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Is it okay to feed my dog milk?

dog milk
Before jumping to a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it is important to study the risks and benefits of milk for dogs and thereby decide, whether you should be giving milk to your dog or not?. What symptoms indicate that milk is not suitable for the dog? To begin with the pet will suffer loose stools, bloating, gas and nausea and also faces difficulty in digesting the cow’s milk. The digestive tract in canines is very short; as a result it becomes increasingly difficult for the dog to digest the fat present in the milk. Most dogs, are not able to produce enzyme ‘Lactase’ which helps in digesting milk compounds and become prone to gastrointestinal ailments after consuming Milk and Dairy Products, often referred to as being lactose intolerant.

Dog owners must have come across the term Lactose intolerance with reference to the pros & cons of milk consumption in dogs.
What is Lactose intolerance?

Lactose is a combination of two different sugar particles and is found in milk and other dairy products. In order to digest dairy foods, your pooch must be able to split the lactose into the two easily absorbable preliminary sugar molecules. For this the dog must be able to produce a special enzyme known as Lactase. The point of consternation is that most canines are not able to produce this important enzyme that breaks up Lactose enabling healthy digestion of dairy products. In the absence of ‘Lactase’, the dog is prone to gastrointestinal ailments and often referred to as being lactose intolerant. Amusingly the phenomenon of lactose intolerance is observed in humans as well. However some dogs not only enjoy their daily bowl of milk but also are able to digest it well without facing intestinal disorders!

Keeping in mind the nutritional value of milk/milk based products the dog parent can opt for yogurts in place of milk. This healthy food is made up of relatively very small amount of Lactose, hence easy to digest. Similarly low dosage of lactose is found in cheese that can be safely offered to the pet.

pug _dog_and_ice-cream Image: Bunk Blog

When does it become a necessity to avoid any form of milk based product altogether?

Even negligible signs of intestinal/digestion problems/gassiness in the dog is a wake-up call for the pet parent to immediately banish all things ‘dairy’ from the pet’s diet. It is also noticed that dogs suffering from a gassy stomach will go without food till the problem disappears. Consult the veterinarian if the pet’s health deteriorates. This all comes down to the inability of the dog to digest certain food items.

What can be the best substitute for Cow’s milk?

Pasteurized Goat milk in small amounts is seen as a preferred choice. This is due to its extremely low lactose count yet it’s packed with essential vitamins such as B-complex, vitamin D, E and K. On the other hand some people may want to give their pet cow’s milk that is lactose free, but it is important to note that this variation will be devoid of any nutritional value. Hence the entire exercise of supplying the pet with this sort of milk will be futile with almost no benefits being provided to the canine.

Soy milk should be avoided as its protein count will disrupt the dog’s healthy digestive functioning.

Mother dog’s milk is essential for puppies but after the initial lactation period, a canine does not require milk. Products such as milk replacement formulas for puppies are on offer to fill in the absence of mother’s milk. Similarly a veterinarian may prescribe easy to digest powdered milk replacers to dogs that are unwell or recuperating from a surgery.

Obviously a dog parent would have to wait and watch for any symptoms shown by its furry canine that suggest it being lactose intolerant, in case mild signs surface, the dog owner must prevent from feeding its pet milk/milk based products and also consult a vet.


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