There’s literally hundreds of cute videos and photos of owners sharing an ice cream with their adorable pooch. Admittedly, not every owner likes the idea of sharing food like this with their dog, but if you do, should you? Can a dog eat ice cream?
The answer isn’t quite as straightforward as you might think. Essentially, no, your dog shouldn’t have ice cream, and some veterinarians will have a hard line on this. However, others say that if your dog has been eating small amounts of ice cream, as a very occasional treat, without any ill effects, then he’ll probably be okay. It does need to be a very small amount, and only once or twice a year. It’s not a good idea for your dog to have ice cream in large quantities, or on a regular basis.
Why Shouldn’t My Dog Have Ice Cream?
First of all, ice cream is a dairy product, made from milk. An adult dog’s digestive system is not designed to digest the lactose in milk. In fact, many dogs, and even puppies can be lactose intolerant, and can have some nasty reactions after eating any kind of dairy product. These reactions commonly include:
- Gastrointestinal upset.
If you dog has these symptoms thirty minutes to two hours after eating ice cream, then he’s probably lactose intolerant. In that case, ice cream isn’t for him.
Secondly, ice cream also has huge amounts of sugar. Depending on the manufacturer, and flavor, there can be between 20-25 grams of sugar in 100 grams of ice cream. If your dog is diabetic, or pre-diabetic, then ice cream is a massive no-no. Even if he isn’t diabetic, this amount of sugar can lead to excessive weight gain, which leads on to other health problems.
You would also need to check the salt levels in the ice cream, as some products have added salt. As well as the salt, some manufacturers sweeten their product with an artificial sweetener called xylitol. Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs, and you should never give them any food product with this additive.
The last problem with ice cream is the flavorings. Some flavors are toxic to dogs, such as chocolate, so even if your dog doesn’t react to the ice cream, you do need to be careful with the flavors.
Feeding Ice Cream Safely
If you do want to share some ice cream with your furry best friend, and he doesn’t have any symptoms of lactose intolerance, then there’s still a few things you should do to make it safe for him.
- Feed only small amounts.
- Ice cream should be treated as an occasional treat, and only given on rare occasions.
- Only feed vanilla ice cream, as it has the least amounts of additives and flavorings.
- Never feed chocolate, raisin, or other toxic flavors.
- Check the sugar content, and avoid high sugar ice creams.
- Avoid ice creams with xylitol and other additives.
How Often Can I Give My Dog Ice Cream?
Assuming that you know your dog isn’t lactose intolerant, the answer is still rarely. A few times a year at the absolute maximum.
Some owners will limit ice cream to once a year for a special occasion, such as their birthday, or the day the dog left the rescue shelter. This makes the special event a little more special, as the dog isn’t being left out.
Ice Cream Alternatives
There are some safe ice cream alternatives that you can give your dog to cool down on a hot day.
- Home Made
You can make your own dog friendly ice cream. There’s so many dog safe recipes available, so you can experiment to see what flavors your dog prefers. Many of the recipes are suitable for human consumption as well, so your dog can still share ‘your’ ice cream with you. If you have some silicone molds, you can even freeze the recipes into really cute shapes!
- Ice Cubes
One of the simplest ways to give your dog something cold is an ice cube. You can add some sodium free beef or chicken stock to water and freeze, so it has some flavor as well. You could freeze these on a stick, making a popsicle, and then place the stick in the ground.
Most people enjoy going out for ice cream, but if you’re taking your dog with you, it can be a little more difficult to safely order for him. Order vegan ice cream. There’s no dairy in it, and it’s usually made from bananas, so it will have some nutritional value. Stick to plain flavors, and still only order him a very small portion. In fact, some ice cream stores will serve very small servings for toddlers, or four legged toddlers.
- Frozen Yogurt
Although frozen yogurt is still a dairy product, it might be much easier for your dog’s digestive system to tolerate. The yogurt has been fermented, which is a process that breaks down much of the lactose in milk. However, not all dogs can manage yogurt, so you will still need to watch him for signs of digestive discomfort. If your dog has no problems with yogurt, then fro-yo could be a wonderful, cooling treat for him. Again, only give small amounts, and only as an occasional treat. You should also try to avoid buying him commercial fro-yo, as it tends to have large amounts of sugar. Instead buy an unsweetened, plain yogurt, and pop it in your freezer.
So essentially, the answer to can my dog eat ice cream depends on the individual dog, and you, as his owner. If he can tolerate dairy, then there’s no real reason why he shouldn’t have it in small amounts. If he can’t tolerate dairy, then there’s many alternatives that you can give him instead.