There are plenty of cute videos on the internet of dogs eating ice cream. I think people like watching dogs eat ice cream because the rapid excited licking is adorable and then the dogs start biting the ice cream and it’s cold so they pull funny faces. In other words, it’s pretty dang cute.
But here’s the thing. Ice cream is actually pretty bad for your dog. I’m not saying a single ice cream cone is gonna kill your dog, because it isn’t unless it also has something else really bad in it (ie. xylitol or lots of chocolate). But… I know there are some folks who like to give their dogs ice cream on a regular basis and I’d like to suggest they give it a second thought.
First, ice cream is full of sugar! I think most people have heard now about how bad sugar is for us, and guess what? It does pretty much the same stuff to our dogs, only they are arguably even more sensitive to its effects. Regular consumption of sugar leads to tooth decay, obesity and in some cases diabetes. It also messes with our dogs’ energy levels and moods. Just like a child who ate all their Halloween candy, dogs can get a sugar rush resulting in hyper, crazy behavior, followed by a sugar crash where they may feel lethargic, cranky and even physically unwell. And similar to humans, a dog who regularly consumes sugary foods will develop an addiction-like response and will experience some minimal withdrawal symptoms when they don’t get it (again, it makes them lethargic, cranky and irritable).
Second, most ice cream, even the fake stuff from McDonalds or DQ, contain significant amounts of milk fat. High fat foods are another major contributor to doggy health problems from obesity and diabetes to doggy hypertension. Also, did you know that if your dog is overweight it massively increases their chances of developing arthritis or dying young? Another reason you might want your dog to avoid dairy is that many dogs are lactose intolerant to some degree or another. Some are so intolerant they’ll experience painful intestinal cramping and diarrhea, but more likely they’ll get stinky gas. Either way, it’s not very pleasant for dog or owner.
Finally, there are plenty of other ingredients in most commercial ice creams that you may want to worry about:
- Chocolate – Most folks know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but some figure a little won’t hurt. And while a small amount of milk chocolate is certainly unlikely to kill your dog, it may still be hurting. Your dog may feel sick afterward or may not (though it’s difficult to tell because dogs try their best to hide physical distress), but either way, when you give your dog something mildly toxic, you’re forcing their liver and other organs to do double duty. In particular, our dogs’ livers already work very hard to eliminate other toxins from their systems that are necessary evils (like heartworm medications, et al.) There’s no reason to give our dogs anything else to tax this crucial organ.
- Carrageenan – Carrageenan is a sea weed derivative that is commonly used in both human and animal grade food stuffs to thicken foods and improve their texture, and it’s fairly common in ice creams (McD’s & DQ’s ice creams both contain it). But there are several reasons to be wary of this not just for your dog but for you as well. Carrageenan is a well-known inflammatory substance. When you or your animals consume carrageenan, the result is inflammation in the bowels and frequently elsewhere in your body. Inflammation in the bowels, in particular, leads to issues extracting nutrients from food, increased incidence of both diarrhea and constipation, pain and cramping, and, over longer periods of time, damage to the lining of the intestines, decreased immune function and even colon cancer. (But you don’t have to take my word for it.)
- Artificial colors, preservatives, etc. – Many commercially available ice creams are chock full of these artificial ingredients. My main point of caution here is that we really haven’t done many studies on the health safety of these ingredients for our pets, but the studies that have been done in humans are increasingly revealing links between artificial additives and a startling array of health problems. If they’re that bad for us, just think what they must be doing to our pets.
Okay, now that you’ve read all of my dire warnings, let me make you feel a little better: Dog’s digestive systems are remarkably robust and, as with humans, everything in moderation. The bottom line is, if you only give your dog ice cream once in a blue moon and they otherwise have a healthy diet, then it’s probably fine. If, on the other hand, your dog is getting ice cream once a month or more, maybe consider finding more dog-friendly substitutes to indulge your buddy.
So, with the PSA portion of this post out of the way, you can enjoy my favorite dog-eats-ice cream video guilt-free.