Sometimes to beat the heat, we load up the old dog and head to the ice cream stand! The question of whether or not owners can feed their dogs ice cream comes up a lot. And since, in this family at least, we enjoy ice cream year round, I think it’s worth answering this frequently asked question.
The short answer is that, yes, your dog can probably enjoy a little bit of ice cream from time to time. BUT, there are several caveats that go with that answer, because not all ice cream is OK for your dog to eat and not all dogs can handle ice cream.
Ice cream is, of course, a dairy product. It’s made from milk and cream, and these are two things that your dog probably can’t digest very well. Most dogs, like many humans, are lactose intolerant, meaning that they lack the enzyme lactase, whose job it is to break down lactose into smaller, easily digestible parts.
That means that some dogs have gastrointestinal consequences from indulging in dairy products like ice cream — gas, diarrhea and vomiting (sometimes severe) can be the result. If you know that your dog is lactose intolerant, it’s best to stay away from ice cream.
But if your dog can handle it, I think it’s fine to give him a little bit of ice cream every once in a while, as long as it’s an ice cream that’s safe for him. Remember: there are several things that we as humans can eat safely, but are dangerous (and potentially deadly) to dogs. In the case of ice cream, my biggest concerns are the artificial sweetener xylitol and rum ice cream’s best friend, the raisin. Both xylitol and raisins are life-threatening to dogs if ingested, even in small amounts.
A lesser concern is chocolate, as there likely isn’t a high enough chocolate content in ice cream to be dangerous to even little dogs, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
Because ice cream is a sweet treat and comes with a high calorie count, it should be considered an occasional treat if it agrees with your dog’s digestive system.
If lactose is a problem for your pooch but she’s feeling left out, consider fruit juice popsicles. Watch for artificial sweeteners before you dole them out, and be sure to keep track of the popsicle stick!