Is It OK to Give Dogs Milk?

As a Certified Veterinary Food Therapist, when I see a dog that appears to react to a certain food category or meat protein, the first step is a dietary trial. The canine digestive tract is usually most reactive to foods that they would not eat in nature. Grain and milk often end up at the top of the allergenic food list and it is a good practice to ask questions about these first.

The funny part is that many dog lovers often hide the fact that their dog gets morning toast with peanut butter or a scoop of ice cream after dinner. Knowing this, when I ask if a dog gets any grain, bread or milk products and the answer is no, I follow by asking, “anything else?”.

On average, the confession about the ice cream, cheese, or toast with peanut butter comes after several “anything else?” queries or even several appointments. I find this phenomenon’ endearing and challenging at the same time. We all love to give our dogs what they should not eat because we love to eat what we should not too, right?!

I hope that from now on, you will not hesitate to share this information with your veterinarian because it will help him or her help your dog. I completely understand, food is an expression of love and it is hard to deprive our pooches of what they love the most.

Milk or no milk

My answer is, whenever unsure, look at what nature does.

In general, no mammals in nature consume milk past weaning, which clearly suggests that milk is not essential and that applies to dogs. Some people still falsely believe that dogs need milk to get calcium, but nature solves this with bones. There is also a significant amount of calcium in meat and vegetables.

Everything in moderation

When it comes to nutrition, moderation is usually the way to go. While I do not recommend milk on a regular basis, some dogs enjoy a spoon of yogurt or a small piece of cheese or even the odd lick of ice-cream and, occasionally, it is ok unless your dog has suspected diet allergies. In such cases, one of the first steps of an elimination diet trial should be no grain and no milk products.

The main reason is that most adult dogs lack lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose – the milk sugar. The inability to digest lactose can lead to bowel inflammation and diarrhea. Knowing this, it is also better to opt for fermented products such as yogurt, which have a lower percentage of lactose thanks to the fermentation process.

What about probiotics?

I am thrilled to see that most dog lovers now understand the importance of probiotics in healthy digestion, immunity and disease prevention. I prefer non-dairy probiotics and canine-specific strains. Many dogs with diet allergies respond very positively to them, especially if they have a tendency for diarrhea or poor digestion.

If you would like to learn more about allergies in general or schedule an initial consultation, visit our website at www.vetnaturally.com

 

Dr. Ashley Geoghegan

Dr. Ashley Geoghegan, known affectionately as Dr. G, has spent a lifetime devoted to animal care. Dr. G graduated from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine and served in the U.S. Army as a veterinary officer. At VetNaturally™, she practices Integrative Medicine, which is a combination of Traditional Chinese Veterinary medicine (TCVM) , canine rehabilitation and conventional Western medicine.