You know the saying, “You scream, I scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM!” Well, dogs howl for it, too. Try eating an ice cream cone or a cup of your favorite frozen dessert with your dog nearby and you may have to shoo him away. Can dogs eat ice cream? Is it a healthy treat for your dog? Ice cream is (usually) a frozen dairy product so what if your dog is lactose-intolerant? We will answer these questions when we take a look at ice cream nutrition below.
There are all kinds of ice cream so it can be hard to pin down the nutritional value of this popular snack. We’ll look at the nutritional values for vanilla ice cream since this might be the kind that you choose to share with your dog.
Ice cream contains about 7 percent protein, 48 percent fats, and 45 percent carbohydrates. It’s low in sodium. However, it’s high in saturated fat and a large portion of the calories come from sugars. It also contains quite a bit of cholesterol.
One-half cup serving (66 grams) contains only small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Ice cream does contain several kinds of B vitamins, especially riboflavin. It contains some vitamin A. It also contains a fair amount of calcium and phosphorus.
On the down side, ice cream has lots of calories, sugar, and fat.
Low-fat and no sugar added ice cream usually contain about the same number of calories as regular and premium ice creams but they do have less fat and sugar. The no sugar added ice creams may contain artificial sugars.
Some of the ingredients previously used in ice cream have recently been banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These ingredients include artificial flavorings such as benzophenone which were associated with cancer in animal studies.
Artificial food dyes, which are approved by the FDA, are also used in some ice creams. Some research has linked these dyes to behavior problems in children and to hyperactivity.
Guar gum and carrageenan, which are common thickeners and stabilizing agents in foods, are frequently used in ice creams. These ingredients are approved as safe by the FDA but there is some research that suggests they can irritate the stomach and cause gas and bloating. It’s very difficult to find ice creams that don’t contain these ingredients.
When choosing ice cream to buy, read the label and look at the ingredients. Choose products that have ingredients you recognize such as cream, milk, cocoa, and vanilla beans. Products with chemicals and unpronounceable names can be problematic.
Should You Give Your Dog Ice Cream?
There are a couple of reasons why you should be careful about giving your dog ice cream. Some dogs (not all) are lactose-intolerant. This means that some dogs lack the enzyme necessary to digest the lactose in certain dairy products, especially if those dairy products contain a lot of lactose. One-half cup of ice cream usually has about 6 grams of lactose. That’s more lactose than is found in a serving of yogurt, cottage cheese, or one-ounce cubes of Cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, or American cheese. It’s less lactose than is found in a one-cup serving of whole or skim milk. So, depending on how lactose-intolerant your dog is, you might be able to let him have a little ice cream. If he can eat cottage cheese without difficulty, he could probably eat a little ice cream. If milk bothers him, you might want to be careful about giving him much ice cream.
If your dog is lactose-intolerant and ice cream upsets his stomach you can expect some gas, minor bloating, possible diarrhea, and possible vomiting. Most dogs are just a little gassy. The episode shouldn’t last after your dog has gotten the ice cream out of his system.
If your dog is very naughty and manages to steal and eat an entire tub of ice cream, you can expect a lot of diarrhea, bloating, vomiting, and probably some whining. Call your veterinarian, especially if the ice cream is chocolate or contains other ingredients that might cause problems.
Ice cream is also high in sugar and fat. If your dog is diabetic or overweight, you should avoid giving him ice cream. Even if you buy sugar-free ice cream or ice cream that is low in fat, you need to check the ingredients. Make sure the product doesn’t contain an artificial sweetener such as xylitol which is toxic to dogs.
Sugary desserts can also be bad for your dog’s teeth, leading to dental disease. Many dogs have problems with tooth decay, especially if their teeth aren’t brushed regularly or if your veterinarian doesn’t check them for disease.
You should also avoid giving your dog certain flavors of ice cream such as chocolate, coffee (mocha, etc.), and raisin; and ice creams with some kinds of nuts (macadamia). Nutmeg is also dangerous for dogs. All of these flavors can be harmful to dogs so check the ingredients.
Fruit-flavored ice creams could be a good option but fruits can be high in sugar.
Overall, the safest ice cream to give your dog, in small amounts, is usually plain vanilla. You can give it to your dog in a small cup or let your dog eat it from a cone. Many people buy soft-serve vanilla ice cream for their dog at the drive-thru window of a fast food restaurant when they buy something for themselves. This is a popular reward for a dog when you’re coming home from an obedience or agility class.
How Much Ice Cream Can You Give Your Dog?
Ice cream is a special treat. With the sugar and fat it contains, you shouldn’t give your dog very much. For most dogs, one-half cup serving is plenty.
If you are concerned about the ingredients in ice cream, you can make a delicious substitute for your dog using yogurt, some pureed bananas, and a little honey. Blend it all together and pour into small paper cups or into an ice cube tray. Let them freeze for a few hours. Dogs love these cool treats. You can also substitute a different fruit for the bananas such as pumpkin, pineapple, or berries. Applesauce makes another delicious ingredient to add.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Ice Cream?
If you dog can eat ice cream without any gastrointestinal upset, you could let him have a small serving of ice cream about once per week. If you give him ice cream more often the fat and sugar contents would probably start to affect his weight.
Ice cream is not the healthiest treat for your dog but as long as your dog isn’t terribly lactose-intolerant you can let him have a small serving occasionally. Be sure to read the label and check the ingredients so you can avoid harmful things such as xylitol, chocolate, raisins, nutmeg, coffee, and macadamia nuts. Try making your own homemade cool treats for your dog with yogurt, bananas, and honey.