It’s something many dog owners ask. A better question might be, “Is it OK for dogs to drink milk?” It’s one to which there is no black-and-white answer.
We all probably know someone who is lactose intolerant or dairy intolerant. Dogs too can develop allergies to particular foods, including the milk that cows produce.
Read on to find out all the issues around the question, “Can dogs drink milk.” You’ll also discover everything you need to know about lactose intolerance in dogs and lactose intolerance in puppies.
How Much Milk Can a Dog Drink?
The quick answer to “Can dogs drink milk”, is perhaps, but it may just be better to leave cow’s or goat’s milk out of their diets.
Lapping milk from a favorite bowl is something you’re perhaps more likely to associate with cats. However, lots of dogs have a penchant for dairy products too.
As with many of the foods we eat, if you do give your dog milk, you should only ever give it in moderation. It’s also quite common for puppies to suffer from lactose intolerance, so drinking cow’s milk can cause intestinal upsets. An intolerance to dairy products is one of the common allergies in dogs.
Milk can be a safe kind of treat to give your dog in small amounts. A few tablespoons of cow’s milk or even goat’s milk once in a while may sometimes be a useful reward for your dog. It’s inadvisable to offer your dog an entire bowl in one go. If you do, you risk some unpleasant reactions. These can include vomiting, diarrhea, or loose stools.
Milk is high in natural sugars as well as fat. If there’s too much of either of these in a dog’s diet, there’s a greater risk of obesity and pancreatitis, both of which are serious conditions.
Some dogs may be allergic or lactose intolerant. So, although most dogs will eagerly drink milk, it’s the reaction to that milk drinking that can be a cause for concern. Just because they like it, doesn’t mean they should drink it.
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Are Dogs Lactose Intolerant?
Puppies do of course enjoy drinking their mother’s milk. That milk has a sugar called lactose in it that needs an enzyme known as lactase for digestion. Puppies typically have plenty of that enzyme. They use it to break down their mother’s milk when nursing.
Although puppies do well on their mother’s milk, they may not tolerate ordinary cow’s or goat’s milk later in life. When puppies get weaned, they’ll begin to produce less lactase. It’s at this point that the majority of dogs can develop lactose intolerance.
A dog that suffers a lactose intolerance may experience similar symptoms to people with the same condition. Dogs can have varying degrees of lactose intolerance. Some may just have a mildly upset tummy. Others will display severe clinical signs.
Dairy products and milk are also common triggers for food allergies in dogs. They can appear as itching, redness, or irritation of the skin, along with diarrhea and vomiting.
Some lactose-intolerant dogs have problems drinking milk but may have no issues with other dairy products such as yogurt and cheese which sometimes tend to be easier to digest.
What Can Be the Consequences If Your Dog Enjoys Milk?
Once puppies get to adulthood they can have more difficulty digesting milk. That’s because they have less of the enzyme lactase that breaks down sugars in milk.
The lactose in milk gets passed through their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts and enters the colon in an undigested state. This undigested sugar draws water into the colon. It’s this that can cause diarrhea. The fermentation of bacteria in the colon can lead to flatulence and discomfort.
As well as this, whole-fat milk, along with other dairy products, can contain a lot of fat. This can also cause vomiting and diarrhea as well. Dogs can develop the potentially serious illness, pancreatitis, when they eat dairy products, especially those that are very high in fat.
How to Tell If Your Dog Is Lactose Intolerant
Dogs can have different levels of lactose intolerance. As we mentioned earlier, some may only suffer mild symptoms, while other cases can be more serious. The most typical symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain
- Loose stools and gas
- Diarrhea and vomiting
What to Do if Your Dog Is Lactose Intolerant
Many owners won’t discover that their dogs have a lactose intolerance until they feed them dairy products. Trying to work out if your dog is lactose intolerant can also be difficult. When a dog drinks a large quantity of milk, they have vomiting and diarrhea episodes even if they are not lactose intolerant.
The odd lick of your ice cream cup or lap from your mug typically presents no problem unless your dog is allergic. However, you should steer clear of letting your dog drink large quantities of milk or eating huge amounts of other dairy products.
Intestinal issues will often happen within 12 hours or so of drinking milk. If your dog accidentally gets their paws on a bigger helping than you had intended, look out for any abdominal discomfort or distress as well as vomiting and/or diarrhea.
When a dog displays any of these symptoms after drinking a small amount of milk, it’s time to look for a different treat. You should check the foods you give your dog that may have milk products in them and switch to others that don’t.
You should always check with your vet before introducing a new kind of food into your dog’s diet. They will be able to advise you on the types of foods and treats that are most appropriate for your pet.
Worried About Lactose Intolerance in Dogs or Puppies?
If you’ve been asking yourself, “Can dogs drink milk,” the chances are you may already have worries about lactose intolerance in dogs or lactose intolerance in puppies.
There are plenty of other, harmless tasty treats out there, so there’s an argument for simply avoiding dairy products and milk altogether. It’s always a good time to seek the professional advice of a vet if you have any concerns about dairy allergies.
We have a team of experts waiting to talk to you. Book a timeslot today with one of our vets and get some peace of mind about your dog and any potential allergies they may suffering from.