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Everybody likes cooling off with an ice cream cone on a hot day. Even our dogs can be tempted to steal a lick or two. While a few tastes probably won’t kill them, pet parents should exercise caution around ice cream.
Ice Cream’s Health Hazards
After their infancy, dogs aren’t meant to consume milk. Their bodies lose the ability to process it and they begin to suffer from symptoms including gas, bloating, and diarrhea whenever they ingest it. These issues are usually just a temporary nuisance, but they’re compounded by the fact that our dogs can’t speak up for themselves.
- Heart, lung, and liver issues
- High blood pressure
- Joint problems
Ingredients to Avoid
Sugar, fat, and lactose all make ice cream an indulgence, but they aren’t the only reason to keep dogs away. A number of popular ice cream flavors include ingredients that could prove dangerous or even deadly to your dog. Seek immediate medical attention if your dog ingests ice cream with any of the following:
- Chocolate: Whether it’s chips, fudge, or a combination of both, chocolate includes a compound called theobromine that dogs can’t digest. Even a taste can kill them.
- Coffee: The small amounts of caffeine in some coffee ice creams don’t have much of an effect on humans. For dogs, however, even a hint of caffeine can have dangerous consequences.
- Grapes and Raisins: A compound found in both fresh and dried grapes can cause kidney failure in pets.
- Macadamia Nuts: Scientists aren’t sure why macadamia nuts are dangerous to dogs, but they do know that a taste alone can lead to vomiting, lethargy, and an elevated heart rate.
- Xylitol: The sugar found in many ice creams can lead to intestinal distress and diabetes in dogs. That doesn’t mean artificial sweeteners are an acceptable substitute.
Safer Alternatives to Ice Cream for Dogs
Over the years, lactose intolerant folks have developed a number of safe ice cream substitutes. These let everybody enjoy frozen treats without fear of sickness. Many are also suitable for dogs. Rather than heading out to the pet store to purchase specially-formulated dog ice cream, consider:
- Frozen Yogurt: FroYo is the most popular ice cream substitute around for a reason. It offers a similar taste, texture, and consistency to the genuine article. The American Kennel Club (AKC) encourages pet parents to blend unsweetened yogurt and frozen fruit into a stomach-safe treat. Take care to remove rinds and seeds as you work. If yogurt upsets your dog’s stomach, the AKC suggests a dairy-free alternative like coconut milk.
- Hide and Seek Ice Cubes: Who says you need to stick to familiar flavors? Almost any liquid can be turned into a frozen treat for your dog. Your pup might enjoy “ice cubes” made from chicken or beef broth. The AKC also recommends freezing fruit or pieces of meat into the cube for an extra treat.
- Peanut Butter Treats: Dogs love the taste of peanut butter and you’ll love how versatile an ingredient it is. Try blending it with yogurt and fruit or simply freezing it in an ice cube tray.
Remember that ice cream should only be an occasional treat and should not be the bulk of your dog’s caloric intake. Consult your veterinarian before making any major changes to their diet and seek medical attention immediately if you have reason to believe they’ve ingested something dangerous.