Can Dogs Drink Milk? How Dairy Affects Your Dog

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can dogs drink milk

Dogs can drink milk but only in moderation. Milk is not toxic for dogs. However, some dogs are lactose-intolerant, that’s why you must ask your vet first, before introducing any new product in your dog’s diet.

So can dogs drink milk safely? If you want to give your dog milk or any dairy product, do so moderately and watch for signs such as vomiting, loose stool, or abdominal pain.

In this article, I’m going to help you understand what dogs can drink, what milk contains, why it isn’t toxic to dogs, and how it can affect dogs with food allergies.

Dog Milk Vs. Human Milk

Of course, human milk helps people with the growing-up process and dog milk is healthy for your puppy. But you should not feed your dog milk-based products other than its mother’s milk.

Human breast milk contains similar components to dairy products. Because of that, a lactose intolerant dog would not be able to convert the lactose he digested into viable sugar.

This could lead to intestinal distress, bloating, a loss of appetite, and severe gas.

Can Milk Harm My Dog

As we said earlier, a lactose intolerant dog can’t convert the lactose he digests. Dogs don’t have enzymes that break down lactose in milk as we do.

Then the lactose sugar goes undigested and causes problems as it goes through the digestive system.

If you want to learn more about dogs’ digestion, read our article on How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Digest Food.

Can Dogs Drink Milk? What Can Happen If My Dog Drinks Milk?

Sometimes dogs drink milk and it’s not toxic. Unfortunately, it can cause some serious symptoms. A lot of dogs suffer from lactose intolerance. This means they have problems digesting dairy products.

Some of the symptoms are:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constant flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Loose stools
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive thirst
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

Giving your dog even small quantities of dairy products (especially high-fat products) could make them develop a serious disease called pancreatitis.[1]

Lactose Intolerance In Dogs. Can Dogs Become Lactose Intolerant?

can dogs drink milk

Food allergies in dogs are commonly triggered by milk and dairy products.

When puppies are weaned, they generate less lactase and most dogs can develop lactose intolerance at this point.

Lactose intolerance dogs may experience the same symptoms human beings do.

Dogs have different degrees of lactose intolerance. Dogs that drink milk might generally experience mild gastrointestinal distress or nothing at all.

When puppies, dogs have the enzyme lactase in their guts to help digest the lactose in their mothers’ milk.

However, shortly after puppies finish weaning, most dogs stop making lactase and lose the capacity to break down lactose in milk.

This is why it’s better to avoid giving your dog dairy products. Instead, stick to premium balanced dog chow that your vet recommends.

Treatment of Lactose Intolerance

Dairy is not required in a dog’s diet, so treatment generally consists of removing dairy from the diet. There are some dairy-similar products you want to use instead:

Lactose-free milk and dairy

lactose free diary

There are several varieties of milk and dairy products designed for lactose-intolerant people. They may be suitable for your pet too.

Soy milk products

soy milk

While soy milk is usually considered a healthy substitute for regular milk, excessive quantities have been proven to promote estrogen-like activity and decrease thyroid levels.

Almond milk products

almond milk

This is another option that lactase-deficient dogs can tolerate in tiny amounts. Due to the fat content of the milk, larger amounts may cause gastrointestinal upset.

It is critical to check that there are no extra sugars or flavorings that could harm your pet. Check the ingredient list for artificial sweeteners and other potentially harmful additions such as raisins, chocolate, or even xylitol.

They may have been blended in for sweetness. These substances are potentially lethal to your pet and should be avoided at all costs.

How To Tell If My Dog Is Lactose Intolerant ?

Many owners might not realize their pets are lactose intolerant until they offer them milk. Trying to figure out if your dog is lactose intolerant might be difficult.

Especially if your puppy has taken a big amount of milk. This can also cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs that are not lactose intolerant.

If your dog experiences these symptoms after consuming a modest amount of milk, you should switch to a different treat.

Can Dogs Drink Milk Safely?

Milk is a safe nutrient-rich dairy product that could be healthy for dogs in small portions. However, it might be unfit for your dog’s diet. Milk is not essential for dogs after they have weaned from their mothers.

“In general, no mammals in nature consume milk past weaning, which clearly suggests that milk is not essential and that applies to dogs.”

Dr. Peter Dobias, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Puppies and kittens are breastfed until they are 6-8 weeks old, at which point they can be weaned. After your puppy or kitten has been weaned, there is no need to continue feeding milk.

A few tablespoons of cow’s milk or goat’s milk on occasion might be a wonderful reward for your dog without being excessive. However, you should definitely avoid giving your dog a whole bowl at one session, since this might result in unpleasant reactions.

What Type Of Milk Can Dogs Drink?

Feeding your dog with lactose drink replacements is a great idea. Small amounts of plant-based types of milk, such as almond milk and oat milk, should be fine as an occasional treat.

Coconut milk and soy milk are also good for your dog’s health because of their benefits. However, don’t serve them in large amounts, or they might cause diarrhea.

Another option is goat’s milk. Goat milk contains more potassium and calcium than cow’s milk, but less folate and vitamin B12. Goat milk also contains less lactose than cow milk.

Experts say that because of variations in protein and lipid structures, lactose-intolerant dogs can consume goat milk with less probability of sensitivity and allergic reaction thanks to an easier digestion process.

How Much Milk Can Dogs Drink?

Dogs can drink a few sips of milk as a reward with your veterinarian’s permission. A few tablespoons of milk occasionally is unlikely to damage them, but providing larger quantities may have negative, short- and long-term consequences.

As with other treats, it’s best to stick to the 90/10 rule and restrict your pet’s treat consumption to no more than 10% of their total daily calories. If you want to read more about this, check our article about how much should I feed my dog.

Milk And Bottle Feeding Puppies

bottle feeding puppy

“A puppy may require formula as a supplement when the mother cannot make enough milk to satisfy the puppy’s needs. Of course, puppies should nurse from mom as much as possible”. – Elizabeth Fuller, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Use a bottle with a small hole in the nipple, just large enough to allow the milk to flow out gently. Your puppy should suck it out, instead of having the milk fall into your puppy’s mouth.

It is also critical not to overfill or force-feed your puppy. Incorrect feeding is almost certain to result in pneumonia.

What To Do If My Dog Drinks Milk?

If your dog gets their hands on a significant amount of milk, keep an eye out for signs of stomach trouble.

Gastric distress usually occurs within 12 hours, but it can persist much longer, so prepare for many outdoor visits. If things degenerate, visit a vet as soon as possible.

What About Yoghurt, Ice Cream And Cheese?

Yogurt and cheese have less lactose than milk but can still induce gastrointestinal distress due to their high-fat content.

The excessive fat content can cause pancreatitis. It is also possible to overfeed your pet if you use cheese as a reward.

A few licks of ice cream from the bowl is not harmful to your dog or cat but it may cause a mild gastrointestinal upset 12- 24 hours later so it’s best not to make a habit of this! Stick to pet-friendly treats approved by your veterinarian.

The bottom line

Should you give your dog a bowl of milk? No! However, you can offer it to your dog in small quantities.

Milk is not toxic to dogs, but it is also not an essential component of a healthy canine diet. Dogs do not need milk to survive after weaning.

Dogs are sensitive to lactose, which is the sugar in milk. For some dogs, this means they can’t have any dairy products at all without suffering from severe side effects like vomiting and diarrhea.

Also, consult with your veterinarian before introducing new products into your dog’s diet.

Photo of author
Andrei Bratu
Andrei is the owner of Dog Food Camp and manages the team of expert writers on the site. He is passionate about helping dog lovers learn about canine nutrition.

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