your Pet

Dog looking hot at the beach with owner

We’ve all thrown a bit of steak or a morsel of chicken to our dog from the dinner table at one point or another, and this is absolutely fine in moderation, but what about when it’s time for dessert? Hopefully, by now you’ll be profoundly aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but is vanilla ice cream bad for dogs in the same way? Or any other flavor, for that matter?

The temptation to share your favourite after-dinner treat with your pet can be pretty enticing, but without first understanding the science, you could be playing with fire (even with something as cold as ice cream!). We’ve put together this guide to explain the dangers and science of leaving some ice cream for dogs at the bottom of the carton, along with offering some alternatives and giving some guidance on what to do in case they eat it.

Can Dogs Eat Ice Cream?

So you’ve raised your dog for this long, sometimes letting them indulge in small portions of human food, but now you’re asking yourself “can my dog eat ice cream?” The short answer is generally ‘no’. Dogs’ stomachs aren’t designed to process the complex levels of fat, sugar, and lactose found in ice cream, meaning feeding them a bowl of your favourite raspberry ripple could cause them to have an adverse reaction.

There are some slight caveats to this rule, however, with puppies actually more capable of digesting ice cream than fully-grown adult dogs. Being mammals, they’re able to digest milk at younger ages, but the sugar and fat will still mean any portions have to be very much given in moderation. Our advice would be to avoid feeding puppies any ice cream at all, as it might create expectations throughout their lives that you won’t be able to fulfill. Always consult with your veterinarian if you have questions. 

Can dogs eat a little bit of ice cream?

While a small portion of traditional ice cream is unlikely to hospitalize your dog, it’s good practice to avoid it altogether. The joy of sharing a sweet treat with your dog will be overruled by the discomfort that the experience is likely to cause them.

Is Ice Cream Bad for Dogs? (and Why)

By now, you should understand that ice cream isn’t a healthy option for doggy dessert, but if you need more convincing, there are various science-based reasons as to why the cold confection is so dangerous to dogs.

Lactose intolerance

Not all dogs are completely lactose intolerant, but as a rule, they generally don’t produce enough lactase or the right digestive enzymes to properly digest the lactose found in milk and ice cream. The degree of lactose intolerance will vary from dog to dog, but with how common it is, it’s better not to find out the hard way. The reactions to lactose will vary between gas, vomiting, diarrhea, and general discomfort.

Fat consumption

Along with the basics of lactose intolerance, dogs will also not respond well to excessive amounts of fat, which ice cream is absolutely packed with. Too much fat can cause pancreatitis in dogs, which could lead to serious treatments being used in their recovery.

Obesity and weight gain

We’ve all felt the effects on our waistline from a little too much ice cream, but for dogs, these effects can be far more severe. Along with the potential sicknesses associated with the ingredients of ice cream, the fat and sugar could lead to serious weight gain and obesity in your dog, along with triggering serious reactions in diabetic pups.

Toxic & allergenic ingredients

While ice cream at its base is already bad for dogs, there’s also potential for a lot of toxicity when it comes to the different flavors on the market. If the ice cream contains anything like artificial sweeteners (or xylitol, which is FATAL to dogs), macadamia nuts, coffee, chocolate, grapes, or raisins, your dog could end up being seriously poisoned. Along with this, it’s hard to know exactly what your dog is allergic to and whether the ice cream you provide them will cause a reaction.

“What to Do If My Dog Ate Ice Cream”

If your dog somehow gets into your ice cream, the most important thing to remember is not to panic. Even if the situation is bad, a flailing and floundering pet parent will be no good to a doggy in danger.

The first thing you should do is monitor your pet's reaction. Are they getting sick or are they just passing gas a little more than usual? If it’s the latter or a reaction of the sort (a bit of loose stool), you could be fine by just looking after them in the backyard for a few hours. If it’s the former, you should take them to the vet and ideally contact animal poison control on the way.

It’s important to also check the ingredients of the ice cream they got into to know for sure if they’ve ingested anything toxic or allergenic to them.

Dog-Friendly Ice Cream

So what kind of ice cream can dogs eat? Just because the traditional stuff can be dangerous to them, why should they be deprived of the delicious, cooling effects of a nice frozen treat? Thankfully, there are a number of options for this kind of thing. Along with Ben and Jerry’s own Doggie Desserts, there are various recipes available online, with some being known as “nice creams” to differentiate them.

Dog-friendly ice cream recipe: Peanut butter & banana

To make a good ice cream treat for your dog, all you need is some peanut butter, banana, and plain yogurt. The process is as simple as the ingredients, with the three parts being blended, poured into ice cube trays, and frozen before serving.

The measurements are as follows:

  • 3-4 peeled ripe bananas
  • 32 ounces of plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup of organic, no added sugar peanut butter

You can also infuse this recipe with other fruits, as long as they’re suitable for a dog’s diet. Another simple option is blending blueberries and low-fat yogurt together for freezing in the same fashion. Get creative with it, but make sure whatever you do is safe for your dog.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, our advice would be to keep dogs and traditional ice cream away from each other. The consequences will basically always overrule the potential benefits, of which there are basically none. With so many options out there for frozen treats, just look a little further than the ice cream aisle if your dog needs a cooling summer snack.

Often, giving a dog some food from our plate feels like a treat for them, but really it’s for us. We want to feel closer to our pets, but there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. Using human ice cream definitely falls into the latter.

For all dog owners, consulting with your veterinarian when you have questions is always best. This is true of ice-cream, or potty training - and anything else! The quality of your relationship with your veterinarian will determine many of your dog’s health outcomes. 

Remember, regardless of your dog’s diet or behaviour, having a good insurance policy in place in case of emergencies, injuries and accidents can save a lot of heartache. Get a quote from PHI Direct today to learn more.

For more useful articles on pet-ownership, visit other articles on our blog.

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