Milk and Dairy Products — Are They Safe for Your Dog?

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Dog Enjoying Milk Product

Some dogs have no problems digesting milk and dairy products. Yet others experience acute intestinal distress — like gas, diarrhea or vomiting — whenever they consume these kinds of foods.

It all comes down to how your dog handles a specific nutrient found in milk — a nutrient known as lactose.

So, what exactly is lactose?

Well, lactose is a kind of sugar. Not just one single sugar, but two sugar molecules chemically linked together.

In order for a dog to digest milk, the lactose must first be broken apart into its two basic, easy-to-absorb sugars.

And in order to do that, a dog’s body must be able to produce a special lactose-splitting enzyme known as lactase.

And that’s one thing most dogs can’t reliably do.

Like Humans — Dogs Can Suffer
from Lactose Intolerance

Without lactase, a dog simply cannot digest dairy products. And acute intestinal symptoms nearly always arise. 

Now, this inability to digest milk is infamously known as lactose intolerance. And it’s the same lactose intolerance so many humans suffer from every day.

So, if you’ve ever noticed your dog tends to develop gas or loose stools after having milk, there’s a good chance your pet may be suffering from this condition.

Knowing a Food’s Lactose
Content Can Help

Now to be fair, and in rare cases, a dog can be allergic to the protein in milk1.

However, milk shouldn’t be considered toxic for a dog. Yet for dogs that are lactose intolerant (as so many actually are), dairy products can present a real problem.

Yet for those pets, there’s still hope.

That’s because a dog’s reaction to lactose can be directly related to the “dose”. The higher the lactose content, the greater the likely response.

Thankfully, not all dairy products contain the same amount of lactose. Many kinds of cheese and yogurt contain considerably less lactose than milk.

Take a look at this table. Notice how some milk products contain only a minimal amount of lactose per serving.

Lactose Content of Common Dairy Foods

For example, notice how most cheeses contain very little lactose. About a gram per serving. Sometimes less. Now, compare that quantity to whole milk, which clocks in at a whopping 11 grams.

The Bottom Line

In a nutshell…

The lower the lactose content of any dairy product, the more likely it will be for your dog to tolerate consuming them without distress

So, depending on the food, it may be OK to offer low-lactose dairy products to your dog. In fact, almost any cheese can make a great natural treat for any pet.

Footnotes

  1. Wills J, Harvey R, Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, “Diagnosis and management of food allergy and intolerance in dogs and cats”, Australian Veterinary Journal, 1994 Oct; 71(10):322-6
  • bojangles

    Hi Kelsie,

    I would be freaking out too. What I would do if I were you is try to give her some gas x. Simethicone could help coat her stomach so that the bones have a better chance of passing without doing any damage

    I don’t know the dose to give so please do a Google search.

    I hope everything goes well. I would also call a vet and see what they suggest.

    Sorry I couldn’t be of more help

  • Kelsie Jae Osorio

    My mut stole a hot wing off my plate and she swallowed the whole thing!! She was rubbing her face against furniture and stuff because of the heat. I gave her maybe like 1/3 of a cup of 2% milk, I just hope she will be okay and that small amount of milk won’t affect her in anyway way .. please help!

  • Shawna

    Pasteurization kills enzymes, certain vitamins and can damage certain amino acids like lysine.

    Some feel that pasteurization of milk is necessary to prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria. The beneficial microbes added to milk to make kefir however overpower any pathogenic bacteria that MAY have been in the original raw milk. If the good bacteria don’t overpower the bad, the milk can’t become kefir. It would simply spoil instead.

  • Kirstin Schultz

    Thanks Shawna, can you tell me what is the advantage to no pasteurization?

  • theBCnut

    The issue with the ice cream would be in how much sugar your dog is consuming, so a small amount would be OK. And yes, Lactaid and like supplements can help dogs with lactose intolerance, but it’s easier to just avoid foods with much lactose.

  • Shawna

    Human kefir is perfectly okay BUT I personally would chose Answer’s over any human product. Answer’s uses milk from grass fed cows and because it is not being used for human consumption it does not have to be subjected to pasteurization.

  • Crazy4dogs

    I use human kefir on a regular basis with my dogs wit no problems. The bacteria in the kefir grains actually eat the lactose, so it’s very low in lactose. The brand I use states it’s 99% lactose free.

  • Kirstin Schultz

    how about kefir?? Ive been giving it as a supplemental treatment for weightloss and a skin allergy. It was recommended by his doggie health food store and he loves it. The brand is answers pet food raw milk kefir. Unfortunately I am away on vacation and was reading that human kefir is okay to give instead of animal consumption kefir. Does anyone have any thoughts on this??

  • mahoraner

    Places like petco and petsmart sell mothers milk replacements, Just dont use hartz! i have read many stories of dogs dying from hartz milk replacement

    But it would be best to ask your vet. You should always trust your vet for most thhings EXCEPT when they suggest foods like : hills, royal canin, purina, or iams

  • Really?

    (note: not a sarcastic response) OMG! YES! Purina kibble is awful for dogs! We bought Purina puppy chow for our yellow lab puppy (now 10 months old) when we got her at 2 months of age. At about 6 months of age, she had her first bout of bad diarrhea. At first we thought it was the river water she drank (she didn’t get much, but it’s a dirty river so we thought that was it), but it kept happening over and over, fairly regular. We tried to eliminate all other possibilities: eating things out in the yard while out there alone, ingesting parts of toys (we quickly switched to kong and other hard to destroy toys and bones as well as going so far as to put her on the leash in our fenced in back yard), etc. She’s a puppy, if she can get a hold of it, she’ll eat it so we VERY VERY closely monitored her. We wanted to ensure that nothing she shouldn’t be eating was causing the problem. After all, she had been eating Purina for 4 months up to this point with no problem. Well, it kept happening and we were all ready to take her to the vet to get her looked at when my mother-in-law suggested changing her food as she had that problem with her dog, also a yellow lab. As soon as we switched, no more diarrhea! She had one bout 5 weeks after the change (she had been having a bout every 10 days or so), but it was far less severe. Before changing, she would cry and cry and paw to get out of her crate (initially crate trained tho now free to roam when we’re not home and nighttime as she’s house broken and rarely chews things she ought not to) and RUN out the door to go potty. That little bout after the switch was more like, “hey mom, I need to potty. Can you let me out please?” as opposed to, “MOMMY! LET ME OUT!! I GOTTA GO NOW!!” when she had Purina food.

    Sorry for the long rant, but I’m quite mad at Purina now and refuse to purchase any of their products.

    We now give her Blue Diamond food and she’s fine.

    Ok, I feel better now. 🙂 Thank you.

  • Really?

    First, please pardon the semi-sarcastic screen name, sometimes I am sarcastic, but not this time. 🙂
    Your article says that the lactose in dairy products is what harms dogs (makes sense to me, as the symptoms in dogs are the same for me, a lactose-intolerant human). I was wondering about 2 things:
    1. Would lactose free (vanilla or other non-chocolate of course) ice cream, made by Lactaid for example, be okay for dogs?
    2. Would giving them lactase enzyme pills, as you would for humans, help them digest dairy?
    Not planning on trying this (unless a combination of research and vet advice says I can), but I was wondering if anyone here knew.
    Thanks!

  • Nishtha Singh

    what about lactose in curd?

  • JBWilliams1991

    Lactose is not an ingredient added to milk, it’s a naturally occurring sugar. It exists in all cow’s milk. Some dogs tolerate milk just fine. Other dogs get diarrhoea and gas. Either way, milk is not a necessary component of dogs’ diets but if you want to give your dog milk and see what the reaction is there won’t be much harm. It’s not toxic.

  • Robert Szucs

    That’s ok. I don’t like you either.

  • Kiera Nguyen

    too

  • Kiera Nguyen

    doodoodooododododdododooddo

  • Kiera Nguyen

    i like brush

  • Kiera Nguyen

    i like diarrhera too

  • Kiera Nguyen

    your dog loves me

  • Kiera Nguyen

    sour tos

  • Kiera Nguyen

    but i dont like you

  • Kiera Nguyen

    i love me tos

  • Robert Szucs

    i love my dog

  • theBCnut

    Maybe nothing, maybe diarrhea. It won’t hurt a dog to fast for a day.

  • edison papa

    Take a picture of your dog’s mouth and show it to your ‘loving’ mom. All that sugar must have done tremendous damage to your dog’s teeth.

  • edison papa

    It depends on the cereal. if it’s loaded with sugar you should brush his teeth immediately.

    Without knowing the ingredients we have no clue how this will impact your dog.

  • Susan

    Hi gee what is his skin & coat like ?? eating human cooked food is OK as long as its healthy meals with meat, fish, potato, carrots broccoli, veggies etc….
    Can you buy some tin sardines in spring water or a couple of big cans of Tuna in Spring water or olive oil & some potatoes? peel & boil some cut up potatoes when potatoes are soft empty water & cool potatoes then add a big tin of the tuna first drain the spring water or oil then mix thru the tuna & mashed potatoes this is a cheap meal & he’s getting a protein & a carb add any boiled veggies you have on hand as well, but no onions, then leave in the fridge it will last 3 days so if there’s a heap left over freeze sectioned meals..
    I would ask your mum, do you love what ever his name is, if she say Yes, then I would say well he wont live long eating all that crap especially the sugar in the tea, does he smell bad & is he real itchy with yeasty skin……make the Tuna & potato & show your mum, how easy it is to make give him some for dinner every night till its finished then see if his poos firms up & show your mum look he’s doing firm poos, then tell her if he keeps have sloppy dirrahea he’ll end up with real bad scaring of the bowel & need to be put to sleep in the end…….
    even if you get a few tins of the sardines in spring water & give him a few sardines a day as a treat, he’ll be getting his omega 3 & 6, vitamin D & vitamins & minerals from the sardines, Sardines are packed with heaps of good things for dogs, Adlis sell them real cheap don’t buy the sardines in tomato sauce…also if you can buy him a couple tins of dog food & kibble & put it in the kitchen, even a bag of the cheap kibble has to be better then eating cheese….. Cheese would give my boy bad diarrhea, his bowel will get real bad scaring if he has tooo much diarrhea, also worms has he been wormed ? Can you steal him & re home him somewhere else like your boy friend or husbands parents place…..

  • Annabelle

    What happens when my dog eats cereal for dinner because we ran out of dog food

  • Crazy4dogs

    Hi Amanda,

    Thank you so much for taking your family Lab’s welfare into consideration. It’s a difficult, but wonderful thing you’re trying to do. I have Labs myself and am a sucker for them.

    As you probably know, Labs (and most dogs) will pretty much eat anything, even if it makes them sick. I can’t stress enough that not only is your Mom feeding unhealthy food, but if this is all the dog is eating, it’s a completely unbalanced diet which will lead to health problems in the future and possibly a shorter life span. Are your parents concerned that the dogs stools are so terribly loose?

    One option that would cost less than cheese and microwavable pot pies and would be a healthy alternative is to feed some decently rated, less expensive canned dog food. There are many available for less than $1 a can and would make the dry food interesting.

    Will your parents read articles on the internet or this website if I post some links? If not, would the family veterinarian get on board to help your parents get the dog onto a healthier diet? Let me know, I’d be happy to help.

  • Amanda Shoemaker

    Thank you, no unfortunately I am not in a position to assume responsibility for him. I am about to have a baby and wouldn’t be able to take him where I am moving, also my family would never allow me to take him. It doesn’t look like there is much I can do about it expect educate myself on the subject and spread that knowledge to them. I know my family loves this dog, they just can’t seem to see that this is the opposite of showing a dog love.

  • DogFoodie

    Hi Amanda,

    Your concern for your dog’s health and welfare is admirable. The good news is, it’s never to let you improve your diet.

    Are you in a position to offer to assume responsibility for your family pet’s nutrition?

  • Amanda Shoemaker

    My family and I have a black lab who just turned 4 years old. My mom has always fed him whatever she ate from dinner food down to candy. She now even gives him his own bowl full of sugary tea…he hardly eats dog food, it is so bad to the point where she makes him something to eat everyday, such as grilled cheese or microwaveable pot pies filled with preservatives and GMOs. But before every meal she serves to the dog, she “starts him off” with american cheese. Nowadays our dog is ingesting almost a pound of cheese every 3 to 4 days. Our dog has only had a couple normal healthy looking stools within the past 3 years. I wish I could make my family see how bad these habbits are. Everyday I am heartbroken watching them slowly kill this dog I love so dearly. I haven’t been able to get through to my family I’ve only watched it get worse as I have no say or control over this situation…but believe me I do try everyday. If anyone has any suggestions on how I can get through to these people, whether it’s the scientific aspect of it or if it’s just any type of advice…please get back to me. Any help is greatly appreciated. What I see them doing to my dog everyday is literally haunting my mind. Thanks for reading.

  • Sylvera Lapai

    Hye doc..my puppy named lulu and she is 2mnth old..can she drink milk like MariGold brand which is fullcream??i have read the ingredient but none lactose..

  • Shirley E O’Donnell

    Babslynne is correct.

  • Shirley E O’Donnell

    Go to ur vet and ask if they can give u recommendations to bottle feed him.

  • Babslynne
  • Hi Frank,

    On behalf of all dog lovers, thanks for adopting this innocent and deserving little puppy.

    You are correct. Separating a puppy its mother’s milk too soon can be dangerous.

    I’m sure one of the experienced breeders on our website will soon reply to your question with some helpful suggestions.

  • Frank Peter Olaco

    Hi I have a labrador puppy i got from a friend it’s mother died and he is only 1 and a half month old. i read that a puppy must be re-homed only after 8 weeks. I can’t return it to it’s owner, I want to know how to solve this situation. what should i give him? to sustain the nutrition he can no longer acquire from his mother? I need your help guys. please I already love him ….

  • Frank Peter Olaco

    Hi I have a labrador puppy i got from a friend it’s mother died and he is only 1 and a half month old. i read that a puppy must be re-homed only after 8 weeks. I can’t return it to it’s owner, I want to know how to solve this situation. what should i give him? to sustain the nutrition he can no longer acquire from his mother? I need your help guys. please I already love him .

  • Dave Garry

    I would say feeding your dog Purina kibble to a good way to pay for your vet’s new Corvette.

  • theBCnut

    Healthy dogs do not usually have problems with the bacteria found in raw milk, but they can benefit from the probiotics they supply.

  • ChierDuChien

    Feeding your dog raw milk is a good way to help pay for your vet’s new Corvette.

  • Richard

    I recently was told that a molecule in milk, casein, was available in pill form that would calm my American pit bull terrier. He lost his companion, Moly,in July, and since then he has eaten through 4 doors in the basement whenever I leave for work. I was wondering if anyone knows if I give him milk,would that have the same effect as giving him this pill. Thanks

  • samdgood82

    since others have mentioned foods other than milk i wanted to say i researched which foods would be good snacks and apples was one. my dog loves them but if you want to give an apple to your dog the article said the skin is too hard to digest and the seeds are poison to a dog. otherwise, it is a good snack.

  • samdgood82

    LOL

  • Dori

    Yep! I’ve got one of those also. She’s taught me well. Wish she’d give me some treats though.

  • samdgood82

    too smart, i tried to teach her to fetch but she brings the ball to me then throws it and stares at me til i go get it!

  • Dori

    Now that’s what I call training. Hahaha! I guess you’re a quick learner. We all are aren’t we. Can’t help but give in to them at times. She sounds incredibly smart too!

  • Sandra Goodman

    i had that problem and always thought she felt guilty and wanted to get rid of it before i saw it. i solved the problem by getting a doggie door. now she always goes outside and no more eating.

  • Sandra Goodman

    my dog brought in a leaf and was chewing it so i took it away and gave her a biscuit. so, guess what? now she brings in leaves and sits and looks at me like, “well?” she has me trained i guess lol

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