Not so long ago, when most people still lived on farms and milked their own cows, buttermilk was common in the United States and elsewhere. That’s because it’s the liquid left behind after churning butter from cultured cream. Today you can still buy it in stores from commercial sources but many people aren’t very familiar with it. Is it safe for dogs? Find out below.
Buttermilk is a fermented dairy drink. It’s very common in warm climates where unrefrigerated milk turns sour quickly. Milk has naturally-occurring lactic acid that produces bacteria which causes the milk to ferment. This is traditional buttermilk and it’s still common in some countries.
In the United States, the buttermilk sold in stores is typically cultured buttermilk. It has been pasteurized, homogenized, and inoculated with several strains of bacteria to simulate the naturally-occurring bacteria in traditional buttermilk.
There are actually several different kinds of buttermilk, depending on the kind of milk or cream you use. You can learn about buttermilk in depth in this CountryLiving.com story.
Buttermilk products are important ingredients in pancake mixes, ice cream, baked goods, and cheese. Ranch dressing is buttermilk-based.
In terms of nutrition, commercially-produced buttermilk is similar in many ways to whole milk. Cultured buttermilk contains 98 calories per cup. It has 8 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of fat. It is high in calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and pantothenic acid. Some buttermilk can be higher in sodium so it’s a good idea to compare labels.
And, since it has live cultures, like yogurt, it is also easier to digest than milk.
Some people who are lactose-intolerant and unable to drink regular milk are able to drink buttermilk since it is lower in lactose.
There is some evidence that fermented dairy drinks, such as buttermilk, have anti-inflammatory effects on oral health. They may help reduce the risk of periodontitis.
Compounds in buttermilk may also help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Buttermilk may also help lower blood pressure. The studies are small at this time so more research is necessary.
You can make a buttermilk substitute at home for baking by using one cup of milk (8 ounces) and adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar OR one tablespoon of lemon juice to it. Let the mixture sit until it curdles – about 10 minutes. Whole milk is usually used if you will be using this substitute for baking.
Buttermilk does need to be refrigerated but it tends to last longer in the fridge than regular milk.
Can you give your dog buttermilk?
Contrary to popular belief, not all adult dogs are lactose-intolerant. Some are and some are not, just as with humans. Whole milk and skim milk are high in lactose, compared to other dairy products with 11 grams per cup. A cup of low-fat yogurt has only 5 grams of lactose. One ounce of American or Swiss cheese has only 1 gram of lactose; while an ounce of cheddar has 0 lactose.
Buttermilk is not lactose-free but it does contain less lactose than whole or skim milk. Compared to other kinds of dairy milk, it has about 25 percent less lactose. The good bacteria in buttermilk also helps break down the lactose so it’s easier to digest. This means that even if your dog has problems with milk, he may be able to drink a small amount of buttermilk.
Buttermilk is safe for dogs in small amounts as long as your dog is not too sensitive to dairy or allergic to milk products.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance include an upset stomach, diarrhea, and gas.
If you observe that your dog has diarrhea after drinking buttermilk, he’s probably too dairy-sensitive for this product.
Some dogs (and humans) are allergic to milk and not simply intolerant to it. They should not consume buttermilk at all. In these cases the signs would include vomiting, hives, an upset stomach and, in extreme cases, anaphylaxis. If you notice these symptoms call your veterinarian immediately. S/he may advise you on how to treat your dog’s allergy before you can get to the vet’s office.
We cannot provide veterinary advice. However, if your dog is having an allergic reaction, we suggest that you ASK your veterinarian about giving your dog Benadryl until you can see your vet.
Some dog lovers are also aware that buttermilk is recommended as an additive to the diet for dogs with tear stains. It’s believed that the beneficial bacteria in the buttermilk helps counteract the staining. You can use either fresh buttermilk or powdered buttermilk in your dog’s food.
How much buttermilk can your dog have?
If you are trying to see if your dog can safely drink buttermilk without any stomach upset, you can give a small dog ¼ cup of buttermilk. Medium and larger dogs can drink ½ cup of buttermilk initially.
If all goes well, you can increase the amount. However, don’t let your dog drink too much. Overindulging in buttermilk could lead to diarrhea even if your dog is not lactose-intolerant.
Many people like to add a little buttermilk to a dog’s regular meal. A little buttermilk can also encourage some dogs to eat if they have temporarily lose their appetite.
How often can you give your dog buttermilk?
If your dog seems to drink buttermilk without any digestive problems, you can add a little to his food every day. Buttermilk is nutritious with B12, protein, and it’s low in fat. It has a taste similar to plain yogurt so many dogs like it. Just read the sodium amount on the label to make sure it’s not too high.
Remember to include the calories from the buttermilk in your dog’s daily calories.
Buttermilk is a nutritious fermented dairy drink. As long as your dog is not allergic to milk or extremely lactose-intolerant, he should be able to drink small amounts of buttermilk. Even many dogs that are slightly lactose-intolerant to regular milk can enjoy a little buttermilk. It has beneficial bacteria that act as probiotics to help digestion along with vitamins and other nutrients that are good for your dog. Just don’t let your dog drink too much at one time.