Can Dogs Eat Ice Cream?

Dogs like ice cream, but it's not a good idea to let them indulge.
Dogs like ice cream, but it's not a good idea to let them indulge. / Kkolosov/iStock via Getty Images

Summer has arrived, which means hearing the familiar ding of ice cream trucks patrolling neighborhoods and stops at local ice cream parlors. If you happen to be accompanied by a pet, eating a vanilla cone can bring some forlorn looks and shameless pleading. Some pet owners take the bait and pick up a treat for their dog. But is it really good for them?

In general, the answer is no. Obviously, puppies tolerate their mother’s milk just fine. But the enzyme that permits that disappears in adulthood, and they become lactose intolerant.

Feeding them a couple of scoops could result in digestive upset, from some mild gas to the far more unpleasant diarrhea and vomiting.

It’s not just dairy. Depending on the flavor, ice cream can also contain ingredients that can prompt even more serious reactions in dogs. Real sugar isn’t well-tolerated—it can promote weight gain—and a sugar substitute like xylitol is actually toxic. So is chocolate. The caffeine in coffee or tea-flavored ice cream can also prompt a bad reaction, and the same goes for varieties that include macadamia nuts or raisins. All of these ingredients are bad for dogs on their own and might be easily overlooked when handing them a cone or popsicle to lick.

If you want to give your dog a cool treat, there are other options. Blending and freezing bananas can make for a safe snack; so can fat-free plain (not sweetened or frozen) yogurt. You can also track down ice cream made specifically for dogs. Ben & Jerry’s has two flavors, the pumpkin-flavored Rosie’s Batch and the peanut-butter-and-pretzel Pontch’s Mix, available at retailers. They use sunflower seed butter instead of dairy, though they do contain sugar.

If you happen to be enjoying some regular ice cream and spill some, a tiny amount gobbled up by your dog shouldn’t be of huge concern. But handing over a bowl means you’ll probably be cleaning up a much bigger mess later on.

[h/t The Spruce Pets]