Can Dogs Have Milk?
You love your milk. Whether it’s poured over your cereal or enjoyed with a big piece of cake, cold milk is delicious and good for you. Rich in vitamin D and calcium, most humans are deficient in these substances and only get them from milk. When your doctor recommends a daily serving of milk, don’t assume your dog needs it, too.
Can Dogs Drink Milk?
Not many people know that dogs are actually lactose intolerant. If you’re lactose intolerant, you know that consuming dairy causes gas, diarrhea, rashes, and painful bloating when you consume it. Dogs have a very similar reaction when they’re given regular or large servings of milk.
Not many dogs will turn down the opportunity for the leftover milk in your cereal bowl or some cheese, but they can’t understand the havoc it’s going to wreck in their digestive system.
To break down lactose, the body requires an enzyme that can utilize the lactose and properly digest it. Dogs don’t have that enzyme in any form, so lactose is completely useless to their body. You might argue that they thrive on their mother’s milk as puppies, but canine milk is completely different than cow’s milk.
Some experts argue that humans don’t digest dairy very well because milk is such a species-specific food (a human baby wouldn’t thrive on a strict diet of cow’s milk, for example, because they require human breast milk) and a lot of the skin and digestive problems we experience actually stem from dairy.
Because dogs lack that enzyme, dairy is rejected by their body in large amounts. Minor lactose intolerance will show as some digestive upset like loose stool or gas. More severe cases of lactose intolerance will make your poor dog absolutely miserable. They’ll vomit, have diarrhea, experience excessive/persistent gas, and have painful stomach bloating.
Dogs who are getting consistent but small servings of milk might have skin problems where they’re constantly itchy or have a dry coat. Many owners have reported their dog lacking in appetite until the milk has cleared their system.
What About Goat’s Milk?
Goat farmers have insisted that goat’s milk is a much better option for humans and other animals to drink because it doesn’t have lactose. Goat’s milk is very healthy and boasts a wide variety of benefits with minimal risk to the consumer.
Although the risk is low, however, milk isn’t necessary in a grown animal’s diet. If you absolutely want to give your pup a milk treat, then goat’s milk might be a good option. When you’re purchasing the goat’s milk from a farmer (you won’t find it in stores), visit their farm to see how it’s sourced.
Your milk should be pasteurized before you drink it to eliminate any risk of bacterial growth. The verdict is still out on raw milk, so you should err on the side of caution and only give your dog milk that’s been correctly pasteurized.
Moderation, Moderation, Moderation
Dogs don’t do well with a life of gluttony. Their diet should be balanced, well-rounded, and moderated. Too much of anything, even their dog food, will make your dog unhealthy and miserable. If you decide to give your dog goat’s milk, only give them small, infrequent amounts.
Once a dog weans from its mother around six to eight weeks of age, their body has developed enough that they thrive on solid food. Milk just isn’t a necessity in their diet at any point, and their dog food is formulated to meet their needs as an adult dog. Too much milk from any source is going to cause diarrhea and an uncomfortable few days for them.
There are plenty of ways to treat your dog. Skip giving your dog that ice cream cone or piece of cheese and find a more suitable option for their digestive system. Their body will thank you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you give milk to puppies?
If you have a litter of puppies, it may be tempting to give them cow’s or goat’s milk, but it’s important to avoid doing this. Not only can puppies not digest lactose found in cow’s milk, but neither of these milks are nutritionally adequate for puppies. Giving them milk that isn’t specifically for dogs (i.e. their mother’s milk or a canine milk replacement formula) fills them up and prevents them getting the nutrition that they need to grow and thrive.