Dog owners often love sharing their food with their furry friends, and while most of the time it’s fairly safe to do so, sometimes you might just wonder if it’s really ok to give your puppy certain types of human foods.
While it’s always best to give your dog a well-balanced healthy diet, small sweet treats from time to time should be ok. Right? This brings up the question.
Can dogs have vanilla ice cream? Like all mammals, dogs start life nursing milk from their mother. However, like humans and other species, dogs can lose their ability to digest milk as they grow older.
This problem is caused by lactose intolerance. Lactose is the name for the kind of sugar naturally present in milk, which is normally broken down in the body by an enzyme called lactase. When lactase is deficient or absent, the milk cannot be properly digested and this can result in the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain and cramps
Dogs and Dairy Products
Some dogs can tolerate milk. Given in moderation of an ounce or less at a time, it’s an acceptable treat as long as the animal shows no signs of discomfort from lactose intolerance. There are even commercially available milk products intended for cats and dogs. These products are lactose-free and can be given to all dogs who enjoy milk.
Even dogs who cannot tolerate milk can still sometimes eat cheese and yogurt because these items have undergone fermentation processes that increase the digestibility of the milk they are made from. As for vanilla ice cream, while it’s not really a healthy treat for dogs, it’s probably alright in small quantities and with strict moderation. Keep reading to find out more.
Is it Safe to Give Your Dog Vanilla Ice Cream?
Vanilla ice cream is not an advisable type of food for a dog. Lactose intolerance aside, it’s high in sugar and fat and may contribute to weight gain, tooth decay, pancreatitis, doggie diabetes, and other health problems.
Vanilla bean ice cream is a popular flavor for people, but even vanilla can be a hazard for dogs. The vanilla beans themselves are harmless, but extracts prepared from them are typically high in alcohol, which is also toxic to dogs. Vanilla extracts can contain as much as one-third alcohol by volume.
Even sugar-free ice creams are potentially dangerous to canines because some of them contain the sweetener xylitol. Also popular in sugar-free gums and mints, xylitol is safe for humans but highly poisonous to dogs and can cause liver failure.
Additionally, certain popular ice cream flavors, especially chocolate ice cream, are toxic to dogs. Coffee flavored ice cream or is cream with macadamia nuts could also harm your dog. While it’s not a toxic ingredient, cinnamon, another fairly common ice cream flavoring, can irritate your dog’s mouth and throat due to its strong volatile oils.
While a lick or two of vanilla bean ice cream is unlikely to cause harm to a healthy dog, it should only be given as an occasional treat and not on a regular basis. Even lactose-free ice cream doesn’t make the product safe for your dog. Lactose-free ice cream still doesn’t address the problem of high sugar and fat content.
Never, ever give ice cream to a diabetic dog or any dog on a restricted diet. For these dogs, no amount is safe. For an otherwise healthy dog, an occasional tablespoon or so is probably not going to cause any problem.
What About Dairy Queen or McDonald’s Ice Cream?
The soft-serve ice cream so popular at these fast-food franchises is basically just non-gourmet type ice cream. The dispensing machine keeps the product moving, so it can’t freeze solid and stays soft. According to the McDonald’s website, their soft-serve vanilla ice cream contains the following:
- Corn Syrup
- Natural flavor
- Mono and Diglycerides
- Cellulose gum
- Guar gum
- Vitamin A Palmitate
Honestly, nothing on this list is really good for your dog. Sugar is second on the list, which means it’s the second most abundant ingredient. There is also added sugar from the corn syrup, a food totally foreign to canines. Mono and diglycerides are emulsifiers, which means they help to blend oil and water together. They’re probably used here to increase the smooth texture.
Guar gum is derived from seaweed and is used in foods to improve consistency. It’s harmless enough, but it contributes nothing to nutrition. Carrageenan is also a seaweed derivative, but it’s far from harmless.
It’s a common, highly controversial pet and human food ingredient known to be an intestinal irritant possibly able to cause some types of inflammatory colitis. It’s also a suspected carcinogen or cancer-causing agent.
This last ingredient is a potent form of vitamin A. It’s probably included here as a coloring agent. Dairy Queen’s ice cream is similar in content, with the exception of the addition of whey, a milk protein. Neither type of ice cream is good for your dog.
The Perfect Alternative
The next time you’re enjoying ice cream at home and your dog pleads to have some, what should you as a responsible dog owner do? Although small amounts of vanilla ice cream are probably fine to share with a healthy dog, there’s a better way.
There are a number of commercial canine ice cream brands available in pet stores and supermarkets, but healthy dog-friendly ice cream is easy to make at home. With reduced lactose and sugar-free, these recipes contain healthy ingredients like plain yogurt, bananas, and peanut butter.
The Right Kind of Yogurt
You can buy plain yogurt with no added sugar at any supermarket. Look for brands with high amounts of friendly gut bacteria like Lactobacillus bulgaricus. These bacteria help to keep the growth of harmful bacteria at bay, and some of them help to produce vitamins, too, such as vitamin K and some B vitamins. Also, look for whole-milk plain yogurt. Whole milk, and not skim or low-fat, should be the first ingredient. If you prefer yogurt with no lactose at all, these are also available.
These whole-milk yogurts are extremely smooth and rich, providing the creamy taste ice cream is famous for. Although delicious, whole-milk yogurt is much higher in fat than skim milk versions and will add a considerable number of calories to your finished dog ice cream product. If you’re concerned about this, stick to low-fat plain yogurt. Even homemade dog ice cream should still be fed in moderation.
Check labels carefully to be absolutely sure the yogurt contains no added sugar. It’s often worth it to pay a little more for a premium, quality brand. It’s also healthier to use plain peanut butter without added sugars or hydrogenated oils.
Try This Easy Recipe For An Easy Frozen Treat
16 ounce container of Greek yogurt
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 to 3 very ripe or overripe bananas
Half a cup blueberries or strawberries (optional)
Blend in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into muffin tins lightly sprayed with vegetable cooking oil. Freeze for a couple of hours until firm. If your kids eat them, too, don’t worry about it. You can also buy metal molds, such as heart-shaped or paw-shaped ones, and use those instead of a muffin tin. Ice cube trays work well for smaller treats for either smaller dogs or to control portion size. These frozen treats are also wonderful for senior dogs who may have trouble chewing traditional dog treats.
Quick Cantaloupe Freeze
Keep cantaloupe chunks on hand in a bag in the freezer to make instant doggy ice cream. Just toss the chunks in the blender with plain yogurt until it’s about the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Dogs love it! For a festive autumn treat, freeze pumpkin chunks and whirl in the blender with plain yogurt, banana, and coconut milk.
Yogurt is far more digestible than milk or ice cream because of its friendly bacterial content and because it’s already been partially broken down by other natural bacteria. It’s wonderfully healthy food for canines, however, you should always consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any kind of new food.