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Can Dogs Eat Ice Cream?

Are you wondering if your dog can eat ice cream? Veterinarian Hannah Godfrey discusses the potential health risks of this sweet dessert & what ingredients to avoid.

Dr. Hannah Godfrey

Last Updated: January 2, 2023 | 5 min read

Woman holding ice cream cone letting her dog lick it

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When the weather’s warm, many pet parents will enjoy an ice cream in the sun. But if your canine companion gives you the eyes and begs you to share, should you do it?

Naturally, we want to treat our pets, especially when they’ve been well-behaved or when spending time together making precious memories. But can dogs eat ice cream? Is it safe? Or could you be risking their health without realizing it?

Let’s find out about the risks of feeding your dog ice cream, whether there are any safe options, and what to do if your dog accidentally sneaks some.

Is Ice Cream Safe For Dogs To Eat?

The short answer is, if it’s human ice cream, you shouldn’t feed it to your dog. It’s full of fat and sugar, so it’s not good for their waistline. But the risks don’t end there. Not only could your dog become obese, but they could end up with other serious health problems like pancreatitis. Depending on the flavor, your dog could even become sick from toxic ingredients.

Are There Any Benefits To Feeding Your Dog Ice Cream?

In terms of their health, there are no benefits to feeding your dog ice cream. There are better, healthier sources of good fats, like oily fish, so the ice cream doesn’t provide any nutrition that your dog can’t get elsewhere. 

Health aside, perhaps the main benefit of offering your dog ice cream is the warm feeling you get when giving your dog something tasty that they enjoy as a special treat. Seeing our furry family members happy can make our bond with them stronger. But remember, there are plenty of other healthier ways to treat our dogs. 

You might also choose to give your dog ice cream or other frozen treats when the weather is warm as a method of cooling them down. Although avoiding heatstroke is important, giving your dog ice cream isn’t the best way to do it. You can try giving them ice cubes to play with, using a cool mat, or freezing their toys or treats.

What Are The Potential Health Risks Of Dogs Eating Ice Cream?

Fat small dog sitting
A slightly pudgy pet might not seem like the end of the world, but obesity can be a serious health issue.

Obesity

Ice cream is a high-fat, sugary snack. Even for humans, it’s meant to be an occasional treat rather than a dietary staple. Obesity puts extra strain on your dog’s joints and can lead to health conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

Upset Stomach

All dogs are lactose intolerant to some extent. It might be that your dog can handle a little bit of lactose without getting an upset tummy. However, many dogs will develop vomiting, diarrhea, or flatulence if they eat dairy products.

Pancreatitis

More concerning than an upset stomach is a condition called pancreatitis. The pancreas gland makes and releases enzymes that help with digestion. Fatty foods can cause the pancreas to become inflamed, leading to severe abdominal pain, reduced appetite, and vomiting. Pancreatitis is usually diagnosed with a blood test, and depending on the severity, your dog might need to be kept in the hospital for a few days of pain relief and fluids via a drip.

Chocolate Poisoning

The most concerning ice cream ingredient is chocolate. Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, which is toxic to dogs. Dark chocolate contains a lot of theobromine, so just a small amount can cause chocolate poisoning.

Although there is less theobromine in milk chocolate, if your dog eats a moderate amount, they can become very sick. Chocolate poisoning can alter the rate and rhythm of your dog’s heart and can cause seizures or even death. Early signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, panting, increased thirst, and peeing more frequently.

Poor Nutrition

It’s important that your dog eats a balanced diet containing all of the nutrients they need. Nutritionally complete dog food that is regulated will include the right amounts of various vitamins and minerals to keep your dog’s body healthy. If too much of the food they eat is human food titbits and treats, there’s a risk of causing a nutritional deficiency or imbalance. Therefore, to ensure they’re getting everything they need, at least 90% of your dog’s daily intake must be nutritionally complete dog food.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Has Eaten Ice Cream?

If your dog has eaten a small amount of human ice cream that doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients like chocolate, they’ll probably be okay. You should monitor them closely for any signs of being unwell, like vomiting, diarrhea, or belly pain. If they haven’t had ice cream before, it’s quite likely that they’ll get an upset stomach.

Feeding them a bland diet, like chicken and rice or scrambled egg, for a few days may help if the symptoms are mild. However, if your dog seems unwell in themselves, isn’t eating or drinking, or is passing blood, you should contact a veterinarian right away.

If your dog has eaten a large amount of ice cream, or if they have eaten ice cream containing chocolate, you should call your veterinarian right away for advice.

Are There Any Types Of Ice Cream That Are Safe For Dogs?

Now you know that human ice cream isn’t a great choice for your furry friend, you might be wondering whether there are any safer alternatives. There are many brands of doggy ice cream that are less risky and slightly healthier than the human version. Many contain less lactose and are lower in sugar. Fruity ingredients or added health supplements mean that they could benefit your dog’s joints, skin, and overall health. However, even though these products are healthier than giving your dog human ice cream, they should still be given in moderation as an occasional treat.

Pooch Creamery Birthday Cake Flavor Ice Cream Mix Dog Treat

Pooch Creamery Birthday Cake Flavor Ice Cream Mix Dog Treat
  • Made in the USA.
  • Only 5 ingredients.
  • Made with lactose-free, whole milk for easy digestion.
  • Easy to store shelf-stable powder.
  • Comes in a variety of flavors (birthday cake, vanilla, watermelon).
  • Just add water and freeze when you’re ready to treat your pup.
ViewonChewy.com

Frequently Asked Questions

Hand letting spotted dog lick ice cream cone outside on the grass
It’s not advised to share your ice cream with your dog, no matter how tempting it is!

What Kind Of Ice Cream Can Dogs Eat?

Even ice cream made for dogs contains some lactose, meaning that your dog might get an upset stomach. Most dogs can eat a small amount of dog ice cream occasionally as a treat, but there are many healthier alternatives.

Can I Let My Dog Lick My Ice Cream?

It’s best not to let your dog lick your ice cream. Human ice cream can cause pancreatitis or an upset stomach when fed to dogs. You’ll also risk picking up nasty bugs or parasites from your dog’s mouth.

What Happens If A Dog Eats Vanilla Ice Cream?

Vanilla ice cream doesn’t contain toxic ingredients but is still high in sugar, fat, and lactose. If your dog eats some, they might develop vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, or a painful tummy. If your dog is unwell after eating ice cream, you should call your veterinarian for advice.

Final Thoughts

Ice cream isn’t a good choice for your dog, even if it doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients. Although the occasional lick is unlikely to do too much harm, it could still upset your dog’s tummy or, if they’re sensitive, give them a painful bout of pancreatitis. Given more frequently, even dog-safe ice cream could lead to health complications associated with an expanding waistline, like diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis. So, if you want to treat your four-legged friend, why not reach for something lower in calories and more dog-friendly?

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety or care advice. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, insurance expert, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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