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Can dogs drink milk?

A splash of milk

Caring for your dog is by no means a walk in the park! Knowing which foods your dog can and can’t eat is one of the most important things about being a dog owner. 

Dogs are naturally curious about different foods and will often eat first and think later. Luckily, there are lots of ‘human’ foods that dogs can eat (and benefit from!). Incorporating these foods into your dog’s meals can ensure a healthy diet that is rich in important vitamins and minerals from whole foods.

The trick is to know what’s good and what isn’t. 

One food that regularly causes a lot of confusion is milk. Many people think that cats like milk, but the truth is that it’s not very good for them. But can dogs drink milk?

Can dogs drink milk?

Giving milk to dogs is somewhat controversial. Some pet nutritionists say that milk and dairy products are just fine for dogs; others report that milk can cause any number of canine health issues, from digestive disorders to cancer.

According to the American Kennel Club Association, dogs can drink milk—but only in moderation. It’s very important to check whether your dog can actually tolerate milk before including it in his diet. Many young dogs are lactose intolerant and will end up with an upset tummy if they drink it. 

Small amounts of milk may be safe for dogs on occasion. But we’re not talking about a bowl of milk or a whole ice cream cone! Large quantities of milk can lead to diarrhea, indigestion, vomiting, or constipation. 

A few tablespoons of milk can be a nutritious treat for dogs that can tolerate it. Remember, there are many different types of milk, and your dog may tolerate some better than others. Cow’s milk is very high in lactose: the natural sugar that both humans and animals have trouble digesting properly. 

Goat’s milk, on the other hand, contains slightly less lactose than cow’s milk—about 9 grams per cup compared to 12 grams in cow's milk. 

The benefits of giving your dog goat milk

The basic composition of raw milk varies between different species. Cow’s milk is very high in both fat and natural sugars, which is another reason to limit your dog’s intake. Too much fat in your dog’s diet can lead to weight gain or even diabetes. 

Raw goat milk has not been pasteurized. Pasteurization involves ‘cooking’ the milk to kill any harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, this process also destroys many of the beneficial nutrients in the milk. 

Goat’s milk is easy to digest

In addition to being lower in lactose (milk sugar), goat milk has smaller fat particles than cow’s milk. This means it forms a smaller, softer curd in the stomach. These curds are much easier for the body to digest in the gut.

Goat’s milk contains healthy fats

The essential fatty acids in goat’s milk include both short and medium-chain fatty acids. These provide an excellent source of energy without being stored as excess fat.

Goat’s milk is high in protein

As mentioned, the proteins in goat’s milk are more digestible than those in cow’s milk. In addition, 6 of the 10 essential amino acids present in goat’s milk are higher than those in cow’s. These proteins and the peptides they generate have important biological benefits for dogs. Their many health benefits include antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, antioxidant, antithrombotic, hypocholesterolemic and antihypertensive activities. 

Goat’s milk contains important nutrients

Goat milk is rich in beneficial nutrients. These include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. What’s more, these nutrients are in their raw and natural form, so they’re easily digested and absorbed by the body. Calcium and other minerals play an important role in maintaining your dog’s bone health. They also help in preventing disorders such as malabsorption, bone demineralization, and anemia. Selenium and zinc are also vital for healthy cognitive function. 

Can milk be bad for dogs?

Research shows that milk from cows contains a substance called alpha-s1-casein protein. This protein is often associated with allergic reactions. Cow’s milk also contains different forms of the proteins beta-lactoglobulin and alpha-lactalbumin proteins. These have been linked to certain allergic reactions.

Goat’s milk, however, contains little or no alpha-s1-casein. 

Pasteurized milk is potentially harmful due to the difficulties it causes with digestion. Lactose requires the enzyme lactase to split it into simple, digestible sugars. Although raw milk is rich in lactase enzymes, the pasteurization and heating process destroys it. 

For this reason, dogs who are lactose intolerant are unable to digest pasteurized milk but are usually fine with raw milk. 

How to prepare milk for dogs

Be sure to use raw goat’s milk where possible. Organic, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk straight from a healthy goat is your best option. Do not feed your dog pasteurized milk in any form. 

Raw goat milk can be purchased fresh or frozen. Some goat milk products may contain added probiotics or nutrients, which are a great choice. 

All you need to do is add a few tablespoons of goat milk to your dog’s regular meal. Another great idea is to use the goat’s milk to make a smoothie with fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, strawberries, and broccoli.

The article was written by Katie Stone on December 17, 2020.

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