Can Dogs Eat Vanilla Ice Cream?

By John Martin - November 17, 2023

Dog eating vanilla ice cream

You’ve probably just gushed over an Instagram reel of an adorable Golden Retriever stealing and devouring the owner’s ice cream sundae or even worse (yes, worse!), being fed ice cream intentionally.

It all seems like harmless fun—the dog is obviously loving the treat and the owner is amazed over the dog’s intelligence! But while the likes and comments come pouring in, have you ever wondered if dogs should actually be eating ice cream at all, let alone vanilla ice cream?

While it’s okay to treat your four-legged friend as a family member, there’s quite a humongous, bold, thick line between doing so and treating your dog as you would another human.

Therefore, while you can love your dog to bits and treat him or her as an equal, it doesn’t mean that you feed your dog human food or try to instill human traits and behavior in him or her and make your dog as human as possible.

Feeding your dogs ice cream is one such seemingly harmless action that, in fact, can have dire consequences. Read on to know why you should be keeping your dog away from those tubs of B&J!

Why Dogs Shouldn’t Eat Ice Cream

It may come as a surprise to many folks, but dogs, like a majority of cats (Tom and Jerry did, unfortunately, get it wrong!) can be severely lactose intolerant. This means that they are unable to digest milk, because of their biological design, after being weaned as pups.

Ice cream—primarily composed of milk—is, therefore, harmful to your doggo and can cause a host of painful problems, such as constipation, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and gas.

Apart from the intolerance to lactose, ice creams are also problematic because of the other major ingredient in them—sugar!

Just as sugar can lead to obesity in humans, it can also lead to unwarranted weight gain in your pet, which in turn can lead to a range of health problems, such as arthritis, heart problems, diabetes, bladder stones and even cancer. In our opinion, though, the worst risk is presented by the fact that sugar can reduce your beloved furball’s life expectancy by as much as two years.

So what about sugarless ice cream? Doesn’t that solve the sugar problem? Well, it does, to an extent, but only so long as the sweetener used isn’t xylitol—toxic to dogs,

The last reason to keep the ice cream away from dogs is the flavor. Chocolate ice cream, for example, is a double whammy—in addition to the milk and sugar, theobromine, a staple ingredient in chocolate, cannot be processed by your dog’s biological system and the darker the chocolate, the worse the consequences.

Similarly, coffee/espresso and macadamia nuts are best avoided.

So Vanilla Ice Cream Is Bad, Too, Right?

Well, as it turns out, vanilla ice cream may be the least of all evils. Small amounts (about a spoonful a week, at most) as a treat for your dog is relatively safe—we get that it can be hard to ignore a dog drooling all over your leg and begging for a share of your ice-cream bowl!

Therefore, the very occasional treat may not be so bad—unless your dog is obese, has diabetes, allergies or, as mentioned earlier, severely lactose intolerant.

If you do decide to give in and feed your dog ice cream, ensure that you only feed small amounts. Doing so, especially in the beginning, will prevent you from upsetting your dog’s stomach in full force and also give you time to gauge the consequences of your indulgence.

Intolerance to ice cream, in the form of gas, diarrhea, bloating and vomiting, will manifest within two hours of feeding your dog the ice cream.

Ultimately, though, feeding your dog ice cream of any sort is not recommended, even if it is vanilla. Remember, vanilla may be the least of all evils, but that doesn’t change the fact that it still is evil!

The risk is just not worth it, however much your dog unleashes those puppy-dog eyes, in full force, on you.

Related: Can Dogs Eat Halloumi?

What to Do If Your Dog “Accidentally” Eats Vanilla Ice Cream

It happens—the ice cream is on the counter one second and in your pupper’s paws the next and more than halfway to his or her stomach in the third second. But in such cases— breathe—panicking won’t help you or your dog.

First, take stock of the damage; figure out the ice cream flavor and how much your dog ingested. In most cases, you’ll have to sit by your dog’s side as he or she probably goes through a mild-to-moderate tummy upset.

However, the case is different if the ice cream has any of the aforementioned toxic ingredients—coffee, chocolate, macadamia nuts, artificial sweeteners and even grapes and raisins. Rush your pooch to the vet immediately while calling animal poison control.

If the case isn’t too severe, you can also try the following:

  • Fasting: Put your dog on a one-day fast to empty the stomach and with it, all the toxicity and reactions to vanilla ice cream. This way, no other food can potentially react with the vanilla ice cream or its effects and worsen things.
  • Hydrate: Hydration is the best way to detox. While you can’t force your dog to drink the required amount of water, you can ensure that plenty of clean and fresh water is available. Keep the water in clean bowls in a few of your dog’s regular spots for easier accessibility.
  • Boiled Chicken and Rice: Boiled chicken and plain rice is a surefire doggy-tummy-soother combination. Feed your dog a few tiny portions of the bland food for at least two days before you resume his normal feeding routine. A simple trick to get your dog to eat the chicken and rice is to add tiny amounts of his or her normal food to the chicken and rice, to slowly get him used to the latter.

Related: Can Dogs Eat Fried Rice?

So What Other Treat Can I Give My Dog?

Treats are aplenty for dogs, from toys to chewy bones to delicious snacks. However, if you’re aiming for a very close substitute to ice cream, here are a few recipes that you can consider!

Peanut Butter and Bananas

Peanut butter and bananas are not just delicious but healthy, too! Raw, unsalted peanut butter can be a great source of healthy fats, protein and a ton of vitamins, whereas bananas are rich in fiber (great for the digestive tract) and magnesium (great for the bones!).

Puree bananas, a bit of yogurt (much safer than ice cream) and peanut butter and freeze this in your refrigerator. Et voila—a frozen treat for your dog is ready! You can even go the extra healthy mile and add in apples, oats or other healthy-for-your-dog options.

To make it more fun and delicious for your dog, freeze this mix in a hollow rubber toy, with dog food mixed in. It may not seem so appealing to us ‘hoomans’ but the doggos will definitely love it!

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen yogurt is also a much safer option than ice cream, since it’s fermented and doesn’t contain as much lactose, as is vegan “nice cream” (made of pureed bananas). These foods are typically low in sugar and dairy, but as it is with ice cream, start by feeding your dog small amounts, wait to see the response and only then proceed to give more or introduce this as a more frequent treat.

Other Treats

Other things you can freeze and give your dog include canned pumpkin, fruit mixed with unflavored, low-fat yogurt and chicken broth (low sodium).

If you’re too lazy or don’t have the resources to make your own treats, there are many frozen treats in the market meant just for pets. There are even powders, without dairy, gluten, grain and even sugar, that you can simply add to water and freeze for a delicious treat—much, much safer than ice cream.

Related: Can Dogs Eat Granola?

The Bottom Line

You and your dog may both scream for ice cream, but it’s only one of you two that will benefit from the treat. The risk that ice cream brings to your dog just isn’t worth the indulgence!

While yogurt and peanut butter are healthier and safer, remember that they should be low or no-sugar versions, without any trace of artificial sweeteners like xylitol.

Food like yogurt and peanut butter, too, while healthier, are still best served in small amounts. Ensure that these are free of artificial sweeteners and are preferably in their raw organic form.

That apart, the rare spoonful of vanilla ice cream won’t do your doggo too much harm (though ice cream has much more severe effects in small to medium-sized dogs). Having said that, exercise utter caution while feeding your dog vanilla ice cream—if it’s really necessary (which it never is!), a tiny amount, around one spoon per week, is a great call.