Eva-Katalin / Getty
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! This sweet, chilly treat is one of the best (and tastiest) ways for us humans to beat the heat. And while we may be able to enjoy an ice cream cone—or entire gallon—if we'd like, you may wonder if you can share a scoop with your pooch.
That brings us to the burning question: can dogs eat ice cream? Technically, yes. But just because they can doesn't mean they should.
Can Dogs Eat Ice Cream Safely?
With top ice cream brands like Ben & Jerry's releasing their own dog-friendly ice cream, it's natural to think you can feed it to your pup however often as long as it's specifically dog ice cream. Well, not quite.
"Some dogs may tolerate the dairy OK, but a lot of dogs will not," says Laura Robinson, DVM and veterinary advisor to Pawp. "In general, dogs are more sensitive to dairy than we are, and it wouldn't be a part of their normal diet in the wild."
If fed ice cream, your dog may experience:
Robinson advises to feed in closely monitored amounts if it's unknown whether your dog is sensitive to fat, sodium, or the specific dietary ingredients in ice cream.
"If they like it and it causes no problems, great," she says. "If they don't like it or don't tolerate it, stop feeding it."
What Kind of Ice Cream Can Dogs Eat?
Ice cream itself is not toxic to dogs. Although, it becomes more dangerous to feed when there are adventurous flavors and toppings involved.
So, what kind of ice cream is safe for dogs?
If you would really like to share some ice cream with your pal, stick with plain vanilla or a fruit-flavored sorbet. Give just a small amount to gauge how your dog tolerates it.
When Is Ice Cream Bad for Dogs to Eat?
There are several situations where dogs and ice cream are a bad combination.
First and foremost, ice cream should not be fed if your dog has health issues.
"In general, it [ice cream] is not recommended," Robinson says. Ice cream should especially be avoided if your dog has a history of gastrointestinal issues, such as vomiting, diarrhea, picky appetite, and soft stool, she adds.
Even if your dog is the healthiest pup, there are flavors of ice cream that are dangerous for your dog to eat. Flavors you should absolutely steer clear of include chocolate, coffee, green tea, and anything sugar-free. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine—which can lead to chocolate poisoning. Coffee and green tea are also high in caffeine, which dogs cannot have. Anything sugar-free may contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that is toxic to dogs. Additionally, ice cream that contains grapes or raisins (poisonous for dogs) and various nuts (high in fat) should be avoided.
Assuming your dog can tolerate plain ol' vanilla ice cream, it may be tempting to add toppings, like whipped cream and marshmallows, for a truly special treat. However, you should skip the toppings and feed ice cream plain to prevent your pup from piling up on the sugar and extra calories.
Ice cream may also be bad for Fido to eat if he's lactose intolerant. As previously mentioned, dogs' bodies can't process lactose like we humans can. Signs your dog may be lactose intolerant include gas, bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Even if your dog isn't lactose intolerant, ice cream contains loads of sugar and excess calories that your dog can do without—no matter their breed, health, and size; this is especially true if you have a smaller sized dog. While our bodies can generally tolerate ice cream, your dog may get sick from the excess calories and sugar.
Healthier Treats to Share With Your Dog Instead of Ice Cream
Now, ice cream isn't the healthiest treat out there (for us or our canine companion). Fortunately, there are plenty of healthier alternatives you can feed your dog.
Robinson recommends treating your dog to:
Italian frozen ice (a special occasion treat)
Non-fat plain yogurt
Fat-free cream cheese
Fruits (e.g. blueberries, blackberries, peaches, pears, or apples)
These healthy and delicious treats (in moderation of course) will have your dog literally begging for more!
How to Make Dog Ice Cream
Homemade dog ice cream is a nutritious alternative to store-bought since you know exactly what you're feeding your four-legged friend. The best part? This is ice cream you two can actually share.
1 cup plain Greek nonfat yogurt
1 ½ large banana, sliced
Combine all ingredients in a blender.
Wait until completely mixed. Consistency should be creamy and smooth.
Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze for at least two hours.
Pop them out of the tray and serve when you want!
You can customize this recipe and add peanut butter, honey, or another fruit your pup would prefer. Bon appétit!