Your Question Unfolded: Can Dogs Have Milk?

milk poured into glass

You’ve probably heard it from everyone in the whole wide world you know, that “milk is bad for your dog”! You might have even read about it in some article written by a “professional” in the field that “all dairy is bad for your dog”.

You and I both know the numerous benefits that cow milk has to offer people in all walks of life, but is it safe to say that these same benefits apply to our dogs in their lives?

Can Dogs Drink Milk Safely?

This is a very tricky subject and the answer to whether canines can or can’t drink milk is much more complicated than a simple one line answer.

For all you know, you’re sitting there licking away on your ice-cream cone while all of a sudden Fido wants some of that – what do you do?

Do you give your dog some ice cream knowing that it contains milk? Or should you not do that because you once heard that milk for dogs is bad?

We’ve got all you need to know about this subject right here, so let’s get right to it ladies and gents!

Is Milk Good For Dogs? – The Quick Answer

Even though this question can’t really be answered in one sentence, for those of you who are here for just a quick yes/no answer – you’re better off NOT trying to feed your dog milk.

If you don’t have time to read all this article and learn about the ins and outs of this issue, then just avoid any extra effort on your part in doing so, as there’s no real need to.

Unless you have been specifically recommended to feed your canine specific amounts and kinds of milk by your veterinarian to achieve a specific goal, there’s really no reason as to why you should be seeking to feed your dog any milk outside the scope of their diet that’s focused around premium, high quality dog food.

(Since the subject of high quality dog food has been brought up, Here’s a list we compiled that covers the best cheap dog food brands you’ll ever come across.)

The Full & Detailed Answer

Now, for those of you who have time to read the entirety of this article, and to answer this question in full detail, there are many details you have to be aware of that cannot be summed up in just one simple yes or no answer, so let’s get to them.

First of all, it must be noted that many dogs (most of them, actually, but not all) are lactose intolerant, which makes it very difficult for them to properly digest the milk they drink.

All About Dogs & Lactose Intolerance

How are dogs lactose intolerant? What exactly is lactose intolerance? Lactose is a simple sugar found in milk, which requires an enzyme known as lactase to properly digest.

And, in case you haven’t guessed it by now, most dogs lack the enzyme lactase in their body, so they can’t digest lactose that’s contained in the milk they drink.

Generally, dogs will get many similar symptoms that you and I would get if we were lactose intolerant and we drank milk that was rich in lactose.

cup of milk

Lactose Intolerance Symptoms In Dogs

You can tell that your dog is lactose intolerant if they drink milk and show some or all the following symptoms:

  • Excessive gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rashes (especially on the dog’s stomach)
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Frequent sounds of rumbling from stomach
  • Decreased appetite

You can usually notice these symptoms right after your canine has consumed milk or in the next day, with the general average being 12 hours after your dog has consumed milk.

It all depends on exactly what lactose intolerance level they are at.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog after they drink milk, stop giving them dairy (or skip ahead to the next section in this article to see what you can do if your dog is lactose intolerant and you still want to give them milk).

A Quick Note About Dehydration

Supposing that your dog had a violent case of diarrhea and vomiting because they are more lactose intolerant than other animals, then you have to pay attention to the problem of dehydration.

Because of the loss of all that water and nutrients from their body when vomiting and going frequent “potty” trips, your pet’s system is going to be dehydrated and will need replenishing.

One of the best ways to give your dog’s body all the nutrients, minerals and water it needs, besides having them drink ample amounts of water of-course, is having your canine drink some pedialyte.

Here’s an article we wrote a while back that tells you all you need to know about giving your dog pedialyte in such circumstances, since the last thing you want to do is go ahead and give your dog pedialyte without knowing the basics first.

If your dog doesn’t show any of these symptoms after they drink milk, then you can keep giving them dairy, as they’re most probably not lactose intolerant!

Milk Toxicity Compared To Intolerance

One mistake that’s often seen and overheard is when people refer to the symptoms their lactose-intolerant dogs experience after they drink milk that’s rich in the sugar lactose as “milk toxicity”.

This is wrong and should be cleared up.

When your dog experiences any/all of the symptoms mentioned above, they weren’t intoxicated because of milk, their bodies just don’t have the needed “ammunition” to deal with what proper milk digestion needs.

What To Do If Your Dog Is Lactose Intolerant?

For canines that are lactose intolerant, and since this is the case with most, don’t worry, there’s still hope!

dog being treated

A dog’s reaction to anything that contains lactose is almost always in co-ordinance with the lactose dosage contained in the specific item at hand.

Even though some dogs will be much more lactose intolerant than others and hence react way worse than other dogs that are given the same amount of milk to drink – it’s safe to say that as a rule of thumb, the greater the lactose dose we’re talking about in the milk, the worse the reaction they will have if they are lactose intolerant.

This is where the magic comes in, as not all dairy products out there contain the same exact mount of lactose.

Two examples of dairy products that are very good for dogs are cheese and yogurt, both of which contain much less lactose than milk does.

You can even find a lot of milk brands out there which contain very minimal lactose levels, which is perfect for all canines out there which are lactose intolerant.

If your dog drinks this kind of milk, it is much more likely that they will not see any negative repercussions.

See why we said that it’s more complicated than a simple yes or no answer at the start?

What Milk Can Dogs Drink?

When it comes to giving your dog milk to drink, the most common kinds you’re going to (most probably) come across as choices are cow and goat milk.

(Quick note: We’re not even going to begin talking about giving your dog any soy milk. When it comes to any canine food product that contains soy in relatively high amounts in its ingredients list, we always tell you to run as fast as you can from that product.

We’re taking the same stance when it comes to soy milk! Soy milk has no business making its way into your pet’s digestive system at all.)

You’ll probably want to stay away from giving your dog cow milk, mainly due to the large levels of lactose in it that cause stomach upset.

Cow milk also contains a high level of fat, that can lead to bloating, cramping, vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes even a very serious and fatal condition called pancreatitis.

An alternative to cow’s milk that many people have been turning to in recent years is goat’s milk.

Here’s why:

  • Goat’s milk has a substantially smaller amounts of lactose than is found in cow’s milk, which means lactose intolerant dogs have a very high chance of drinking goat milk without having any health problems after
  • Goat’s milk contains a lot more calcium than cow’s milk
  • Goat’s milk is just a lot more tastier than cow’s milk, believe it or not!
  • Goat’s milk is rich in vitamins B, D, K, and E.

A Note About Dogs And Skimmed Milk

At first, giving your canine some skimmed milk to drink may seem like a good idea, given the very good rep that skimmed milk has in the fitness industry of today.

milk on table

However, your dog isn’t aiming to get six pack abs to go to the beach, nor are they aiming to take part in a fitness contest.

When it comes to these things, we should leave our dogs do things their way as if they were in the wild.

And this holds true for whoever thinks about giving their dog skimmed milk, as that will do more harm than good because of the high levels of lactose that skimmed milk contains even when compared to full-fat milk.

How Much Milk Can Dogs Drink?

Goat and lactose-free milk is very healthy and all, but if you over-do it it can backfire on you and your dog big time.

Only give your canine small amounts of milk every now and then, and look at it as a healthy add-on to your dog’s overall diet, and not as a cornerstone of thier diet.

If your dog drinks too much milk, even lactose-free, chances are they will get diarrhea, and you don’t want that, I know you don’t. 🙂

Not to mention the fact that if you’re already feeding your pet high quality dog food that’s rich in good sources of protein (which their bodies need), you risk giving them more protein than they actually need from their diet because of the fact that milk is rich in protein in and of itself.

And, if all of that weren’t enough, lactose-free milk isn’t really as nutritious as natural milk that’s rich in lactose.

When you strip the milk of the lactose in it, you’re also stripping it from many of its nutrients and health benefits as well.

Just like anything else that’s good in life, too much of it will reverse its benefit into a harm.

So, give your dog lactose-free milk, but know all the facts we’ve talked about in this article, and do so only in moderation and on occasions.

Dogs’ Mother Milk Compared To Store-Bought Milk

One of the questions we get asked a whole lot goes something like this: How come when young puppies drink milk from their nursing dog mothers it’s all fine and dandy, but when we want to have our grown up dogs drink some milk there has to be all this fuss about it?

Well, simply put, young puppies drinking milk from their nursing mothers is a completely different story than older canines drinking cow or goat milk.

Besides, the milk coming from the mother’s breasts is completely different in and of itself from cow’s and goat’s milk, so that’s another reason as to why we can’t compare.

Without getting into too much biology that will put you to sleep, when young puppies are still in the nursing period (right after they’re born) where they’re drinking milk from their mother’s breast, they have a whole lot of the enzyme “lactase” that’s needed to properly digest the milk they’re drinking from their mother’s breast.

During this stage of their lives, puppies are in dire need of their mother’s milk in order to properly grow and develop, and that’s exactly what they’re getting.

As puppies grow older in life and when they are taken off their mother’s milk (a process also known as weaning), the lactase enzyme becomes significantly less and less available for use in the body.

Now that the dog we’re talking about is a grown, adult dog that isn’t drinking milk from its mother anymore, they don’t have enough of the necessary enzyme anymore that can allow them to properly digest the milk of cows or goats and breakdown the sugar “lactose” found in them.

In other words, dogs are the least lactose intolerant when they’re still young puppies that are being breastfed, while they start to become increasingly lactose intolerant as soon as they’re taken off their mother’s milk.

Learn more about lactose intolerance in this video!

Which is a good thing if you think about it, because in reality, by the time your canine stops drinking milk from its mother’s breast, its need for milk is gone with the wind.

That’s just how the bodies of dogs are wired, and we shouldn’t interfere for no reason.




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