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Can Dogs Eat Ice Cream?

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Author: Emma Chandley

A practising vet with over ten years of experience.

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Dogs can eat ice cream, and they certainly will, given half a chance, but they should not be fed ice cream for a few very good reasons.  

It is not known to be toxic or poisonous. However, after dogs are weaned from their mother’s milk, they lose the enzyme required to digest lactose in dairy products such as ice cream so they are unable to digest them properly. This means that consuming dairy products containing lactose is likely to lead to gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhoea. 

The second reason is that ice cream is usually made with a high sugar and fat content. Even a small amount will mean additional and unnecessary calories for your dog that can lead to unwanted weight gain and the health problems associated with that – including pancreatitis, diabetes, joint issues and dental disease. 

The third reason is that many ice creams contain extremely toxic substances for dogs. Popular flavours such as chocolate, rum, and raisin are extremely dangerous if ingested by your dog. Another hidden ingredient is xylitol which is a naturally occurring artificial sweetener.  This can be found in sugar-free or low-calorie ice cream, and it has a devastating effect on your dog’s blood sugar levels if consumed and can be fatal. 

Dog cooling off with ice cubes
Smooth Jack Russell Terrier 11 years old. Dog in heat summer quenches his thirst on an ice cube

Luckily there are some healthy frozen alternatives for your dog. Lots of pet shops now sell dog-friendly ice cream which is safe for your dog to consume. You can make your own frozen treats by freezing fruit or vegetables such as bananas or carrots and blending them. If your dog has health issues such as diabetes or is overweight, you can feed it plain ice cubes, as no extra calories will be added to your dog’s diet. 

Feeding frozen snacks on a hot day is a brilliant way of helping your dog to cool down. There is currently a lot of misinformation about feeding ice cubes to your dog. It will not harm them on a hot day.  If your dog is otherwise healthy, feeding ice cubes is a refreshing way to keep them cool and hydrated. If you are concerned your dog has heat stroke, contact your vet immediately. 

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