There is nothing wrong with treating your dog to atypical pet food every now and again. But just because you fancy eating certain types of food, it doesn’t imply your dog would relish it as well as you do too. In other words, foods you find “comfortable” may not be comforting to your pet dog. So, can dogs eat ice cream?
If it’s ice cream meant for humans, dogs cannot and should not eat it. Dairy-based ice creams can trouble a dog’s stomach in more ways than one. A vegan or fruit-based ice cream, on the other hand, is fine. You could make those milk-free ice creams at home or buy them in stores.
Even a single lick of regular ice cream could lead to multiple health scares in your dog. But that’s just scratching the surface. If you really want to learn why and how regular ice cream is bad for your dog and what your options are, keep reading.
Why You Should Not Be Feeding Your Dog Ice Cream
There are different snack options for your dog – ice cream is certainly not one of them. While the occasional mango sorbet or vanilla ice cream treat won’t send your pet to the vet, regular ice cream treats might just do that.
Here are some valid reasons why ice cream is not good for your dog after all:
The Lactose Problem
Ice cream is a milk-based dessert primarily designed using the human digestive system in mind. Since dogs are not built the same way as humans are, the four-legged creatures usually have a hard time digesting ice cream.
This phenomenon could be likened to a cow’s ability to digest grass, but humans’ inability to do so. Besides the massive stomach to boot, cows also have the digestive enzymes needed to assimilate grass. Humans lack those stomach acids.
As puppies, dogs do fine with milk. But when they grow into adults, their stomachs become less accustomed to milk or are no more capable of handling lactose. Even puppies are supposed to drink milk in limited quantities, and not every day. Cow milk is not the most palatable food in the world, which is why there are so many people with lactose intolerance concerns.
If a dog or lactose-intolerant person happens to consume milk or any milk-based food, such as ice cream or cheese, their inherent inability to manage dairy could subject them to gas, bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting problems.
A little bit of ice cream may not do much harm, however. The dog may feel a bit gassy if the ice cream ingestion was fairly limited. But when ice creams become regular treats or a relatively small-sized dog eats ice cream by the cup/cone, the reactions turn truly adverse.
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Kindly note the dog’s inconveniences may not be apparent right away. It could take some time for the issues to completely manifest. At times, the dog may look fine for hours together. You just need to keep a watchful eye on your pet for a few hours to confirm or rule out lactose issues.
High in Sugar
Another major issue with ice cream is its high sugar content. Even if your pet is fine ingesting milk, it could encounter issues with the high amounts of sugar that go into making ice cream.
When your dog eats sugar-loaded treats, it is likely to develop weight issues, which may lead to a host of other health problems. Even the so-called “sugar-free” ice creams are not safe apparently, as they could contain sugar alternatives that may not be healthy or even more troubling. For instance, sugar-free ice creams could incorporate xylitol, a chemical alternative to sugar.
Besides ice cream, xylitol is typically added to several other sugar-free products. If consumed by your dog, the chemical compound could trigger an insulin surge, causing a serious decline in your pet’s blood sugar levels. Due to the glucose deficiency in the bloodstream, also called hypoglycemia, your dog could feel weak and develop vomiting sensations. Xylitol could even cause seizures or liver failure problems in your trusty canine.
Certain Flavors Pose Issues
Certain ice cream flavors could be problematic as well. Not all flavors are bad, but some such as chocolate are hazardous to dogs. This is thanks to the theobromine and caffeine found in abundance in chocolate.
There are different varieties of chocolate and not all have theobromine in the same quantity. Baking chocolate and dark chocolate contain increased levels of the substance and are, therefore, more troublesome.
But since it’s hard to tell whether a chocolate ice cream is made of dark chocolate or some other variant, it’s advised to steer clear of all chocolate-based ice creams if those treats are not meant for you.
If your dog happens to eat dark chocolate or chocolate ice cream, it could encounter issues such as excessive thirst, seizures, irregular heartbeat, etc. If the chocolate dosage is extremely high, death is also a possibility.
The Ice Cream Toppings are Equally Bad
Besides flavors, the embellishments that go atop ice creams are also major troublemakers. In other words, if the ice cream has toppings or added ingredients in the form of macadamia nuts, chocolate chips, coffee, raisins, or grapes, things could become even more serious. Rum raisins are completely off-limits as raisins are poisonous to canines.
Macadamia nuts can impact nerve and muscle function in dogs. The toxicity is usually slight to moderate. Affected dogs typically exhibit lethargy, muscle tremors, vomiting, and hind limb weakness. The nut is also high in fat which could result in pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas helps make the digestive enzymes your dog needs to assimilate a variety of food.
Ice Cream Alternatives for Your Dog
If not being able to give your dog ice cream makes you feel not very good about yourself, consider treating your dog to these ice cream alternatives.
Frozen yogurt is a solid ice cream alternative. Yogurt is fermented, which means it has less lactose content. In other words, your dog would have little trouble digesting it. However, do not go the commercial or store-bought frozen yogurt path as they are likely to be packed with sugar. Sugar, as mentioned above, is not good for canines.
You could instead make yogurt at home or buy one that’s plain or without added flavors. You could refrigerate the yogurt to give it the texture and consistency of ice cream.
Kindly note, yogurt is not ideal dog food. But compared to ice cream, it’s a significantly better option. Also, certain dogs may not be able to tolerate yogurt. Check if your dog is fine with it before you load up on the stocks.
Vegan Ice Cream
Vegan ice cream is a great summer treat and also a healthier alternative to regular ice creams. It is made from fruits, like frozen bananas.
If you have a food processor, you can make vegan ice cream at home. Peanut butter, pureed bananas, and some yogurt are all that you’ll need to get started. For added taste and nutrition, you could also add some apples, oats, and other dog-friendly ingredients.
Besides being safe for ingestion, vegan ice creams are also high in nutrition. The ice cream tastes great as well. If you cannot resist regular ice cream but are also aware of its negatives, vegan ice cream can be a healthy alternative. The taste may not necessarily be better or on par with store-bought ice cream, but your cravings for real ice creams would be under control significantly.
Pet-Safe Ice Creams
As far as dog treats go, ice cream is best avoided. But if that’s not possible, homemade or vegan ice cream is worth consideration. Not every dog owner would like to make ice cream by themselves, however. In such scenarios, dog-friendly, pet-safe ice creams fit the bill to a T.
These ice creams are usually as safe as vegan ice creams. Instead of milk, they contain yogurt – which, as mentioned earlier, is a lot more dog-friendly than milk. But to be on the safer side of things, it’s recommended you always read the product label. Stores could also sell non-dairy ice creams for pets. You may, however, have to do some scouting to find one as they may not be widely available.
The mere thought of your dog eating ice cream is no doubt cute, but the trouble it may have to go through thereafter could conjure images that are anything but cute. Some dogs may be fine if they’re treated to ice creams in small quantities and on occasions. But if the dog is obese, diabetic, or allergic to certain foods, ice cream simply cannot be a part of its diet.
Moreover, irrespective of how healthy your dog is and how well it’s able to manage occasional ice cream treats, traditional ice cream should pretty much never be on the list of acceptable foods for your pet. If you want to realize the cute image of your dog eating ice cream, use a vegan or homemade ice cream in place of the regular thing.
Shawn Manaher is a serial entrepreneur but when he isn’t working, he loves dogs. He’s owned different pets over the years, and always gives a part of his heart to each pet.