Lactose-intolerant: What’s the Story With Dairy and Dogs?

Lactose-intolerant what's the story with dairy and dogsIs your dog lactose-intolerant? Dairy foods like milk, cream, and cheese are a source of confusion for new dog owners.

On one hand, you have products like Starbucks’ Puppucino, which is a small cup of whipped cream, showing up on just about every list of dog-friendly restaurant foods.

On the other hand, many sites warn against feeding dairy products to dogs. If you’re a new dog owner, you need to know where the dividing line is and how to tell if a dairy product is safe for your dog.

How To Know If Your Dog Lactose-intolerant

Lactose and Growing Puppies

Puppies can drink their mothers’ milk and can digest all of the proteins, sugars, and enzymes in that milk quite well. However, as a puppy gets older and stops drinking its mother’s milk, the puppy may also lose its ability to digest lactose, a milk sugar, leading to lactose intolerance, which is just like the lactose intolerance some humans can have. Not all dogs grow up to be lactose-intolerant, though. This means you essentially have to test how your dog handles small amounts of dairy products like milk and cream.

Too Much Is Not Good for Any Dog

Before anything else, though, it’s important to limit the dairy intake of any dog, lactose-intolerant or not. The fat and sugar in milk, cream, ice cream, and other dairy products — even cheese — can create stomach upset, and too much fatty dairy can lead to pancreatitis. So even if you luck out and find your dog can eat dairy, you’ll still have to limit the amounts the pup eats.

As with any health issue, contact your vet’s office first to get more advice for your specific dog. If your vet has seen cases of lactose intolerance in the breed you have, you’d be better off not giving the dog any dairy. If you still want to test, see if you can get the go ahead to give your dog a small amount of milk or cream.

Once the dog has eaten the dairy product, monitor the dog’s behavior and symptoms over the course of a day. Any unusual itching and scratching, flatulence, vomiting, diarrhea, or general sense of malaise is an indication that you need to have your dog more thoroughly checked out by the vet for both lactose intolerance and a dairy allergy, which can produce similar symptoms.

Note that you shouldn’t try to test for lactose intolerance with cheese or yogurt, as these generally don’t contain any lactose.

Where Does This Leave Whipped Cream?

So, back to the whipped cream and other dairy treats: If your dog does not appear to be lactose-intolerant, you can give the dog small, infrequent amounts of lactose-containing dairy. So a little whipped cream from a coffee shop every few weeks wouldn’t be so bad. But if there is any indication that your dog does not handle lactose well, avoid it completely.

To learn more information, contact St. Matthews Animal Clinic at (502) 895-8100!