Ice cream is one of man’s favorite cold treats. In fact, it is such a big hit that he’s very much willing to share this passion with his four-legged best friend. You may have seen YouTube videos and other clips of pet owners sharing an ice cream cone with their respective hounds, mimicking the scene of the Walt Disney animated classic Lady and the Tramp. But the big question remains, can dogs eat this cold delight?
Can They or Can’t They Have Ice Cream?
The answer is not really straightforward, unfortunately. Staunch supporters of animal welfare will tell you that no human food – and that includes ice creams – is ever safe for dogs. Why? Well, our digestive systems are quite different, although they might be structurally similar. There are some digestive enzymes that allow us to easily process the ingredients in ice cream. Unfortunately, some of these enzymes may be insufficient or worse, absent in dogs.
However, there are also those who say that giving ice cream to dogs as an occasional treat should be perfectly safe. Regrettably, we do have this tendency to have different ideas as to what can constitute “occasional”. For some it may be once a week and it will still be considered ‘occasional’. Some may even consider once a month or once every 6 months ‘occasional’.
Given that we cannot agree on how best to define ‘occasional’ treating is, let’s try to look at the risks involved when you suddenly realize and began muttering to yourself, “my dog ate ice cream, what should I do now?”
What’s the Risk in Giving Ice Cream to Dogs?
The principal risk in giving ice creams to dogs is the use of milk as a major ingredient. You might wonder why most dogs cannot digest lactose in dairy products like milk when they grew up nursing from their mother’s milk. The thing is in the composition of the milk. Dog’s milk is formulated specifically for dogs, allowing puppies to easily digest the lactose present in this type of milk.
Unfortunately, the milk that is used in ice creams is not exactly dog’s milk but rather cow’s milk or even goat’s milk. It’s still milk, but some of the components may not be easily digested by the dog’s intestines. Dogs may have the enzyme lactase that will break down lactose in milk. However, because of the slightly different composition of the milk, problems may occur related to the poorly-digested lactose.
In such cases, your dog may show signs of abdominal tenderness or pain usually as a manifestation of stomach upset. There may also be loose, watery stools, nausea, vomiting, and even bloating. If you observe any of these signs within 30 minutes to about 2 hours after giving your dog ice cream, then there’s a chance that your hound is lactose-intolerant. Ice cream is definitely a big no-no for your furry friend even though you give it only very small amounts.
Then there’s also the issue of sugar in ice cream. Too much sugar can increase your dog’s risk of diabetes. And if you find yourself asking can dogs eat ice cream cones these, too, contain mostly sugar. Some manufacturers of ice creams will typically address the sugary issue by using artificial sweeteners like xylitol instead. This is again a big no-no among dogs as it is considered a toxic substance.
Lastly, there’s also the issue related to the use of flavorings or other ingredients. Chocolates, raisins, and certain nuts are harmful to your dog. If you happen to give your dog a chocolate-flavored ice cream, you’re essentially courting muscle tremors, irregular heartbeat, diarrhea, and internal bleeding. And if your dog happened to finish a whole gallon of chocolate ice cream, it might suffer a heart attack.
How about Homemade Ice Cream?
Since the main reason ice creams should never be given to dogs is the use of certain ingredients that might endanger your dog, there are healthier alternatives. Instead of asking “where can I buy dog ice cream?” you will have a much better chance of making this delectable treat yourself.
First, you will need to find a healthier substitute for milk. Unsweetened yogurt is one of the best alternatives to milk. It’s also rich in calcium and phosphorus as well as healthy versions of fats. Plus, there are lots of proteins in yogurt. Perhaps, what makes yogurt such a worthy alternative is the presence of probiotic microorganisms which can help improve your dog’s digestion, boost the functioning of its immune system, and pave the way for a host of other benefits. This is not to say that your dog may not be intolerant to yogurt. It is, after all, still a dairy product.
Secondly, focus on all-natural flavorings. Bananas are good sources of potassium, fiber, and other nutrients that your dog will love. It’s perfect for maintaining optimum kidney and heart function. They are naturally sweet, too, so there’s no need to add sugar. Apples are also an excellent choice. They’re packed with antioxidants and fiber. Just don’t include the seeds and the core when you process apples and turn it into a delicious ice cream you can share with your dog.
Other excellent fruit selections include blueberries, cranberries, mangoes, pineapples, watermelons, and strawberries, among others. What you need to remember is to use only those fruits that have natural sweetness and come packed with nutrients that your dog can benefit from.
Alternatives to Ice Cream
If you’re not really fond of making ice creams yourself or you don’t know how, you can also make ice cream alternatives. For instance, you can make frozen yogurt. Simply pour your chosen dog-safe yogurt into popsicle molds, prop a wooden stick, and put in your freezer to solidify.
You can also make all-natural fruit juices and pour this into your ice cube tray. Once solidified, you can pour the fruity ice cubes in your pet’s water bowl and watch it lick with delight.
It’s perfectly okay to treat our dogs to an ice cream once every 3 months or so and it should be in small amounts only. But if your dog has lactose intolerance, giving your pet ice cream is never a good idea.