After a video of a woman feeding a cone to her pet went viral, other dog-owners were quick to point out that they share saliva with their dogs, too. But it isn’t always safe.
The Guardian reports that a video of a woman offering her ice-cream cone to a black dachshund sprawled at her feet has gone viral. The setting is idyllic: a picnic blanket in a park on a hot day. After the dachshund has had its fill – 22 licks, according to the Daily Mail – the woman tucks her hair behind her ear and returns the cone to her own mouth.
“A lot of people do it. I have seen it at the seaside. But I wouldn’t,” says Sarah Wright, the editor of Your Dog magazine and owner of a Norfolk terrier who “sticks his nose into everything; the smellier the better”. But is it really any worse to eat food your dog has licked than to let your dog lick your face? “That’s true,” she says. “My dog licks my face and I don’t mind that. It’s more of a hello lick,” she adds.
The problem is that dogs like eating other dogs’ faeces, fox faeces, goose faeces, whatever faeces are available in the park. “There will be bacteria in a dog’s saliva,” a spokesperson for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home says. “Probably just a word of caution on that. It’s up to an owner whether they want to share something with their dog, but they could end up with an upset stomach.”
The British Veterinary Association is less permissive and “strictly” advises against sharing food “on grounds of pet and human health”. Maybe the video of the woman peacefully offering her cone to the dachshund has made dog owners shy, because the ones I ask are unanimously disapproving, even though one admits, on condition of anonymity, that “everybody does it”.
Leaving aside the risk to humans, ice-cream isn’t good for dogs. Battersea warns against it “because of the sugar, and because some dogs can be intolerant to dairy”. Wright objects on the grounds of contributing to the dog obesity crisis. A couple of dozen licks of ice-cream, she says, “can be the equivalent of a couple of cheeseburgers” for humans.
So, what summer treats can a dog enjoy? “Frozen yoghurt restores bacteria in the gut,” says Jacob Van Nieuwkoop, the managing director of Purple Bone, a lifestyle dog retailer. “If my dogs have an upset stomach, I let them lick it; it’s a source of probiotics.” However, he doesn’t share his own ice-cream.
Fiona Woods of Fiona’s Diggidy Daycare in Brighton advocates “frozen kong toys filled with dog treats and peanut butter”, while Battersea suggests ice cubes. If you are wedded to the idea of ice-cream, you could try Doggy Ice Cream, which comes in carrot and old sock flavour (AKA cheese and sweet potato). It’s made from human-grade ingredients, so if you scoop it into your own mouth by mistake, no harm done.