Can Dogs Eat Ice Cream? Differences Between the Human and Dog Types

Published November 8, 2021
Bulldog licking ice-cream

Everyone screams for ice cream; even dogs. But before you feel tempted to share your dessert with your canine companion, it's important to ask, "can dogs eat ice cream?" The answer is yes, dogs can have it (as long as it doesn't contain other toxic ingredients) without experiencing immediate ill effects, but that doesn't mean they should. Discover the dangers of this frozen treat and ways you can safely include your dog at the sundae bar.

Can dogs eat ice cream infographic

Ice Cream Is Not an Ideal Treat for Dogs

Most ice cream is not toxic to dogs. However, it's also not an ideal treat for them. This rich dessert does contain some beneficial minerals, such as calcium and vitamins D and A, but it's also loaded with fat and sugar. Dogs with elevated levels of sugar and fat in their diet are at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, pancreatitis, metabolic changes, or even kidney and urinary infections. Even as an occasional treat, ice cream can cause adverse effects. Just like with most humans, the lactose in dairy foods doesn't sit well with pets.

Dogs and Dairy

After dogs are weaned as puppies, they no longer produce the enzyme necessary to digest dairy. Consequently, adult dogs are lactose intolerant. Ingesting ice cream or other dairy products can lead to unpleasant digestive distress, including diarrhea and vomiting. That's not to say that it's safe to give puppies dairy; cow's milk contains more lactose (around 5 percent) compared with dog's milk (which contains 3.1 percent lactose). The higher levels of lactose in dairy products could still upset your puppy's tummy.

Happy Dog Licking Ice Cream Cone

Dairy can also serve as a trigger for dog food allergies. Dogs with this allergy can present with stomach upset similar to lactose intolerance, or they might experience skin irritation and become itchy all over. Avoid dairy products all together if your dog develops these symptoms.

How Much Ice Cream Can Your Dog Have?

It's best to avoid giving your dog ice cream in any amount. That said, if they accidentally got into the carton, you're probably curious when to be concerned. It's never a bad idea to check in with your vet after your dog does something naughty, but how your dog will react after eating ice cream depends on your pup's sensitivity to dairy and the type of ice cream they ate.

With any amount of ice cream, you can likely expect your dog to experience flatulence and stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. If these symptoms persist for more than than 24 hours or your dog becomes lethargic and stops eating, it's important to seek medical care to ensure the rich food didn't spur pancreatitis or another serious condition. Additionally, if your dog ate a flavor that contains toxic ingredients, contact your vet right away.

Toxic Ice Cream Flavors

Ice cream comes in a wide range of flavors and varieties. Some of these contain additives that are very toxic to dogs. If your dog eats ice cream that contains any of the following ingredients, seek veterinary care immediately.

Coffee Ice Cream on Table
  • Xylitol (typically advertised as sugar-free ice cream)
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Green tea (including matcha)
  • Raisins

Canine-Safe Ice Cream Options

If you'd like to share a summer treat with your dog, you can whip up a batch of your own dog-safe ice cream. It does require a bit of preparation, as the recipe calls for frozen vegetables or fruits to give it an ice cream-like consistency. Follow this recipe or create your own variation.

Ingredients

  • 3 frozen bananas (or 1 cup frozen blueberries, frozen diced pumpkin, carrot, zucchini, or whatever dog-safe veggies or fruit your pup prefers)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons natural, unsweetened peanut butter (do not use a product containing xylitol)

Instructions

  1. Use a blender to blend all ingredients until incorporated.
  2. Add water as needed to achieve the consistency you desire.
  3. Offer your pup a few tablespoons in a bowl as a cool, summer treat!

You can also pour the mixture into an ice cube tray or candy mold and freeze for treats that take a bit longer to consume. These can serve as a fun interactive snack, but they can get messy, so serve outside or expect a drippy floor.

Packaged Ice Cream for Dogs

Not up for the preparation of homemade treats? You can find pre-made, dog-safe ice cream varieties at most pet stores. These products avoid ingredients that are harmful to dogs while still allowing them to participate in dessert time. Be sure to check with your vet first, then only feed them in moderation to avoid making your pup sick.

The Scoop on Ice Cream for Dogs

Given its high dairy, fat, and sugar content, this human treat can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs. It's best to avoid giving it whenever possible. Common additives like chocolate or nuts are toxic to dogs and can even be fatal. Instead, make your own doggie ice cream or find a product formulated specifically for dogs.

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Can Dogs Eat Ice Cream? Differences Between the Human and Dog Types