Ice cream is cold and sweet, and comes in just about any flavor imaginable. It's impossible to imagine anyone not liking ice cream, and it's even more impossible to imagine a hot summer day without an ice cream cone or bowl. When you're out with your dog at a barbecue or just want to relax in a nice outdoor cafe, it might be tempting to give your dog a lick of your ice cream, or maybe even her own bowl.
You might have even seen adorable videos showing how much dogs actually seem to love ice cream. But what's the scoop on feeding this to your pets? Can dogs eat ice cream?
Where does ice cream come from?
The International Dairy Foods Association tells us that the first ice cream might have been snow flavored with honey or fruit juices in about 200 BC. Wide availability of ice cream in America didn't occur until the industrial revolution fueled mechanical refrigeration and electric motors. In modern times, we typically use cow milk to make ice cream, not snow. But it's not as simple as just freezing milk.
Can dogs eat ice cream?
There are many foods that dogs should not eat. The AKC says small amounts of ice cream as a treat may not be hazardous. But when you add in other health issues such as obesity or diabetes, and even that lick of ice cream could be a problem.
The AKC says that small amounts of milk, such as a few tablespoons, can be a nice treat or reward. However, more than a few tablespoons could be too much. And, the amount of treat milk or ice cream you give your dog could depend a lot on your dog's size. Too much milk can lead to unpleasant gas, diarrhea, or vomiting.
What are the concerns with feeding ice cream to dogs?
One problem is that ice cream can contain many other ingredients besides milk that are toxic to dogs, such as xylitol, an artificial sweetener. If the ice cream contains other ingredient mix-ins such as candy or baked goods, this can increase the list of items that dogs should not be eating.
Chocolate is one of them, according to VCA Hospitals. A dog would have to eat an awful lot of chocolate for it to be fatal, but still, even a small amount can cause significant illness due to the chemical called theobromine, as well as caffeine.
Secondly, humans are the only species that continues to drink milk after we have grown up from the infant stage. For this reason, animals' bodies, including those of dogs, are not designed to properly digest milk. The American Kennel Club says that eating milk or dairy product-containing foods can cause dogs to experience gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs
The Merck Veterinary Manual explains that xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is used as a sweetener in many products such as gums, candies, and baked goods that are marketed as sugar-free. This chemical has been shown to lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and even liver injury or failure, although this is less common. Dogs seem to be the only animals which are affected by xylitol.
Merck says that signs of hypoglycemia can develop within 30 minutes or up to 18 hours in the case of something that is slow to release, such as chewing gum. Signs of hypoglycemia include:
- muscle weakness (hypokalemia)
If your dog shows signs of liver injury, that may not appear until eight hours or up to four days after ingestion of xylitol. Signs of liver injury include:
- jaundice (icterus)
- excessive bleeding (coagulopathy)
It can be hard to keep track of foods that are safe for dogs and foods that aren't. Sometimes, harmful ingredients can be hidden in foods that you might not expect. Although one spoonful or lick of ice cream may not seriously harm your dog, the outcome depends on the size of your dog, his general health, allergies, or other things within your dog's health that you might not think of.
Plus, giving your dog a treat makes them want more, so if your dog really likes ice cream, it could lead to behaviors such as begging which you might want to avoid. When all of the issues are considered together, it is best that you not give your dog ice cream or any candy high in fat and sugar or other questionable ingredients. For more detailed information, check out our list of everything dogs can and cannot eat.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.