Some time ago I attended a doggie birthday celebration and was startled to see the hostess serving ice cream to the canine partygoers. Unless a dog regularly eats dairy products, a creamy confection like human ice cream can play havoc with her digestive system – and let’s not even get into the potential health hazards of feeding sugar-laden treats to dogs. So naturally I hustled over to butt in and save us all from doggie diarrhea and diabetes.
I was surprised and relieved to discover that the hostess was not dishing up any Häagen-Dazs, but serving a product called Frosty Paws, an ice-cream-like frozen treat created especially for dogs.
Recently, we noticed a couple other ersatz ice-cream treats offered in pet supply catalogues, so we decided to check them out during the 90-degree, 90 percent humidity of our Tennessee summer days. While dogs may not be quite the frozen confection connoisseurs that we are, we suspect that a cool pause on a hot day feels as good to them as it does to us.
When buying any sort of treat for our dogs, we look for products that are:
• Palatable – Do our dogs love it?
• Healthful – Are all the ingredients the wholesome, real-food sort of things we like to see in treats?
• Affordable – Either inexpensive enough for frequent feeding, or, in the case of a very occasional, special treat, not unreasonably expensive
Ice cream findings
We found only four commercial products intended as hot-weather treats – though, truthfully, this was a bit of a reach. Only one product is an actual frozen treat, purchased in grocery stores or pet supply stores equipped with freezers (many stores that sell top-quality frozen raw dog foods also sell this treat). Two other products are sold in a form similar to pre-made Jello or pudding cups: edible in that form, but intended to be frozen or refrigerated and eaten cold. The fourth product actually is ice cream – freeze dried and meant to be fed in small, not cold pieces. This product niche could use a few more contestants!
Happy dogs, disappointed dog guardians
We’re sorry to report that we were not wildly impressed with any of the products we found – although our test dogs didn’t know what our problem was; they liked all the treats, and would have gladly eaten seconds and thirds of all but one. Two of the four products, we thought, were just okay – neither so healthful nor inexpensive that we would ever consider placing a regular monthly order – but neither did they contain any harmful ingredients or offend us in any meaningful way.
OurPet’s Company, of Fairport Harbor, Ohio, is the maker of one of these products, Dog-E-Licious Ice Pudding. Dog-E-Licious wouldn’t fool any humans into thinking they were looking at (or eating) real ice cream or real pudding, but our dogs certainly didn’t mind the somewhat grainy appearance of this product. One taste of this stuff and they were eager for more. Both flavors (mint and vanilla) were a hit. OurPet’s suggests that the room-temperature treat can be drizzled over a dog’s regular food (essentially, used as a sweet palatant) or given to a dog all by itself, frozen or not. Our dogs liked it every which way.
I wish we could say the same, but there is really nothing all that attractive – to us – about the ingredients. OurPet’s used natural flavorings (mint and vanilla), and added vitamins, minerals, and acidophilus. But the sweeteners are what the dogs were after, and the product contains several: sucrose, maltodextrin (also used as a texturizer), glycerin (also used as a bodying agent), and glucose. The manufacturer was unable to offer us a sugar content, but did volunteer that each serving of Dog-E-Licious contains 27.5 calories.
The ingredients also include several natural preservatives (mixed tocopherols and rosemary extract) and artificial preservatives (glucono delta lactone and potassium sorbate). Since this product is clearly meant as an occasional treat, not part of a dog’s daily diet, we’d look the other way regarding the artificial preservatives.
Unfortunately, there are even more chemical ingredients in the next product we examined, Frosty Paws Frozen Treat For Dogs – which was the first ice cream-style product intended just for dogs that I ever saw. The contents are especially disappointing, because this product is made and sold in a form that would accommodate healthy, whole food ingredients. Made by Associated Ice Cream of San Ramon, California, this frozen product is available only in grocery stores and pet stores with freezers.
Unlike Dog-E-Licious, Frosty Paws is loaded not with sweeteners, but with several “fractions” (by-products) of whey, itself a by-product of milk. We’re quite averse to the use of generic fats and proteins in any edible dog product, so the appearance of the artificially preserved “animal fat” so high on the ingredients list is a turnoff for us. Nevertheless, the fat is probably what the dogs like about the product.
We were happy to see some ingredients we recognize as food in the next product we tried, Pooch Passions Freeze Dried Ice Cream For Dogs, marketed by Pet Goods Mfg. & Imports, of Alpharetta, Georgia. But then, this appears to be real ice cream – intended for humans – that has been dehydrated and marketed in a creative way. As such, it probably contains more sugar than a dog should eat on a regular basis. But at this price, no dog is going to have the opportunity to eat it regularly. At least, no dogs we know.
When the package is first opened, the freeze-dried chunks are very brittle and crumbly, which is nice if you want to break it into tiny slivers for use as training treats. Left in the open package for a week on a shelf, the product turned the consistency of taffy, now too soft and rubbery to easily break into training treat-sized pieces. Our dogs were happy to eat it, brittle or rubbery.
We must mention, of course, that this product does nothing to cool a dog or quench his thirst, like the other products we selected. In fact, the dehydrated ice cream seemed to make our test dogs especially thirsty.
Perhaps the best application for this treat would be for dogs who have a sweet tooth, and are not motivated to work for meat-or fish-based treats.
Out of contention
The final frozen treat product we reviewed is Dog-Ice, made in Japan for Vitakraft Pet Products Co., Inc, of Bound Brook, New Jersey. We were taken aback, to say the least, when the package bearing this product arrived. The catalog description did not offer a size or weight, and the photo in the catalog offered nothing for scale comparison. The tiny plastic treat cups came as a shock – they can’t contain more than a tablespoon or two. No wonder this item cost so much less than the other products we ordered!
While the list of ingredients starts with either “fish extract” or “beef extract” (depending on the flavor), with the moisture content on the label listed as 98 percent, we presume “extract” actually means broth. The rest of the ingredients, then, are essentially just sugar and preservatives.
It would be far less expensive – and far healthier – to make your own “brothicles” by stirring a little honey into organic chicken or beef broth, and freezing in ice cube trays.
Our test dogs did eat these treats, but with far less enthusiasm than they displayed for the other treats – or for the homemade experiments that these products inspired.
-by Pat Miller