Does your dog go wild when you pull into the drive-through line? You’re not alone. According to a consumer survey by Revelation Research, 1 out of every 6 American households orders fast food for their pampered pooches on occasion.
While there are a number of Fido-friendly treats on modern menus, the most iconic remains the “pup cup.” Every establishment puts their own spin on the doggy delicacy, but one thing remains the same: dogs love them!
If you’d like to treat your four-legged friend, there’s no shortage of pup cup options these days. Read on for everything you need to know about these special to-go treats, from where to find them to important nutrition and safety tips.
What Is a Pup Cup?
As many doting doggo parents know, “pup cups” are the best part of any coffee shop trip or drive-through order. But let’s start with the basics: What’s in a pup cup? And what is a pup cup, anyway?
Although “recipes” vary by establishment, a pup cup is usually a small cup of whipped cream or soft-serve vanilla ice cream. Typical garnishes include sprinkles or biscuits.
While some restaurants include the treats on dog-friendly menus, pup cups are more often informal, complimentary items — every Good Boy gets one in return for a derpy grin.
The most famous of these treats is perhaps the Starbucks Puppuccino, a not-so-secret “secret menu” item beloved by dogs and Instagram alike. (After all, who can scroll past a puppy nose covered in whipped cream?) The coffee chain doesn’t claim to have invented the popular treat, but it did recently apply to trademark the term Puppuccino, hinting at expanded offerings for pup patrons.
Regardless of where you enjoy your Puppuccino, don’t forget to order one on September 23, aka National Puppuccino Day!
Are Pup Cups Bad for Dogs?
Like any treat, pup cups are a “sometimes” food, says Dr. Lauren Jones, a veterinarian based in the Philadelphia area.
“When it comes to giving our canine friends special treats, moderation is always the name of the game,” she says. “The general rule of thumb is that treats should compose 10 percent or less of a dog’s overall calorie consumption.”
Although these special treats aren’t toxic, some dogs may not tolerate dairy-heavy foods. “Many dogs may be able to eat an occasional ‘pup cup’ without any negative effects, but some may experience problems since most dogs are lactose intolerant to varying degrees,” notes Jones. “Gastrointestinal upset is the most common problem, with vomiting, diarrhea, or a loss of appetite.”
Pup Cup Restaurant Guide: Starbucks, Dairy Queen and More
OK, furry friends, the wait is over — here’s where to line up for the treats. Bone appetite!
The Starbucks Pup Cup
As mentioned, the Starbucks pup cup leads the pack. Served in an espresso cup, the now-viral Puppuccino is simply a complimentary (aka FREE) dollop of whipped cream (sans coffee). Baristas seem to enjoy serving them as much as dogs enjoy slurping them — many stores and employees have their own unofficial Instagrams featuring canine customers! While you won’t find the Puppuccino advertised on Starbucks’ menu, you can ask for it when you order your own cafe beverage.
The Dunkin’ Pup Cup
Starbucks isn’t the only coffee chain catering to four-legged fans. The next time you’re at Dunkin, ask for a Cup for Pup. The donut destination’s four-ounce cup of whipped cream is usually complimentary, but some locations accept donations for local charities.
The Dairy Queen Pup Cup
DQ’s beloved Blizzards might be doggie-don’ts, but the chain offers a less indulgent dessert for dogs. The complimentary Dairy Queen pup cup is a small portion of vanilla soft serve, garnished with a dog biscuit for good measure. Most Dairy Queen locations serve their pup cups free of charge, but since each franchise is independently owned, some may charge a small fee for this dog-friendly dessert.
The Sonic Pup Cup
You didn’t need an excuse to go to Sonic, but we’ll give you one anyway: The fast food chain’s Wag Cup is a small portion of vanilla ice cream (or whipped cream) that is free with any purchase. If your pup is a super-fan, check out Sonic’s Wag Shop, a pet boutique featuring everything from hot dog costumes to corn dog toys to drive-in dog houses.
The Chick-fil-A Pup Cup
Go for the chicken sandwiches, stay for the dog-friendly treats! Many Chick-fil-A franchises treat pooches to a free, pint-sized portion of Icedream, the chain’s version of vanilla soft-serve. Don’t forget to smile when ordering your Chick-fil-A pup cup – some locations have Instagram accounts featuring satisfied four-legged customers.
Shake Shack makes sure that dogs are able to enjoy their famous frozen treats. The pet-friendly burger chain has a special “Woof” menu starring the Pooch-ini, a serving of vanilla custard topped with peanut butter sauce and dog biscuits. This one isn’t free – a Pooch-ini costs around $4, depending on your location – but you can’t put a price on tail wags.
How to Make a Pup Cup
No dog will complain about a simple dollop of whipped cream. But if you want to treat your pal to a dressed-up pup cup, it’s easy to make a safe and tasty pup cup at home. Try this recipe the next time you decide to skip the take-out!
Pumpkin Pup Cup Recipe
- Plain, non-fat, unsweetened yogurt
- Canned pure pumpkin (not pie filling)
- Ripe banana
Place ingredients in a food processor and blend together until smooth. Portion mixture into small containers (a couple tablespoons each) or an ice cube tray, and freeze. Serve frozen or slightly softened.
Precautions When Giving Dogs Pup Cups
Everyone loves handing over a delicious treat. But before making your dog’s day, consider these precautions from Dr. Jones.
Moderation is key. “While feeding a few extra calories worth of treats on occasion likely isn’t a cause for concern, if it becomes a regular habit, the extra calories can lead to weight gain and nutritional imbalances,” says Dr. Jones.
Review the ingredients. Ensure the pup cup doesn’t contain any unexpected ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as raisins, the artificial sweetener xylitol, chocolate, or coffee. A well-meaning barista’s extra treat could be dangerous!
Seek care as needed. Most gastrointestinal side effects are mild, but more serious conditions, such as pancreatitis, can occur. “Some dogs can become more ill, requiring hospitalization,” says Dr. Jones. “Ultimately, if your dog is experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, a loss of appetite, lethargy, or any other concerning signs, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and seek veterinary care.”
Unfortunately, pup cups simply aren’t for every pup. “If your dog experiences any negative effects after offering a pup cup, don’t offer them one again in the future,” advises JDr. ones.
Pup Cup FAQs
Have pup cup questions? We have pup cup answers!
What’s inside a pup cup?
Pup cups vary by establishment. Traditionally, the treat is a small cup of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Are pup cups free?
Many pup cups are free “secret menu” items that are available to dogs with any other menu purchase. However, some restaurants charge for pup cups.
Does Dunkin’ do pup cups?
Many locations do! Almost all Dunkin’ locations are independently owned franchises, so expect pup-cup policies to vary by establishment.
Can cats eat pup cups?
Cats are lactose intolerant and should not consume whipped cream or ice cream. (Contrary to popular belief, you should also skip that saucer of milk!)
Can puppies eat pup cups?
Whipped cream and vanilla ice cream are not toxic to puppies. However, pup cups should be considered a rare treat, and puppies (as well as small adult dogs) should enjoy smaller portions.