Can German Shepherds Eat Ice Cream? All You Need To Know


german shepherd and hand holding ice cream cone

Us humans love to indulge in rich, creamy ice cream stacked high on a crunchy waffle cone, or let’s be honest – straight out of the carton!

But is it safe to share ice cream with your German Shepherd?

Generally speaking, it is not safe for German Shepherds to eat ice cream, as most brands contain dairy and sweeteners, both of which are harmful to dogs. Also, some ice creams contain chocolate, caffeine, raisins, and macadamia nuts. These ingredients can all cause a host of health problems for your dog, including obesity, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.

What Ingredients Make Ice Cream Unsafe for German Shepherds?

So what’s is the big deal, right? Why can’t my German Shepherd take a lick or two of my ice cream? 

Well, she can, and she might be okay.

But what happens when you give her more than a lick, or you haven’t carefully considered what ingredients are in the ice cream that you are so generously sharing with your pup?

Dairy in Ice Cream

Milk contains a sugar called lactose, which can be difficult on a dog’s digestive system.

German Shepherds are born with a naturally occurring enzyme called lactase, located in the small intestine. 

Lactase that breaks down the sugar (lactose) found in milk.

As GSDs age, less lactase is produced, making it more and more difficult for them to digest dairy. 

You have probably heard of lactose-intolerance in humans – perhaps you have seen lactose-free options on your local grocery store shelves, or you may even be lactose intolerant yourself. 

Just like humans, dogs can also have a hard time digesting lactose. 

An intolerance to lactose can lead to vomiting and diarrhea in your pup, and given that most ice cream is made with milk containing lactose, it is best just to steer clear of this sweet treat altogether. 

By doing so, your pup will not suffer any unwanted side effects, and you will not be cleaning up any unwanted messes.

Milk can also cause food allergies to flare up, making your pooch itchy and miserable.

Since German Shepherds are prone to allergies, monitoring what they eat is exceptionally important.

Why Can German Shepherds Drink Their Mother’s Milk and Not the Milk in Ice Cream?

German Shepherd puppies nurse from their mamas for the first month or so.

This is natural and perfectly healthy, because puppies, like human babies, are born with a higher levels of the digestive enzyme lactase.

(remember that lactase helps puppies to easily break down the sugar found in milk)

Also, a German Shepherd’s mother contains less lactose than cow’s milk, making it more digestible for them.

(remember that lactase- this helps puppies to them easily break down the sugar found in milk). 

As puppies and babies alike get older, their bodies produce less and less lactase. This makes it harder for them to digest lactose.

The older puppies and babies get, their bodies produce less of the enzyme lactase, making it harder for them to digest lactose. 

So just because German Shepherds nurse when they are puppies does not make milk or other dairy products (like ice cream!) safe for them to consume.   

Sweeteners in Ice Cream

skull and crossbones made of sugar

Sweeteners are sugar substitutes that have the potential to cause life-threatening illness in German Shepherds.

One particularly dangerous sweetener, xylitol, can cause the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Extremely low blood sugar
  • Kidney and liver failure
  • Possible death 

Sweeteners are much more harmful to dogs than humans because dogs absorb xylitol more quickly than their bodies can safely metabolize.

On the other hand, humans absorb the sweetener at a much slower pace. 

Chocolate in Ice Cream

Oh, chocolate, how we love you! But for our loyal pups, chocolate can be extremely harmful. 

And guess what? Chocolate is the most popular flavor of ice cream!

Chocolate is toxic to German Shepherds because it contains caffeine and the chemical theobromine. 

The toxicity levels vary in different types of chocolate, with cocoa powder being the most toxic. 

After cocoa powder is unsweetened baker’s chocolate, followed by semisweet chocolate, then dark chocolate, and finally milk chocolate.

The amount of chocolate consumed by your GSD also plays a role in whether or not she will get sick. 

For every pound that your dog weighs, only one ounce of milk chocolate is considered risky.

Consider that milk chocolate is the least harmful chocolate to dogs, so even lesser amounts of semisweet, dark, or unsweetened baker’s chocolate will present a risk if consumed by your GSD.

Depending on how much your GSD consumes, chocolate can lead to an increased heart rate, hyperactivity, seizures, and even heart attack.

Caffeine in Ice Cream

Dogs are highly sensitive to caffeine, an ingredient commonly found in ice cream that can have serious side effects if ingested.

Should your GSD consume caffeine, keep a close eye on her for some time afterwards.

She may be experiencing symptoms like shaking, restlessness, hyperactivity, or vomiting.

These symptoms will likely wear off on their own within a short amount of time. 

However, if the problems persist for more than a few hours, it is very important that you contact your veterinarian immediately.

Ice Cream Toppings 

What you put on top of your ice cream can be just as potentially harmful for your German Shepherds as the ingredients in your ice cream. 

Raisins Raisins and grapes are toxic to German Shepherds. If eaten in large enough quantities, raisins and grapes can lead to kidney failure and death. 

Other symptoms include lethargic behavior, increased thirst, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Macadamia NutsMacadamia nuts are toxic to German Shepherds and can cause weakness in the back legs, shivering, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Macadamia nuts are too fatty for GSDs and can cause the pancreas to become inflamed. 

Keep in mind that while raisins (grapes) and macadamia nuts are commonly used as ice cream toppings, there are also often found in ice cream itself.

This is just one more reason to be ever so vigilant about keeping your GSD away from ice cream.

Can Dogs Get Brain Freeze Like Humans?

Experts believe that GSDs experience brain freeze just like humans do. 

In humans, when we devour ice cream too quickly, we feel pain behind our nose and up into our forehead.

This is because this area houses abundant nerve clusters.

Blood vessels swell and constrict when our mouths are quickly cooled down, causing that crazy sensation we all know as “brain freeze.”

We laugh it off and continue eating, but we should never subject our dogs to this, and for good reason.

GSDs and humans have a similar nerve structure; however, dogs have additional nerves that may make brain freeze even more intense. 

These extra nerves mean that a GSD can potentially feel brain freeze in more than just their forehead, but within their jaw as well. 

Of course, our sweet doggies cannot communicate this to us directly, but there is plenty of video evidence suggesting that dogs feel brain freeze. 

Take a look at the video below.

While this may seem cute and funny to the owners, there is nothing funny about it.

The dog owners in this video are undoubtedly behaving irresponsibly if in fact they are feeding regular ice cream to their dogs.

Use this video as a cautionary tale, and think about what would motivate a dog to voluntarily back away from ice cream.

While it’s cute to the owners, the dogs are experiencing a high level of discomfort.

This is definitely something to take into consideration when thinking dog brain freeze is hilarious.

It most certainly is not, and may actually be very harmful to your pup.

What to Do If Your German Shepherd Gets Sick From Eating Ice Cream

As we’ve discussed, ice cream contains many ingredients that are harmful or toxic for German Shepherds. 

Symptoms from ingesting these ingredients can range from mild to severe and even life-threatening, so it is important that you know what to do in any scenario.

If your dog has consumed ice cream and is experiencing mild symptoms, such as diarrhea or vomiting, do the following:

  1. Monitor the frequency and type of diarrhea and/or vomiting occurring after your GSD consumes ice cream.

    If diarrhea and/or vomiting is persistent, then proceed to step 2 below.
  2. Place your Consider taking your pup on a gastric-leave for 6-12 hours, only allowing water (and plenty of it, either in liquid or frozen form).
  3. After your pup has finished with the gastric-leave, slowly introduce a low-fiber, low-sodium bland diet of boiled chicken and plain white rice.
  4. Provide only a bland diet for your German Shepherd after she has finished with the gastric-leave.

    Slowly introduce a low-fiber, low-sodium bland diet of boild chicken and plain white rice.
  5. Follow up with your veterinarian for further advice.

Simple Bland Diet Recipe (Makes About 4 Meals for Larger GSDs)

In accordance with the steps above, here’s a simple recipe that will get your GSD back to her playful self in short order:

Ingredients 

  • 1 ½ cups white rice
  • 400 grams of chicken breast

Instructions

  1. Prepare the rice according the the instructions on the box.
  2. Cut the chicken into small cubes (making sure to trim off all of the fat beforehand).
  3. In a separate pot, boil the chicken thoroughly (about 8 minutes).
  4. Strain the chicken to remove any boiled off fat that has come to the water’s surface.
  5. Mix the chicken and rice together and allow them to cool.

The ratio of rice to chicken should be about 75% rice and 25% chicken. 

You can store this in the refrigerator for about 2 days, and one batch of this should be enough to get your GSD back to good digestive health.

Beware of Seizures from Ice Cream Consumption

If your German Shepherd hasdog consumed too much ice cream, she can potentially experience seizures.

If your GSD is having seizures or experiencing any other serious side effects, act quickly by doing the following:

  • DO NOT touch your German Shepherd – while you might want to comfort your dog, it is best to just talk to her without petting as she may be agitated and unintentionally snip at you. 
  • Call your veterinarian immediately and explain the situation.
  • If your dog is unconscious or continues to have seizures, head to your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic immediately.

My GSD Eats Ice Cream Without Any Issues – Is It Still Ok to Give It to Her?

So yourYour German Shepherd eats all the ice cream and she is just fine – no. No adverse reactions here! 

But does that make it ok to keep the scoops coming? 

Even if your GSD has never shown any health issues after one lick or one bowl of ice cream, there are other important factors to consider.

Weight

obesity text

One crucial factor to consider when feeding your dog ice cream, or any other treat (frozen or otherwise), is her weight. 

Maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important for your dog to live her best life. 

Calories count for dogs just like they do for humans.

It is essential to consider what your GSD’s daily caloric intake should be so that you are feeding her exactly what she needs each day to keep her happy and healthy. 

When giving your GSD treats of any kind, keep in mind that while it may seem like a small amount to you, for for your dog it could be a large percentage of her recommended daily calories.

GSDs that are overweight can have significant health issues. While a few extra pounds may not seem like a big deal, they can lead to the following issues over time:

  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart Disease
  • Shortened life expectancy

Since ice cream contains a significant amount of sugar and fat, it can lead to these weight issues without you even realizing it – so is best to keep all of those calories for yourself. 

Alternatively, you can join your German Shepherd and make sure that you, too, are staying healthy by monitoring what you eat!

Behavior

Another issue with sharing your ice cream sundae with your beloved four-legged pal is that it reinforces begging, a behavior you should not encourage. 

German Shepherds are highly intelligent, known to understand commands quickly and with ease.

Sharing ice cream gives your GSD mixed signals and encourages unwanted behavior.  

It is also possible that German Shepherds might decide that they like ice cream (or any other food scraps/table food) better than their own dog food. 

If this happens, you will have essentially spoiled your GSD, much like you can spoil a child. 

And just ask any parent, a spoiled child can be more than a handful – so it is best to develop good habits in your GSD rather than trying to correct bad habits later in life.

What Are Some Delicious Alternatives to Ice Cream for German Shepherds?

There are indeed ice creams out there that might be safe for your German Shepherd. 

However, it is of utmost importance that you do your research and make sure you know just what you are giving to your dog. 

Not allevery ice creams are created equal, especially when it comes to what is safe for your dog.

Of course, if you prefer to play it safe and not worry about xylitol, caffeine, chocolate, and all of those other questionable ingredients, then keep the ice cream to yourself and explore some great alternatives. 

Your pup will not feel left out when you are enjoying your three scoops of rocky road if they have their very own delectable frozen treat to eat alongside you.

Prepare Frozen Treats Using Silicone Molds

Silicone molds, or even ice cube trays, are great for making your German Shepherd a frozen treat.

We love using Puppy Dog Paw and Bone Silicone Molds.

These molds are temperature, dishwasher, and freezer safe – but most of all, they are super cute and just fun to use!

Using these molds, or something similar, will allow you to be creative while using ingredients that you know are safe for your dog.

Try some of these suggestions:

  • Broth: Freeze no-salt-added chicken or beef broth in your silicone ice cube tray for a treat that your pup won’t be able to resist.

    Choose a bone-based broth to help support your GSD’s joint health.
  • Banana: Fill your silicone ice cube tray with ripe, mashed bananas and freeze for a healthy, delicious frozen treat.

    You can puree cantaloupe or watermelon and freeze those as well for a more fruit-tastic frozen delight!
  • Banana AND Peanut Butter: Take your frozen treat to the next level by adding peanut butter to banana – blending, and freezing.

    For every banana, use approximately ⅛ cup of xylitol-free peanut butter.

    PRO TIP: Blending becomes a lot easier when you slice up your bananas before you freeze them. You will be amazed at how well they blend by themselves or with peanut butter!

Store-Bought Frozen Treats 

Many pet stores and grocery stores carry a variety of pet-friendly frozen treats.

Even though they are marketed as pet-safe, it is always a good idea to check the nutrition facts and make sure they do not contain xylitol or any other toxic ingredients.

Final Thoughts

While it may be tempting to share your rocky road or chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with your German Shepherd, it is safer to keep it to yourself and find a healthy, pet-friendly frozen alternative. 

This is the best-case scenario, because who wants to share their ice cream with anyone, including that awesome pup of yours?

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds for over 18 years now. I'm originally from Indiana, though I've lived in many different states and traveled extensively. The places change, my dogs don't. German Shepherds have been my constant companions. I love every aspect of training them and simply just having them around. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge about German Shepherds with the world, and I encourage all future dog owners to consider one as a companion as well. Read my story here.

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