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Can Dogs Drink Milk?

Posted: 03/21/2023 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Pet care , Top Tips

Can dogs drink milk? Many of us wonder if it’s okay to share some of our dairy products with our pups when they give us those big, brown, begging eyes. Dogs are similar to people in that some dogs can consume milk and other dairy products with no problem while others are lactose intolerant. 

Lactose intolerance refers to a digestive system that no longer produces adequate amounts of the enzyme lactase that is responsible for breaking down the sugar (or lactose) in milk. The specific reaction to dairy products all depends on how much lactase is available and  how much lactose needs to be broken down. So for instance, a dog that cannot drink milk because of high lactase (sugar) may have no problem eating cottage cheese that has much lower levels of lactase.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Dogs

can dogs drink milk?

Since our dogs can’t come to us and tell us they aren’t feeling well, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of GI upset caused by lactose intolerance. The following are the symptoms to look for. Note that these symptoms may appear mild or severe:

  • Loose stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite

Most of these signs will appear within 12 hours of drinking milk or eating other dairy products. 

It’s important to mention that while some dogs are lactose intolerant, other dogs may have a dairy allergy, which can be even more serious. Lactose intolerance and a dairy allergy should not be confused. In addition to the above symptoms, a dog with a dairy allergy may display the following signs:

  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Itchiness and scratching
  • Hives
  • Facial swelling
  • Difficulty breathing

If you should notice any of these symptoms after giving your dog milk or another dairy product, call your vet immediately or head to the nearest animal hospital if it is after hours. Your pup may experience anaphylactic shock, which is a medical emergency that can be fatal without fast and proper treatment.

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Avoid Full-Fat Dairy

Let’s say your dog does not have a dairy allergy and is also lucky enough to not be lactose intolerant, what’s the best milk to give them? It is advised by most veterinarians to avoid giving your dog whole milk products. This is because the fat content is super high. This is potentially bad for two reasons:

Obesity. It’s not good for people and it’s not good for our pups. Overweight dogs are more at risk of developing chronic health issues such as diabetes and arthritis.

Second, eating high fat foods can cause dogs to develop pancreatitis, which can be a life threatening illness. 

Why Can Puppies Drink Milk?

Like little kids, who seem to have no issues drinking glasses and glasses of milk, while their parents might not be able to touch the stuff, puppies are born with an abundance of lactase enzymes so they are able to break down the milk lactose. Once puppies are weaned, their bodies begin to produce less of the necessary enzymes. This is so they can slowly begin to transition into their new nutritional demands. It’s at this point a dog may become lactose intolerant.

It’s also important to mention that their mother’s milk is not the same as cow milk. Mother’s milk contains necessary nutrients and antibodies that support healthy growth and development.

This brings us to an important question, what do you do if you find a very young orphaned puppy. What do you feed her? Most vets advise you to use a commercial replacement instead of feeding regular milk. Should you ever rescue a young puppy, be sure to speak to your vet about what milk replacement they recommend. 

How Much Milk Can Dogs Have?

It’s always a good idea to get the green light from your vet before giving human foods to pups as a treat. But once you get the okay, and provided your dog has shown no signs of lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy, you should be okay to give your dog a couple of tablespoons of milk every once in a while. 

As mentioned earlier. Avoid sharing whole milk with your pup. Skim is best.

What About Milk Alternatives?

With so many dairy alternatives hitting the market, you may be wondering if it’s okay to give your pup other forms of “milk” like soy milk, almond milk or oat milk.

Almonds can actually be toxic to dogs, so never give your dog almond milk. While oats are not toxic to dogs, many milk substitutes have added sweeteners that can be dangerous to dogs. Xylitol can actually be deadly to dogs, which is why you should always read labels before giving your dog any human food.

Generally speaking, you should stick with cow milk, goat is fine as well, and forget about these other dairy substitutes. And remember, only give small amounts every once in a while as a treat. And ONLY after your vet has approved it and you have made certain your dog does not have a dairy allergy or is not lactose-intolerant. 

can dogs drink milk?

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The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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