Dogs tend to be fans of dairy products, and other kinds of human foods—but can they drink milk safely? Well, yes, but with a caveat: it depends on the particular health of your dog. Dogs have different tolerances to dairy. For instance, some pups can take a bowl of milk and trot around happily, others will get into gastric distress after just having some cheese. Just like other dog foods, should only be provided in moderation. In addition, if your pooch is lactose intolerant, then drinking the milk can also lead to intestinal upsets.
How Much Milk Is Good For Dogs?
In small quantities, milk will be a safe meal for your dog. A couple of tablespoons of goat’s milk or cow’s milk given to your furry friend occasionally will be good, especially as a reward for Fluffy being on good behavior. However, excessive amounts will lead to unwanted effects. “Excessive” here means that even a bowl of milk in one sitting, where issues like vomiting, and diarrhea can result.
In addition to these immediate reactions, the high fat and natural sugar content in the milk is another reason why you should stick to small quantities of milk. The increased fat in the diet contributes to obesity, and it can also lead to pancreatitis.
It’s worth noting that dairy is not toxic to dogs. However, it is not an essential part of their diet. After birth, puppies come with high levels of an enzyme called lactase. This is the enzyme that is used to break down sugars in milk. At this age, the puppy’s diet is entirely the mother’s milk. After being weaned, cute Bella no longer needs milk for her to thrive. A well-balanced diet will already have the calcium that is needed by your pet’s body. The ability to digest lactose decreases in tandem with the decreased production of the lactase enzyme.
What Happens When Dogs Have Milk?
Since there are less levels of lactase in the dog’s body, then the lactose in the milk passes through the digestive system of your pooch and gets into the colon without being digested. This sugar draws more water into the colon, leading to diarrhea. Fermentation that takes place in the colon causes flatulence and abdominal discomfort.
Milk actually has plenty of benefits to your pet’s health. It contains calcium, protein, plus vitamins A, D and also B12. However, this doesn’t make it an ideal way to include the nutrients in your furry friend’s diet. The carbohydrates that are in the milk are sugars, mostly being lactose. Even if your pooch can tolerate the lactose, the lack of complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber affects the balance of nutrients being provided. You can go for lower sugar diary options like cheese and yoghurt, where the culturing process involves probiotic bacteria that digest the sugar.
The Lactose Intolerance Factor
Lactose intolerance in your pet basically means that your dog will find it difficult to digest milk. This affects many dogs. The degrees of lactose intolerance vary. For instance, some dogs will find trouble with digesting straight milk, but will be okay with taking dairy products like cheese or plain yoghurt. Other dogs will react with just about any dairy product. The reactions may be mild to severe, depending on the particular dog. Common symptoms of lactose intolerance include having gas, abdominal pain, vomiting, and loose stools.
Pet owners usually don’t know that their pets are lactose intolerant until they have fed them some milk and see its effect on their pooches. Note that the vomiting and diarrhea after giving your dog a lot of milk is not necessarily a sign of lactose intolerance. However, if Fluffy gets these signs after small quantities of milk, then you should switch to different dog treats for your furry friend. It’s recommended that you have a chat with your vet before you introduce a new substance into your pet’s diet as it can lead to food allergies.
My dog has taken dairy- what should I do?
If it is a few laps of milk from your mug, or your pooch has licked some ice-cream, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern, unless the dog is allergic. Note that you should avoid overindulgence of dairy products. The gastrointestinal distress usually occurs within around 12 hours after the milk and dairy products have been consumed. If your pet has accessed a large amount of milk, then you should be on the lookout for discomfort, abdominal distress, vomiting or diarrhea during that time period.
If you enjoyed this article, make sure to read our in-depth article on the other common dairy concern, the yogurt. Can dogs eat yogurt?