In case you haven’t heard, there’s now special ice cream just for dogs ― it usually comes in the form of a dry mix that you add water to and pop into your freezer. If you feel like that’s a little excessive, consider this: If the summer heat feels awful to you, imagine wearing a fur coat everywhere you go.
But think twice before you share a lick from your own cone. “While your dog would probably jump at the chance to share your sprinkle cone, human ice cream is not a good idea for them,” said veterinarian Rebecca Greenstein, veterinary medical adviser for Rover.
It turns out that “human” ice cream can cause anything from mild to life-threatening symptoms in dogs. Here are some of the top concerns:
Sugars and fats: “The high-fat, high-sugar content in ice cream can cause tummy upset and could even risk causing inflammation of the pancreas, known as pancreatitis, in some dogs, if ingested in large quantities,” Greenstein said.
Xylitol: “Some sugar-free ice cream products contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol, which can be horrifically toxic in dogs,” Greenstein said. Veterinarian Kelly Dunham explained: “Ingesting xylitol can cause a pet to go into a serious and sometimes deadly state of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. These signs can include lethargy or drowsiness, drunken-like behavior including incoordination, trembling and weakness, or even seizure or loss of consciousness in extreme cases. If you see signs of hypoglycemia in your pet, apply corn syrup to their gums. Then call your vet or seek emergent veterinary attention.”
Other potentially harmful ingredients: These include raisins, macadamia nuts and milk. “Most adult animals are lactose intolerant, meaning that they can’t process milk and dairy products appropriately,” Dunham said. “This can lead to significant stomach upset including vomiting and diarrhea.”
If your pet is overweight, take it easy with the treats
According to the nonprofit Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, obesity is now a major health concern for pets worldwide. Published studies indicate that up to 59% of dogs and cats are overweight, making obesity one of the most common medical disorders identified in veterinary practices.
Dunham concurred, saying: “In general, I don’t recommend giving your dog ice cream. Even doggie ice cream brands, which are safer for your pet, contain unnecessary calories, typically around 128 calories per serving. While this may not seem like a lot, it really adds up. For example, a healthy adult spayed or neutered 20-pound dog should be eating around 587 calories per day to maintain current weight, including all treats and food. One serving of doggie ice cream could be one-fifth of their calories for the day.”
Make your own treats
“Something I like to recommend for my furry patients is taking and making at-home snow cones, popsicles or frozen treats with their favorite flavors,” said veterinarian Ole Alcumbrac. “Of course, always be cautious about ingredients that are sensitive to your dog’s stomach.”
“It’s pretty easy to replicate the experience of a refreshing summer treat for your pup, without any of the risks of human ice cream flavors,” Greenstein said. “Our puppy Cliff is obsessed with ice cubes, and chases them all over the kitchen and the backyard while munching them. They’re cooling, entertaining and calorie free.” Dunham suggested adding a small amount of low-sodium chicken broth to make “doggie cubes,” but also advised: “Avoid large or whole cubes, as they can lead to tooth fractures.”
“A nice summer treat for dogs can be fruit popsicles,” said veterinarian Sarah Wooten, veterinary expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance. “Safe choices include bananas, berries, melons and apples, which can be pureed with a little water, then poured into ice cube trays and frozen. You can add a bit of peanut butter, too.” No time to make popsicles? “Frozen bananas are another easy dog-friendly swap,” Greenstein said. “If blended, they have the sweetness and creaminess of ice cream, but none of the dairy or added sugar. It’s an easy, dog-friendly and guiltless go-to.”
Be cautious as you serve up all this ice-cold goodness, however. “Dogs can get brain freeze,” Wooten said. “If you have a dog who gobbles their food, cut the ice cream into small pieces and spread it out on a tray or plate.”
Dog ice creams the vets recommend
Here are some products that your dog might enjoy in moderation. Be sure to start slow and take it easy when you’re introducing something new, though. “Some pets may still experience some gastrointestinal upset when eating any new food or treat,” Dunham said.
HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.
Cooper’s Treats pupsicle starter kit
This is a great “I’m bored” activity for the dog days of summer. Just add water to the pupsicle mix, pour into the silicone ice cube mold and freeze. The starter kit contains one jar of turkey and cinnamon pupsicle mix, one jar of beef and cheddar pupsicle mix and a paw-and-bone-shaped silicone ice cube mold.