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Is Ice Cream Safe For Dogs?

After a day at the beach, a “pup cup” from your favorite ice cream shop sounds like the perfect treat for your hot dog. That swirl of vanilla soft serve never fails to make them wag like crazy. But is ice cream really safe for dogs?

Can Ice Cream Be Toxic To Dogs?
Basic ice cream has three main ingredients: heavy cream, whole milk, and sugar. While these ingredients are not necessarily toxic to dogs, they can be dangerous in excess. The high fat content in ice cream can trigger an acute pancreatitis attack, even after just one moment of overindulgence.

The whole milk and heavy cream in most ice cream varieties are high in lactose, a type of sugar that many people and animals have trouble digesting. Those of us who are not lactose intolerant produce sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase to break down lactose.

Many dogs are lactose intolerant. As puppies, they produce lactase to help them digest their mother’s milk, but as they get older, their body may no longer make enough of the enzyme to enjoy dairy treats.

An intolerance, unlike an allergy, does not cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock. You can offer your dog a few licks of ice cream if you’re not sure if they’re lactose intolerant, and if they are, they may experience unpleasant but temporary digestive upset, e.g. gas and diarrhea.

Most “pup cups” offered by ice cream shops consist of basic ingredients plus vanilla. In small amounts, ice cream is a tasty, harmless treat for a healthy dog.

Giving Ice Cream Responsibly
While there is no particular safe serving size for dogs, you’ll generally want to limit your pup’s ice cream intake to 1-2 tablespoons for small dogs, and up to a quarter cup for large dogs. Ice cream shops usually make their “pup cups” way too big. It’s best to let your dog have a few licks and then toss the rest.

If you can, opt for low fat or fat free ice cream or frozen yogurt instead of a full-fat option. However, avoid “sugar free” ice cream varieties. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in some brands of sugar-free ice cream, including Nick’s, Pro-Yo, and WheyHey. It’s highly toxic to dogs, even in small amounts.

Alternatives To Ice Cream For Dogs
Your dog deserves a cool treat when they come inside on a hot day, but eating even small amounts of ice cream all summer long is bound to make a negative impact on their health. Try making special doggy ice cream so your dog can indulge risk-free.

Plain, unsweetened yogurt or kefir are great sources of calcium, potassium, and protein for dogs. Yogurt and kefir contain the lactase enzyme and they’re low in lactose, making them ideal even for dogs that have trouble digesting ice cream.

You can give plain yogurt and kefir straight from the fridge to cool off your hot dog, or freeze them into small containers to make puppy pops. For added flavor, blend in some fresh mint, berries, natural peanut butter, or carob chips.