Can dogs eat ice cream?

Health and Wellbeing

We’ve probably all seen a funny video of a dog wolfing down some ice-cream, but is feeding your pup a 99 cute or the route to a tummy ache? Can dogs eat ice cream safely?

The general answer and the safest one is no because ice cream can make your dog sick. But like many foods, it isn’t straightforward. So what’s the scoop, can dogs eat ice cream, or are there are better ways to treat your pooch on a hot day?

Can dogs eat ice cream?

CAN DOGS EAT ICE CREAM?

The safest and most straightforward answer is no, dogs can not eat ice cream. This is because there are a lot of caveats and ingredients to look out for if you want to feed your dog ice cream safely.

But at the same time, some dogs can eat a little ice cream without an issue, and a few licks will be safe enough for most healthy dogs. However, ice cream should definitely be kept as a very occasional treat and keep it vanilla.

But what if you want to spoil your dog with a larger serving, or something less likely to make them sick? You can find “dog-friendly” ice cream on sale, or you can make your own. Homemade ice cream is the safest way to create a frozen treat that your pup can eat without causing any pup-set stomachs, and it means they can eat a bit more of it too.

WHY DO DOGS LOVE ICE CREAM?

To understand why dogs go barking mad for ice cream, think of the reasons why you love it. It’s creamy and it’s sweet, and like a lot of the high-value foods humans and hounds love, it’s high in fat. Dogs tend to go mutts over foods and snacks we also love, like cheese, for pretty much same reasons we do. They taste good! But usually, they are not healthy for us and they’re almost never good for your dog.

CAN DOGS EAT VANILLA ICE CREAM?

Vanilla ice cream is generally considered relatively safe for dogs. You will still need to make sure there is no xylitol and be very careful not to overfeed your dog because it still has a high sugar and fat content. But if you really want to spoil your dog, a spoonful of vanilla ice cream should be reasonably safe, but keep it as an occasional treat.

There are better options for your pooch though, including plain frozen yoghurt. It has lower lactose so is easier for most dogs to digest, and it’s plainer too. You can even make your own fro-yo by buying yoghurt that you know is dog safe and simply freezing it for a healthier and cheaper alternative frozen treat.

WHY DOGS CAN’T EAT ICE CREAM

The problem with ice cream is that it contains a lot of sugar and lactose. It may also contain sweeteners, ingredients and flavours that might be harmful to your dog, like chocolate or xylitol. So why is ice cream so hit and miss for dogs?

TOO MUCH SUGAR

By far the biggest problem with ice cream is the sugar. Dogs aren’t evolved to digest sugar very well, but also, they are smaller than we are so tolerate less before they begin to feel sick. If your dog eats too much sugar or eats sugar regularly, it can lead to poor oral health, obesity, and even diabetes. These conditions can in turn make your dog more susceptible to other illnesses like cancer.

Plus, lots of sugar will probably make your dog hyperactive too. And the high-fat content in some ice creams can be a risk for dogs who suffer from pancreatitis.

Even vanilla ice cream, which is considered safer for dogs is packed with the sweet stuff. For example, one brand of vanilla ice cream contains a whopping 12.2g of sugar per serving, plus 7.2g of fat, adding up to 127 calories a pop.

Your dog definitely shouldn’t be eating a human-sized serving, as it will take up way too much of their calorie intake for the day. Your dog eating a whole scoop of ice cream would be a bit like you eating cheeseburgers every meal for a day. It won’t kill them, but it definitely shouldn’t happen.

If your dog already suffers from a condition like diabetes or pancreatitis, they shouldn’t eat ice cream at all as it will probably have an impact on their health.

SUGAR-FREE ISN’T THE ANSWER EITHER

Sadly, skipping the sugar probably won’t make the ice-cream any healthier for your dog. In fact, it could be a more dangerous choice because the commonly-used sweetener xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs. Xylitol can be found in many human foods, including some brands of ice cream. Not only that, the ingredients or flavours of the ice cream might contain it too, such as peanut butter.

CAREFUL WITH INGREDIENTS AND FLAVOURS

As you’re probably well aware, there are tons of foods that can be a problem for dogs and some of them are used to flavour ice cream. Chocolate immediately springs to mind.

Chocolate can make your dog sick, but a big dog can probably manage a lick or two without any adverse effects. But just because a tiny amount won’t poison your dog, you definitely shouldn’t deliberately feed your dog chocolate ice cream or any ice cream with chunks of chocolate in.

The same goes for coffee-flavoured ice cream. Macadamia nuts are also toxic for dogs and could crop up in some flavours. Meanwhile, you should never share rum and raisin ice cream to your pooch because raisins are also toxic.

NOT IDEAL FOR SENSITIVE STOMACHS

Most dogs are lactose intolerant, which means eating a lot of ice cream will probably give them gas, stomach cramps, bloating, and even diarrhoea. A little bit might be fine, but it’s another reason to keep paw-tions small and as a special treat.

Dogs with sensitive stomachs might not be able to digest ice cream well either because of the high amounts of lactose, sugar, and fat. Meanwhile, some pups might even have a dairy allergy, in which case, feeding them ice cream is completely off the cards.

But don’t be dismayed, there are alternatives you can offer your pooch. You could take a look at some dairy-free brands which might be a bit easier for your dog to digest as there is no lactose. But, you still need to watch out for harmful ingredients and exercise moderation due to the levels of sugar and fat.

Alternatively, you could make your own home-made doggy ice cream which you know will be paw-fectly safe and a healthier option for your pooch.

MAKE YOUR OWN DOG-FRIENDLY ICE CREAM

Making ice cream for your dog is su-paw simple, and pretty quick and cheap too. You could simply freeze some yoghurt and that will be a tasty, cooling treat for your pooch to enjoy. But if you really want to spoil your pup, you could spruce it up with some dog-safe flavours like frozen berries, mashed banana, or even peanut butter.

You can try this peanut butter ice lolly that’s quick and easy to make, and your dog will go barking mad for.

If you want to make a healthy doggy treat, you could mash a banana and freeze that. Paw-haps add a few frozen blueberries too. It is still creamy and sweet, but it is natural, dog-friendly, and has some nutritional value.

You could make their frozen treat even healthier still by freezing Pure Pet Food in an ice-lolly mould. It will freeze like a popsicle and you know it is all-natural and healthy. You could feed your dog their normal dinner in this way to provide them with some paw-some enrichment and a way of cooling down on a hot day.

CAN DOGS EAT ICE CREAM CONES?

Probably not. Ice cream cones and wafers usually contain wheat and soya, which are both common allergens for canines. They might contain xylitol too, so you will need to check the label. But, provided your pup doesn’t have an allergy to any of the ingredients and there is nothing toxic in the recipe, your dog can probably eat a bite of your cone without any issues.

CAN DOGS EAT ICE LOLLIES?

Again, it’s not a healthy treat and could contain a lot of sugar or xylitol. Your dog can eat ice lollies if they have a lick or two as a special treat, but make sure to check there’s no harmful ingredients and definitely don’t feed them a whole lolly unless it’s a home-made one especially for your dog.

RECAP: CAN DOGS EAT ICE CREAM?

Your dog shouldn’t eat human ice cream in large amounts. A few licks on special occasions shouldn’t do them any harm though. However, there are healthier alternatives you could offer your pup.

Never feed them any ice-cream that has ingredients that are toxic to dogs, like coffee, chocolate, macadamia nuts, or xylitol. Meanwhile, it’s im-paw-tent to exercise moderation because ice cream has a lot of sugar and fat. Because of this, never let a dog with diabetes or pancreatitis eat ice cream.

Making your own dog-friendly ice cream is a better choice because you can control exactly what goes in, it should be easier to digest, and it could have higher nutritional value. That all means it’s safer for your pup to eat, and they can eat more of it too.

Or, let your dog tuck into a nutritionally balanced, complete meal such as Pure. Pure is packed with natural, nutritious ingredients for your dog to enjoy, whilst also being really tasty too.

Dr Andrew Miller BVSc MRCVS

Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS

Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.