Ice Cream For Dogs: When It’s Safe And When It’s Not

can dogs eat ice cream

The Internet’s loaded with cute photos of dogs sharing their owners’ ice cream. You may have even given your dog a lick at one point or another. But …

… is ice cream a safe treat for dogs?

In general, ice cream is safe as an occasional treat.

But before you share yours, there are some important cautions you need to take. Otherwise, your dog could get very sick.

When Not To Feed Your Dog Ice Cream

While some ice cream flavors, like vanilla, should be okay for most dogs … there are some situations when ice cream should be put on the “NO” list.

Here are 3 situations when you should avoid ice cream.

1. Your Dog Is Lactose Intolerant

To digest foods, your dog needs digestive enzymes. They break down the food and help your dog’s body absorb nutrients.

Ice cream’s made from dairy, which means it contains lactose (a milk sugar).

To break down lactose into simple sugars … your dog needs a digestive enzyme called lactase.

Dogs do produce lactase. But like some humans, it’s not always enough to digest the lactose. And that can cause an intolerance that leads to digestive upset and symptoms like …

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Cramps

If this is the first time your dog has had dairy or ice cream, start slow to see how his body reacts.

2. Ice Cream Has Dangerous Ingredients

Some ice cream flavors are very dangerous for your dog … especially chocolate ice cream or products with chocolate chunks. If your dog gets a toxic dose of chocolate it could lead to

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle tremors
  • Hyperactivity
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Heart failure
  • Death

But chocolate isn’t the only flavor that can make your dog sick.

Coffee flavored ice cream contains caffeine. And too much caffeine can lead to symptoms like chocolate toxicity … as well as seizure or collapse.

The risks increase when there are whole coffee beans in the ice cream.

You also want to watch for products that contain certain nuts (like macadamia) or raisins. They are also toxic to dogs.

RELATED: We Know Grapes Are Bad For Dogs … But Why? …

3. Your Dog Doesn’t Need Added Sugars

So … you’re confident that your dog isn’t sensitive to lactose. And you’ve chosen a flavor of ice cream that doesn’t contain any dangerous ingredients.

There’s still one more reason why you may decide not to share ice cream with your dog. And that’s sugar.

While ice cream can be a safe treat, you want to watch how much you give your dog. Too much sugar in your dog’s diet can cause him to gain weight. It can also lead to health problems like …

  • Dental disease
  • Metabolic disease
  • Diabetes

The Glycemic Load Of Ice Cream
Different carbohydrates affect blood sugar differently. To determine the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar, people with diabetes look at 1 of 2 numbers.

Glycemic index (GI) – how much the food raises your blood sugar. The higher the number, the faster your blood sugar rises after you eat the food. A GI of 55 or less is low.

The problem with glycemic index is that it looks at a comparable portion of carbs in foods. It’s usually 50g of carbs.

For carrots, 50 grams of carbs would be 4 cups of carrots. 50 grams of carbs would also be 2 oz of cotton candy. That’s where glycemic load comes in.

Glycemic load (GL) – provides a fuller picture of the food’s actual effect on your blood sugar by looking at the planned portion size. A GL of 10 or less is low. This is an effective way to compare foods.

To give some perspective, let’s look at glycemic load of common pet food starches and ice cream.

White Rice … 44
Brown Rice … 29
Corn … 19
Tapioca … 17
Vanilla Ice Cream … 3

If you were choosing between these 5 foods as a snack … the small portion of ice cream would be less likely to create a sharp rise in blood sugar. That’s because ice cream is mostly fat, which doesn’t spike blood sugar! Not to mention you probably won’t give your dog a full portion … just a couple of licks.

So really, a lick here or there isn’t a concern for your dog. Just don’t give him too much too often.

Artificial Sweeteners
While it may seem like a good idea to grab a sugar free brand the next time you’re at the store … that could cause even bigger problems.

Some sweeteners can be dangerous. Just look at xylitol.

Xylitol is very toxic to dogs.

When dogs eat xylitol, it gets absorbed into their bloodstream very quickly. This causes a rapid release of insulin that decreases the blood sugar level. This could lead to hypoglycemia and that can be life-threatening.

RELATED: What’s So Dangerous About Xylitol For Dogs? …

Is Frozen Yogurt Safe For Dogs?

Frozen yogurt can be a good choice because there’s less lactose. But even yogurt can be enough to trigger digestive upset in some lactose intolerant dogs.

It can also be high in sugar or have life-threatening sweeteners and ingredients … so make sure you read the label first.

RELATED: Here’s Why Yogurt Is Not A Good Probiotic For Your Dog …

Safe DIY Frozen Treats For Dogs

If you’re on the hunt for a tasty frozen treat for your dog and would prefer to pass on the ice cream … there are other healthy options for you to try.

Nice Cream
Nice cream is a dairy-free treat you can make at home. Usually it’s banana based, but you can use any frozen fruit.

But remember, if you share it with your dog … make sure the ingredients you use are safe for him.

To make nice cream, you simply put frozen fruit into a blender, food processor or ice cream machine. Break it all down until it has a cream-like texture.

Feed it straight out of the blender or freeze it in a freezer safe tray to scoop later. (You may have to let it thaw for a few minutes before you serve it).

This can be a great treat for your whole family. It offers all the nutrients of fruit … and it’s free of dairy, added sugars and artificial sweeteners.

Don’t go overboard though … fruit’s still full of natural sugars, so this dessert is best as a treat.  

Raw Cubes
There are tons of great recipes online for dog safe frozen treats made with raw ingredients.

One easy recipe is this broth and apple treat from Savor + Savvy (with a few modifications) …

What You Need

  • Sliced organic apples (make sure there are no seeds)
  • Organic chicken broth or bone broth
  • Ice cube tray


  1. Add a couple chunks of apple to each of the ice cube tray compartments
  2. Top off with chicken broth
  3. Freeze

Frozen Fruit
Frozen fruit is one of the easiest treats you can give your dog on a hot summer’s day.

Some safe fruits for dogs include:

Or better yet, toss your four-legged friend some frozen veggies. They’re also full of nutrients and they contain less sugar.

  • Broccoli
  • Green Beans
  • Asparagus
  • Carrots

RELATED: 11 Reasons To Feed Your Dog Fruits And Vegetables …

So before you let your dog grab a lick of that ice cream … consider whether there’s a better option to keep him cool and healthy this summer.

And remember … before you share any homemade treats, confirm that the ingredients are safe for your dog. That’ll help to avoid digestive upset and any other problems the food could cause him.

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Recipe Cards for Making Raw Dog Food

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