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Do you know what country eats the most ice cream? If the United States first came to your mind, that's not a bad guess given around 90% of U.S. citizens have ice cream in their freezers. But the U.S. is second in the world, eating an average of 5.5 gallons per person each year. New Zealand actually consumes the most ice cream per capita, with an average of 7.5 gallons per person each year. So humans clearly eat a lot of ice cream, but what about our pups? Can dogs eat ice cream? Find out here.
It's best not to give your dog ice cream for many reasons. For starters, many dogs are lactose intolerant. Also, dogs should avoid consuming sugar and ice cream is full of it. Even low-sugar options aren't a good idea given they contain artificial sweeteners (Xylitol, for example, is toxic to dogs). In addition, many ice creams contain flavors or ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as chocolate or raisins. Here are more details about why dogs shouldn't eat ice cream:
Most dogs have some degree of lactose intolerance. This is because their bodies are not design to digest milk once they are weaned. As puppies, canines have the enzyme (lactase) necessary to break down their mother's milk. But once weaned, their bodies cease to produce it. When adult dogs ingest milk products, it can cause mild to severe gastrointestinal discomfort and issues such as gas, stomach pain, loose stools or diarrhea and vomiting. Unfortunately, ice cream has a lot of milk and dairy. It takes three gallons or up to 12 pounds of whole milk to make one gallon of ice cream - that a lot of potential for upset stomach in dogs who consume it.
Ice cream also has a high fat content - at least 10% milk fat with some up to 20% - which can cause issues for dogs, such as gastrointestinal upset. In worst case scenarios, high fat dairy products can lead to canine pancreatitis. This condition tends to arise with no warning and can be life-threatening, so it's important to know the signs:
If your dog exhibits one of these signs, monitor them. However, if they show multiple signs simultaneously and repeatedly, or you believe they have pancreatitis, seek veterinarian care immediately. If your vet is not open, you can go to an emergency vet clinic.
While dogs do need sugar of some sort, it's in the form of carbohydrates that are broken down into glucose. But excessive amounts of other sugar can have adverse effects for dogs. Ice cream typically contains 12–24 grams of added sugar in just a 1/2-cup, so it's loaded with the substance. Issues that can arise from too much sugar consumption in dogs include:
Beyond the high fat and sugar content, ice cream can contain other toxic ingredients. Because this sweet treat comes in many flavors and low-calorie options, there are lots of potential dangers to your dog. For example, opting for a low-sugar ice cream for yourself may be fine but it could contain Xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. In addition, the second most popular flavor of ice cream after vanilla is chocolate, which is dangerous for dogs. This is because they don't have the ability to properly and efficiently process the theobromine and caffeine in it. Similarly, coffee flavored ice creams contain caffeine as well. And some flavors contain raisins and alcohol (both of which are toxic to dogs) as well as nuts, some of which are toxic and many of which are high in fat.
Lastly, many dogs suffer from allergies, including food ones. They may be allergic to milk or dairy, which is different from lactose intolerance. As aforementioned, lactose intolerance occurs because of a lack of lactase to break down dairy. Milk or dairy allergies occur when the immune system reacts negatively to proteins found in those products. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea and skin rashes that are red and itchy.
If you want to give your dog a frozen treat, there are several safer alternatives than ice cream: