9 min read

Should I Give My Dog Ice Cream?

What you need to know before sharing that scoop🍦

can dogs eat ice cream

You and your dog do everything together, so of course you want to indulge in some ice cream with him.

It’s pretty common for ice cream shops to offer deals for dogs — aka some vanilla goodness for your pup to lap up — but is it actually OK for him to eat?

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Cristina Bustamante, an associate veterinarian with Caring Hands Animal Hospital in Florida and founder of Dr. B Vet, to find out what happens when your dog eats ice cream.

Can dogs eat ice cream?

In general, dairy products are typically a no-go for your pup.

It is best to avoid giving dairy products such as ice cream to dogs,” Dr. Bustamante told The Dodo.

It turns out that dogs really struggle with digesting dairy.

“As puppies, they can digest milk,” Dr. Bustamante explained. “But after being weaned from their mom’s milk, dogs no longer digest milk as well.”

On top of dairy digestion issues, the other ingredients in ice cream could pose problems for your pup, too.

“Ice cream contains large amounts of sugar, which can lead to obesity and make it even harder to help him lose those extra pounds that your vet probably told you about,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Most importantly, ice cream has tons of fat! Sudden small changes in the fat content of your dog’s diet can cause big health problems.”

Can dogs eat vanilla ice cream, though?

There are some ice cream shops that have some sort of “doggy special,” which turns out to be just a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

So that begs the question: Is vanilla ice cream OK for your dog to eat?

“Vanilla flavor is a safer option compared to other very dangerous flavors such as chocolate, coffee, raisins and any ‘sugar-less’ flavors with artificial sweeteners,” Dr. Bustamante said.

But that’s because all those other flavors mentioned are toxic to your dog.

So, yes, vanilla ice cream is definitely a better bet, but it’s still loaded up with fat, sugar and dairy, so it should only be a super occasional treat.

And, obviously, only if you know your dog’s system will be able to handle it.

Can dogs eat whipped cream?

When it comes to whipped cream, a small portion won’t be dangerous for your dog, but it’s still kind of bad for him (for the same reasons ice cream is).

Since whipped cream also contains dairy, sugar and fat, your pup could wind up with an upset stomach, so it’s important that you only give him a little bit every once in a while.

“Make sure to give very small amounts occasionally, and keep in mind the small amount is relative to the size of your dog,” Dr. Bustamante explained. “An espresso cup of whipped cream might seem like a small amount for a German shepherd, but it is way too much for your small Yorkshire terrier!”

Definitely consider that the next time you order your BFF a Puppuccino from Starbucks.

How does ice cream affect dogs?

It’s pretty clear at this point that the main issue with giving your dog ice cream is that it can cause digestive issues, and those symptoms might not even show up for a couple days.

Mild effects include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite

“In these cases, you can offer your dog his regular food or add boiled rice [or] chicken without seasoning and oils,” Dr. Bustamante said.

But sometimes these symptoms can be more serious than just a tummy ache, like:

  • Ongoing vomiting
  • Ongoing diarrhea
  • Not eating (which can cause dehydration)

If these symptoms are constant, that’s when you definitely need to go to the vet.

“Your veterinarian will probably run lab tests such as bloodwork to find if your pet has pancreatitis,” Dr. Bustamante explained. “When too much fat is given, [like when] eating ice cream, the pancreas has to work harder and becomes inflamed. Pancreatitis is painful and can lead to serious hospitalizations and, in very severe cases, even death.”

Dog ice cream treats and alternatives

If your dog has been blessed with a strong stomach, it’s OK to give him a tiny bit on rare occasions.

But if you’re bummed about not being able to split a scoop of ice cream with your BFF all the time, there are other sweet treat options for your pup.

A bunch of companies actually make ice cream designed specifically for dogs — just keep your eye on that ingredients list and test these treats out in small doses.

“You can try dog-specific ice creams; just make sure that you start with tiny amounts to see how they do,” Dr. Bustamante said.

Like this ice cream mix from Chewy for $14.99

If you want to take things super easy on your dog’s stomach, you could always freeze bananas for a safer alternative with a similar sweet taste.

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