For people, milk is a healthy drink that strengthens bones. But not many of us stop to wonder, “can dogs drink milk?” It’s naturally assumed that milk is healthy for dogs because it’s healthy for us. After all, dogs drink milk from their moms as newborn puppies. Yet, this doesn’t automatically mean that the cow or goat milk we buy from the grocery store is safe for them to consume. So, you should always do your research before feeding your dog something new.
Can Dogs Drink Milk?
Similarly to other dairy products, milk is only safe for dogs in small quantities. A couple tablespoons of cow or goat milk can be a tasty treat for your pup. An entire bowl of milk is a different story though. Too much milk in one sitting can cause diarrhea, vomiting, or loose stool. The same is true for every dairy product, no matter how much your dog enjoys it. So, milk is not recommended for dogs, but small servings shouldn’t pose a threat.
Milk is also high in fat and natural sugar. This means that serving it in larger quantities could lead to obesity, pancreatitis, and other serious health concerns. Humans might consider milk to be a healthy beverage, but dogs don’t need any drinks besides water. Other dairy products like yogurt and cheese are easier for dogs to digest, but they should also only be fed in small amounts.
Can Dogs Be Lactose Intolerant?
Many dogs are lactose intolerant, just like people are. This means that they have a hard time digesting dairy products, especially milk. Dogs that are lactose intolerant are not always the same though. Some dogs can struggle with digesting milk, but other foods like cheese and yogurt are fine. Other times, they can’t handle any forms of dairy, even in small amounts.
If your dog gets sick not long after eating dairy, then they might be lactose intolerant. Here are some common symptoms of lactose intolerance in dogs:
- Loose stools
- Abdominal pain
Every time you introduce your dog to a new food, it’s important to take it slow. Always give them small amounts first to make sure it won’t upset their stomach. This is especially true if you’ve never given your dog dairy before.
Benefits of Milk for Dogs
Milk is high in calcium, which is ideal for bone health. However, dogs should be getting enough calcium from their diets, so milk doesn’t really add many benefits for them. Calcium can be found in meat, vegetables, and bones too. So, check your dog’s food for calcium. Odds are, they don’t need additional calcium from milk. Milk also has protein and vitamins A, D, and B12, all of which are also probably in your dog’s diet already. Reduced fat milk without added sugars is often healthier for dogs than regular milk, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Other than calcium, cow’s milk doesn’t provide many nutritional benefits for dogs. Most people would argue that there are more risks than anything else. However, goat milk is often used as a healthier alternative to cow milk. It has a lower amount of lactose, making it easier for dogs to digest. Many companies are also selling special goat milk formulas for dogs. These supplements can serve as a tasty topper for you dog, and they can give them essential vitamins and boost their immune systems. So, if you want to give your dog milk, then goat milk is by far the better choice.
Risks of Milk for Dogs
Milk is not only risky for dogs with lactose intolerance, but it can cause life-threatening conditions in large amounts. As mentioned earlier, the high amount of fat and sugar found in milk could lead to obesity or pancreatitis. Pancreatitis occurs when your dog’s pancreas becomes inflamed, which doesn’t have a simple cure. Dog’s cannot process fat as easily as humans do, which is why milk is not healthy for them.
On top of all that, some dogs could also have allergies to milk. Milk is not a common allergy for dogs, but some dogs have been known to have milk allergies. If your dog is allergic to milk, you might notice the following symptoms:
- Redness or skin irritation
- Itchy ears
- Yeast infections
In most cases, allergy symptoms will be minor. If the reaction is sudden and severe though, then you should rush your dog to the vet. Also, it’s important to note that you should never serve your dog any type of flavored milk, such as chocolate or strawberry milk. Chocolate is obviously fatal for dogs, and flavoring usually adds artificial sugar to the beverage, which is also hazardous for dogs.
Should You Include Milk in Your Dog’s Diet?
Putting milk in your dog’s diet is not a good idea. If you give your dog a little milk, it won’t harm them, but it won’t provide many benefits either. Everything that goes into your dog’s diet should be healthy and beneficial for them, so milk would just be like a filler ingredient. It might make their food taste better, but it won’t do much else beyond that unless you choose a goat milk supplement.
If you really want to give your dog milk, consider using healthier dairy products instead. Unsweetened, nonfat yogurt is the best dairy product to serve your dog. In fact, it’s often used on tasty dog treats, especially as “icing” on dog cookies. Yogurt can be a tasty topping for your dog’s food, and it can also be a good food to hide pills inside. Cheese is also a tasty dairy product that’s better than milk, but it should also only be served in small quantities.
There are lots of human foods that dogs can eat, but unfortunately, milk shouldn’t be one of them. If you’ve wondered if dogs can drink milk before, then hopefully you now know to avoid it if possible. Fruits and vegetables are usually the safest human foods to serve your dog, but always do your research before feeding something new to your dog. Of course, dogs love tasting new treats, but their health should always come first.