In a sentence: Yes, but that doesn’t mean they should have it regularly.
While the average vanilla ice cream cone does contain ingredients that can be toxic to your dog, small amounts of the stuff won’t really do much to affect their systems.
However, if consumed frequently enough, these toxic ingredients build up over time and can cause long-term harm to a dog’s body.
Why it’s risky for dogs to eat vanilla ice cream
Your dog won’t exactly fall ill just by slurping up some vanilla ice cream somebody dropped. But there are some definite risks to ingesting ice cream, especially if your dog ends up eating it a bit too frequently.
Vanilla contains alcohol
The primary thing that makes vanilla ice cream bad for dogs is the fact that vanilla is high in alcohol. Dogs’ digestive systems cannot break down alcohol. Thus, if they consume just the slightest amount more than they can tolerate, they’re very likely to get alcohol poisoning.
Some forms of vanilla are alcohol-free, but that is rarely used in most vanilla ice cream.
Ice cream is full of refined sugars
This is the most significant issue with feeding your dog ice cream in general. Dogs already have trouble with natural sugar you can find in fruits such as dates (can dogs eat dates?). Giving them something filled with artificial sweeteners will only increase the risk of an upset stomach, or worse.
When dogs eat ice cream, they can end up taking a liking to it. As you may know, dogs also have a sweet tooth, but they’re a lot less lucky than us humans because most sweets are almost always harmful to them in some way.
If you eat ice cream in front of your dog, they might also pick up on the pleasure you derive from having the frozen treat, and thus remember it as something worth having themselves.
But this won’t do, as artificial sugar will lead to all sorts of health issues. At best, your dog will only end up with weight problems. But this will open up the possibility of developing kidney problems, diabetes, dental issues, and more. Dog teeth cleaning should be done regularly, among other health care routine.
What’s more is that most ice cream contains the additive xylitol, which can be toxic to dogs in large amounts. Xylitol poisoning can cause liver failure, seizures, or even sudden death .
Dogs are sensitive to milk products
Just like people, dogs can have difficulty digesting milk and can be lactose intolerant. Dairy products constitute some of the most common food intolerances among canines .
Milk can be a great treat and calcium supplement if taken a few spoonfuls at a time, but any more than that and your dog might bloat, get gassy, and throw up. Worse yet, they can end up having diarrhea or constipation.
If your dog takes a particular liking to ice cream and doesn’t show signs of the ice cream affecting them adversely, you may think that it’s okay to keep feeding it to them every once in a while.
But regardless of how well they look on the surface, prolonged consumption of ice cream could lead to some serious digestive problems such as pancreatitis.
Alternatives to vanilla ice cream
Once your dog gets a taste for ice cream, it can be hard to make them forget about it. If want to stop a dog from begging the next time you’re enjoying a cone yourself, you may want to start looking into an ice cream alternative.
Ice cream made with dog-friendly ingredients
Sweet, frozen treats can perk up just about anyone, especially on a hot day. Dogs eat ice cream for much the same reason as we do: to cool off and satisfy their sweet cravings at the same time.
A great way to let them do that while dodging the risks of consuming human ice cream is to feed them some ice cream made specifically for dogs.
Pet ice cream parlors and snack shops are a rising niche that’s been gaining traction recently, presumably because more than a few people’s pets have developed a taste for the stuff over the pandemic. They’re still somewhat rare, but if there’s one near you, that’s a sure ticket to giving your dog its ice cream fix without the risks.
Fruits are definitely more beneficial to dogs than any other type of sweet food. Mixing certain types of frozen fruit together can feel just like ice cream, especially fruits with mushy flesh like dragon fruit—can dogs eat dragon fruit? Yes! Blended frozen bananas too are particularly excellent at giving your dog the feel of eating ice cream without actually having it. Throw some crushed ice in the blender or food processor for that extra cool feel.
If your dog craves the scent and taste of vanilla, try to look for alcohol-free vanilla extract and put that in the mix.
Unlike ice cream, most commercial frozen yogurt is actually beneficial to dogs because of its digestive advantages and probiotic properties. It’s also got much less sugar, and is free of the risk of xylitol poisoning. Just keep in mind that fro-yo still has milk, so it can be bad for lactose intolerant dogs. You should look for dog-friendly frozen yogurt at a pet snack shop if you can. Otherwise, get plain yogurt without any artificial sweetener to avoid harmful ingredients as much as possible.
Other kinds of ice cream
While there’s little that would make vanilla ice cream good for dogs, it’s actually one of the safer ones for dogs to eat among the usual flavors you can buy. Most ice cream flavors, such as chocolate and coffee ice cream, contain caffeine, which causes alarming blood pressure rises, cardiac problems, and digestive issues in dogs. Low-fat vanilla flavor is usually alright for them to eat occasionally, but it’s still better to seek an alternative.
Fruit-flavored sorbets are usually the safest bet, as they often contain no dairy. However they are still very sweet, so they should still only be an occasional snack. That being said, you can feed them to your dog without fearing poisoning of any kind, unless the fruit used in the sorbet itself is poisonous to dogs. Always check the label to see if the product you bought actually has xylitol or lactose, however.
Sugar-free ice cream is a no-go, as such ice cream is usually sweetened with other artificial ingredients that can be even more harmful to dogs. More often than not, xylitol is still present in these products.
Vegan ice cream is similarly a bad idea. While dairy-free, these ice creams usually get their creaminess from macadamia nuts, almonds, or other nuts that can upset dogs’ stomachs if not outright poison them.
Frequently asked questions
Can you give a dog vanilla ice cream?
Yes, dogs can eat vanilla ice cream if taken in sparing amounts. If a dog eats too much, however, they can suffer all manner of ailments due to the dairy, sugar, and alcohol content of the ice cream.
What happens if a dog eats vanilla ice cream?
Dairy can make your dog gassy, give them an upset stomach, and cause diarrhea or constipation. Additionally, too much sugar can cause all kinds of digestive problems, as well as increase the risk of obesity and diabetes. Perhaps the most fatal effect, however, is if the alcohol from the vanilla proves too much for your dog’s body to tolerate, thus leading to alcohol poisoning.
Can I give my dog a vanilla ice cream from McDonalds?
McDonald’s has reassured the public that their vanilla ice cream contains no xylitol, so there’s no immediate risk of toxicity . However, their ice cream still has dairy and a lot of sugar. Not to mention that vanilla always carries with it the risk of alcohol poisoning for dogs. While many pet owners have gotten away with giving their dogs these “pup cups”, it would be best if you only give them a few small portions at a time.
Is Dairy Queen vanilla ice cream safe for dogs?
Dairy Queen’s secret dog menu has its own pup cup, which offers soft serve that’s safe for dogs to eat. The secret menu is specially designed for dogs, so the risks that come with eating their ice cream are reduced. Still, while there are several flavors to choose from, you might want to stick with plain vanilla or a fruit sorbet option to be safe.