Can Dogs Drink Milk?

Can dogs drink milk?  

Ever since I added milk to my “no” list of Human Foods Dogs Can and Can’t Eat, I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking me why?! Some people tell me they let their canine kids drink milk and they’ve never had a problem. They usually respond in one of two ways: They either get really worried that something bad will happen to their pooch OR they think the whole list is total BS. So I’m here to explain! 

Let me start by saying there is no one size fits all answer to this question. Here’s why. Many dogs can consume milk and dairy products without any issue. On the flip side, though, many dogs can’tIt all boils down to a natural sugar found in milk – lactose – and your pup’s ability to digest it.  

Let’s Talk Lactose and Lactase…

In order to digest lactose, it must first be broken down into two simpler forms of sugar — glucose and galactose. When the lactose breaks down, it allows the two simpler sugars to be absorbed into the bloodstream. So if your canine kid is producing enough lactase in his intestines (the enzyme needed to break down the lactose) then chances are he is able to tolerate milk and dairy. BUT if your canine kid isn’t producing enough lactase, then the lactose will not break down and it will continue its journey through the intestines without being digested or absorbed. To put it simply, if this is the case, then your pooch is lactose intolerant.

Just like humans who are lactose intolerant, if your fur baby cannot tolerate milk and dairy products he will likely experience gastric distress such as:

  • Upset Stomach
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

The reason milk is found on many “no” lists (including mine), is because it’s common for dogs to be lactose intolerant. 

Can Dog’s Become Lactose Intolerant? 

Here’s another thing many people ask me: “Don’t puppies drink their mother’s milk without an issue?” The answer is, “Yes!” Puppies generally have the lactase enzyme in abundance and it’s used to break down their mother’s milk when nursing. 

Once puppies are weaned off their mother’s milk, though, they will produce less lactase. This is when many dogs become lactose intolerant. Meaning a bowl of cow’s milk or goat’s milk can become problematic for your precious pooch, and he may experience the symptoms mentioned above. 

But What About Cheese and Yogurt? 

This leads me to another FAQ. It’s not uncommon for a dog to be lactose intolerant – unable to drink milk – but still able to eat cheese or yogurt.  The reason for this, again, is the lactose content. Many of these products are much lower in lactose. Where milk can have 11 or 12 grams of lactose per cup, a serving of hard cheese (like swiss or cheddar) may only have 1 gram of lactose … or less. Plain greek yogurt normally has about 8 grams per cup. When feeding your pooch yogurt, your best bet is to make sure they contain active live cultures (AKA probiotics), which also help in the digestion of lactose.

There’s Another Issue With Milk

I did want to mention one more thing about milk and dairy products that doesn’t have to do with lactose and digestion, but it is something to keep in mind — fats.  Many milk and dairy products tend to have a high fat content. High-fat content can also spark stomach upset in your fur kid and can lead to pancreatitis, a serious and potentially fatal medical condition. So be very careful with the fat in dairy and anything else you might be feeding your fur kid.  

So … Can Dogs Drink Milk?  

Quite simply, maybe. Some can and some cannot. When introducing anything new to your fur kid, do it slowly, in moderation, and monitor him closely. Plus, don’t forget to ask your vet if you have any food questions or concerns. Your vet will be able to give you the best answer to questions involving your canine kids. Next to you, your vet should know him/her best!