Technically, you, a human, can eat ice cream from salty paws, an ice cream shop that features flavors such as peanut butter and bacon, as well as a topping bar. But founder Suzanne Tretowicz wouldn’t exactly recommend it. You see, these uniquely flavored ice creams are made for dogs, not humans, and there aren’t the same health codes there would be in a restaurant, so canine consumers are coming in in packs. Tretowicz points out, “We have so many dogs.” There are dog ice cream socials, breed meet-ups, post-vet visits, and date-with-the-dogs. Sometimes even pot-bellied pigs pass.
When she opened the first Salty Paws store in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware in 2018, “it was the first dog ice cream shop in the country,” says Tretowicz. More than just dog friendly, Salty Paws is all about dogs. Today, the company spans 16 franchise locations nationwide, mostly clustered in the mid-Atlantic, but extending into St. Louis and Fort Collins, Colorado; there is also a lot of interest from California. Other dog ice cream options exist nationwide, including Ben & Jerry’s Dog Dessert Cups launched in store last year, because wherever there are pets, there are people ready to spoil them.
If you work in a (human) ice cream shop, you’ve probably served samples, if not whole cups, to pooches; when I did, I had a regular named Sadie, a stubby brown dog who came by almost every morning for her dollop of vanilla. Although dogs can eat human ice cream, it is generally only recommended in moderation. Since many dogs are lactose intolerant, dairy products can cause less than ideal symptoms like diarrhea, according to the American Kennel Club, who adds that too much milk can cause problems even in dogs that are otherwise lactose tolerant. For this reason, the ice cream at Salty Paws is lactose-free, and they also offer goat milk options due to potential health benefits of milk.
Dog ice cream has been around, in more limited options, for decades. In 1979, the late William Tyznik, a professor at Ohio State University and animal nutritionist, formulated vanilla ice cream cups for dogs and called them Frosty Paws. With a focus on health, Frosty Paws used soy flour and lactose free dry whey, skipping added sugars from human ice cream, according to a 1989 UPI report published following the license of the creation of Tyznik. Frosty Paws was later acquired by Nestlé, which sells it today under the Purina brand. In 2005, Frosty Paws drew about $10 million in sales a year, in a pet industry that was worth $35 billion a year.
This industry reached an all-time high with $103.6 billion in sales in 2020, according to a report by the American Pet Products Association, and this growth has led to big changes in the way people feed their pets. “The humanization of pet food is almost complete,” said the Atlantic claimed in 2018, referring to the narrowing of the gap between human food and pet food. That future has arrived: today pampered puppies eat spirulina waffles and bento stuffed with smelt and chicken feet on TikTok, and have the option of food delivery services like The Farmer’s Dog, which looks — and, in theory, is — something I myself could throw in a bowl and eat for lunch. Just as bone broth for dogs followed the rise of bone broth for humans, certain changes in pet diets may echo the mores or dietary restrictions of their owners, according to New York Times.
Humanization is a big trend in the pet industry every year, says Meg Meyer, who ran the frozen yogurt dog treat company The bear and the rat with her husband, Matt, since 2010. “Pet owners want [to] view their pet food the same as their own [food], and they try to give them the same experience,” says Meyer. Pointing to the 2007 melamine pet food recall, she says, more and more owners are asking themselves what their dogs are eating and incorporating higher quality and even more functional ingredients. Part of what drove their approach at The Bear & The Rat was not liking the ingredients in Frosty Paws, Meyer explains. Their frozen yogurt for dogs includes prebiotics and digestive enzymes for gut health. Organic and natural pet food is itself a $22.8 billion industry.
Caring for your dogs calls for a different, more enthusiastic mindset, says Lori Gabay of Ice Cream Pups, who sells her vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free dog ice cream at West Hollywood stores and via a cart in dog parks. “When I pay for myself, it’s money; when I pay for my dogs, it’s not money,” says Gabay, who adds that when she lived in New York she once bought a $30 winter coat for herself and a $80 coat for his dog. “It doesn’t matter how much something costs for my dog - I just bought it – and that’s kind of what happens with people when they come [to my cart].” Since they are buying a treat for their pets, the people she meets at work are simply happy.
Consider how people have come to manage pet Instagram pages, and these food trends fit into a pattern “where people treat their dogs more like humans,” Meyer says. This approach has led to the growth of dog-friendly spaces like Boris & Horton in New York, where dogs are given nearly the same priority as people using laptops, and Hops & Hounds in San Antonio, a restaurant-park for dogs. In 2019, the NYC location of the Wilson nailed on a dog menu which included a $42 ribeye steak, although that option appears to have been downgraded to $24. Starbucks even sells Off-menu pupuccinosfor the person who can’t have a treat without their dog having one too.
As Salty Paws’ Tretowicz explains, giving your dog ice cream is like taking a kid to an ice cream parlour. Before Philadelphia location officially opened last monththis hosted a private birthday party for Drake the Pup Star, a famous golden retriever with one million followers on TikTok, and all his dog friends. Ultimately, the dog ice cream shop is a place to go and socialize with your dog that isn’t the dog park, and it’s more fun than giving your pup a cookie before leaving. fall on the sofa.
Speaking with SFGATE In 2005 when discussing the all-new peanut butter flavor Frosty Paws, dog ice cream inventor Tyznik accurately concluded, “It’s for humans, not dogs.” That still seems true as dog ice cream vendors come up with even more deals and experiences. Gabay is starting to make ice cream cakes for dogs, and Salty Paws is always adding new seasonal options.
“I wouldn’t say it’s because the dogs are fed up with the flavors,” says Tretowicz. “It’s more because it stays fresh and exciting for people who come all the time.”