If your canine friend seems to be a great fan of milk and other dairy products, you might be wondering whether these foods are safe to give to your dog. In today’s article, we’re describing lactose intolerance in dogs and telling you everything you should know about it — from its symptoms to its causes.
Causes of lactose intolerance in dogs
First of all, most dogs lose their ability to digest milk when they are weaned. So while in theory, they could drink canine milk or products specifically made for puppies that have lost their mother, this doesn’t mean that they can drink cow milk.
But some dogs can be more sensitive than others, and they can show a number of symptoms that might get you worried. So, the first cause of lactose intolerance in dogs is purely genetic, meaning that some dogs’ bodies aren’t capable of processing dairy products.
Other dogs can become lactose intolerant as time goes by, especially depending on their diet. Even if, for example, they might not have lactose intolerance, if they are fed massive amounts of dairy products on a regular basis, this can create an intolerance later on.
Symptoms of canine lactose intolerance
The most common clinical signs of lactose intolerance in dogs involve the digestive system. For example, you might notice that after you feed your dog milk, he or she might have diarrhea for a day or two or at least some gas.
Other dogs can show symptoms that might affect their overall well-being, such as vomiting, constant nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, as well as a repetitive attempt to get hydrated by drinking huge amounts of water.
What types of dairy products can be dangerous?
As you know, there is an immense variety when it comes to dairy products, and the truth is that not all are equal. There are two things that can cause a lactose intolerance episode in a dog – the amount of lactose and the amount of fat present in a particular food.
For example, while some dogs might be lactose intolerant, they might show little to no symptoms if they are fed goats’ milk instead of cows’ milk. This is due to the fact that goat milk is very easily digestible by comparison and it has a lower quantity of lactose than cow milk. Goat yogurt is even lower in lactose.
Cow milk can contain as much as 5% in lactose, whereas canine milk contains about 3% in lactose.
The type of dairy product can also make a significant difference. While some people might argue that butter, for example, contains very low quantities of lactose, somewhere between 0.8% and 1%, the truth is that it’s very rich in fat, so it can have a negative impact on your dog’s digestion.
Out of all the dairy varieties that are currently available, one of the safest would be yogurt. It’s generally better tolerated than others, especially specialties such as ice cream, which besides lactose and fat, also contain sugar.
How can lactose intolerance in dogs be diagnosed?
Even though there are lactose intolerance tests out there, most veterinarians will diagnose your dog with this condition based on the anamnesis, meaning what you tell them about the symptoms.
The vast majority of veterinarians will recommend that you remove any type of dairy products from your dog’s diet, even though he or she might love them. If you do this for a number of weeks, there is a good chance that you will see a considerable improvement. This is called an elimination diet.
Is there any treatment?
Besides removing dairy from your dog’s diet, your veterinarian can recommend a series of products, such as probiotics, which all have the purpose of regulating your canine friend’s digestion.
If your dog really can’t live without milk, you are allowed to feed him or her almond or soy milk. Despite the fact that dogs can be considered omnivores, especially compared to other pets, such as cats (which are obligate carnivores), almond and soy aren’t two things that should be a major part of their diet.
As is the case with anything else that might cause a problem, dairy products or alternatives should never make up more than 10% of their whole diet. Think of them as treats.
Although lactose-intolerant and allergic dogs are a reality, the fact of the matter is that most of the clinical signs will disappear if you completely stop giving your pooch dairy. Anaphylactic shock is extremely uncommon, but it can’t be ruled out either.
Some dogs can develop severe allergic reactions to dairy products not only because of their lactose and fat content but also because they might contain dangerous germs. This is especially true if they were kept in poor conditions, such as at room temperature instead of in the refrigerator.
If you have any doubts about feeding dairy to your canine companion, make sure to ask your vet before deciding to add it to his or her diet. These days, there are even certified veterinary nutritionists available, many of whom offer consultations online or by phone.