Can dogs eat milk products?
Dogs are very similar to humans when it comes to drinking milk. Some dogs are unaffected by it and other dogs are lactose intolerant, so drinking foods high in milk or cream may result in an upset stomach.
Lactase is the enzyme that is required for the digestion of lactose, the naturally occurring sugar in milk. Most dogs lose the ability to break down lactose in milk shortly after puppyhood.
Causes of lactose intolerance
Feeding dogs milk products, for example, cow’s milk, cream, butter, cheese, ice-cream, yoghurt, and dog ice-creams that contain dairy products.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance
The symptoms of lactose intolerance typically involve intestinal discomfort. However, they are not generally life-threatening unless they continue for an extended period of time. The main symptoms are:
- Abdominal tenderness or pain
- Excessive thirst
- Weight loss
Symptoms will start within thirty minutes to two hours after ingestion of a dairy product. Lactose concentrations in a nursing bitch’s milk is about 3%, whereas cow’s milk contains 5%. So, even unweaned puppies may not produce enough lactase to digest cow's milk properly, and may show signs of lactose intolerance.
What can you do to help your dog?
Try to avoid feeding dairy products to your dog if they are lactose intolerant. Cheese is often used as a training treat but it is also very calorific. It’s best to give cheese to your dog in very small amounts every now and again. Avoid feeding blue cheese as it contains live fungal spores.
Treatment of lactose intolerance
Treatment of the specific gastrointestinal signs include feeding a bland diet to allow symptoms to settle, and treatment of vomiting or diarrhoea, if it occurs. Read more about the causes and treatment of vomiting and diarrhoea in our article.
When to see your physical veterinarian
- If your dog has eaten dairy products and is showing symptoms of lactose intolerance.
- Please contact your vet straight away if your dog has eaten mouldy or blue cheese.
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