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Can milk hurt a dog?

Can Dogs Drink Milk? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Dog looking up at owner begging for glass of milk

The beverage may be cholk full of benefits for the humans, but can dogs drink milk — or is milk bad for dogs? Ultimately, it depends on the dog’s digestive system, so the answer changes on a case-by-case basis. It’s unlikely that drinking a small amount would be toxic to pets, but it should never be consumed in large volume, and some dogs should avoid it altogether.

It all comes down to lactose — a natural sugar found in milk — and your pup’s ability to digest it. Read on to learn how to tell if your dog is lactose-intolerant, how much milk is safe for dogs with strong stomachs, and more details on the presence of dairy in dogs’ diet.

Table of Contents:

  • Can dogs drink milk, or are dogs lactose-intolerant?
  • What causes lactose-intolerance in dogs?
  • What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance in dogs?
  • Is milk bad or dogs?
  • How much milk can dogs have?
  • What kind of milk can dogs drink?
  • What dairy products are safe for dogs?
  • What to do if your dog drinks milk
  • Key Takeaways

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Can dogs drink milk, or are dogs lactose-intolerant?

Many dogs can safely consume milk in small amounts but others are lactose-intolerant, meaning their digenstive system does not produce sufficient levels of an enzyme called lactase that’s tasked with breaking down the sugar in milk, or lactose.

Dairy is the primary source of dogs’ adverse food reactions, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. The severity of each response depends on how well the dog’s digestive tract can process lactose and how much sugar is present in the specific food or beverage, as levels vary depending on how the dairy product is made. Some dogs can’t drink milk because the sugar content is very high, though they can tolerate other types of dairy (such as cottage cheese) perfectly fine due to its significantly lower lactose levels.

What causes lactose intolerance in dogs?

Lactose intolerance is caused by undigested sugar molecules traveling through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract because they can’t produce enough enzymes to break down the nutrients for absorption into the bloodstream. When it enters the colon, water is then drawn to the undigested sugar molecule, leading to a loss of water retention in the tissue walls, inflammation of the large intestine, and diarrhea consisting of loose, watery stool — a condition otherwise known as colitis in dogs.

Why can puppies drink milk?

The reason why puppies can drink milk, though many mature dogs cannot, is because puppies have an abundance of lactase enzymes that break down their mother’s milk while nursing. Once they are weaned, their bodies will produce less of the enzyme to adjust to its new nutritional demands, at which point many dogs develop an intolerance.

Golden Retriever puppies nursing in grass

Puppies can drink milk strictly from their mother because it’s full of antibodies and necessary nutrients for healthy development. Cow’s milk and other dairy sources can cause unpleasant effects on a puppy’s delicate digestive system.

But, what happens if a puppy is orphaned? In circumstances where a safe alternative must be found in lieu of the mother’s milk, commercial replacements are a better option than cow’s milk for puppies. That’s because milk from a dog is richer in calories and essential proteins, plus it’s much easier for pups to digest than dairy sources. Be sure to consult your vet before choosing a suitable milk replacement for newborn puppies.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance in dogs?

Pets can’t tell us when they’re not feeling well, so it’s important to keep an eye on their behavior in order to recognize the clinical signs of illness, including adverse reactions to food. The symptoms of lactose intolerance in dogs can range from mild to severe, and most often appear as:

  • Loose stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite

How to recognize lactose intolerance in dogs

Most of the time, pet parents don’t knwow their dog can’t drink milk until they obviously demonstrate the symptoms of lactose intolerance after consuming dairy. However, some dogs only display a mild intolerance with less clear symptoms. A vet’s diagnosis is the only way to know for certain whether your dog can drink milk without issue, but you may be able to recognize the signs if you notice any of these red flags:

  • Diarrhea in lactose-intolerant dogs is typically present within 12 hours of dairy consumption.
  • Sudden drooling or the licking of surfaces might be a sign of nausea due to changes in the gut.
  • If your dog is extra gassy or appears more bloated than usual, it could caused by a higher volume of gases produced by bacteria during the fermentation of sugar in the bowels.
  • Abrupt weight loss might occur if your dog experiences a change in appetite that causes them to eat less so they can avoid GI troubles.

In other cases, lactose intolerance may be confused with a dairy allergy in dogs, which refers to the inability to tolerate the proteins in milk and can be far more serious. In addition to the symtoms above, dogs with dairy allergies might display signs such as:

  • Red, inflammed skin
  • Itchiness and scratching
  • Hives
  • Facial swelling
  • Difficulty breathing

If you notice any of these adverse reactions, call your vet immediately or head to a local animal hospital. It it may lead to anaphylactic shock, an emergency medical condition that’s potentially fatal without expedient treatment.

Is milk bad for dogs?

Many dogs are lactose-intolerant to at least some degree, but it should still be offered very judiciously to dogs that have stronger stomachs with no dairy sensitivity. Though they may be able to tolerate the sugar and protein, whole milk has a high fat content that could trigger vomiting and diarrhea nonetheless. It’s also high in calories due to the fat and sugar content, so if dogs drink milk or eat dairy frequently, they could develop obesity or pancreatitis.

Overweight dog lying on the floor appears uncomfortable

Aside from the possible long-term health consequences, dogs can drink milk safely so long as they don’t have a dairy allergy and it’s fed in small amounts. To stay on the safe side, be sure to speak with your vet before introducing new foods into your pet’s diet.

How much milk can dogs have?

With your vet’s approval, dogs can drink a few sips of milk as an occassional treat. A few tablespoons of milk from time to time probably won’t cause them any harm, but offering larger quantities may lead to negative, short- and long-term effects.

As with all treats, it’s a good idea to follow the 90/10 rule and limit your pet’s treat intake to no more than 10% of their total daily calories.

What kind of milk can dogs drink?

There are several different types of milk beverages, and as plant-based sources become increasingly available, many pet parents wonder if their pups can also drink almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, and similar lactose drink replacements.

Can dogs drink almond milk?

Almond milk is one of the most popular plant-based types of milk, but can dogs eat almonds? Although these nuts aren’t toxic to dogs, canines generally don’t digest them very well. Almonds are also high in fat, which can result in weight gain and pancreatitis if consumed in big amounts.

However, small amounts of almond milk (a couple of tablespoons) should be fine if offered as an occasional treat. Make sure to read the ingredient list of almond milk to check if it contains added sugar or xylitol, an artificial sweetener that’s very harmful in dogs.

Can dogs drink oat milk?

Oat milk is another plant-based dairy alternative that is safe for dogs to drink in small quantities, as it could be difficult to digest in large volume. Oats are not toxic to canines, so this could offer a good lactose substitute for weaning puppies who like the taste as well as dogs who need additional calories to meet their nutrition requirements.

Puppy eats bowl of oat milk

Can dogs drink coconut milk?

Coconut milk won’t harm your pet if you served in moderation. Dogs can eat coconut for the many different benefits it offers — from a softer, shinier coat to alleviated skin irritation — but keep in mind, coconut contains oils that could cause GI upset and diarrhea if dogs consume too much.

Make sure to check the ingredient list before offering your dog coconut milk, as some brands can be overly processed and can contain additives that your dog doesn’t need.

Can dogs drink soy milk?

In general, dogs digest soy products well, so soy milk in moderate quantities is not harmful to dogs. In fact, many commercial dog foods contain soy-based ingredients.

This non-dairy, plant-based milk alternative contains proteins called isoflavones that are known to reduce cholesterol in humans and, according to anecdotal evidence, can help with urinary incontinence in dogs. Some vets might even recommend supplements containing isoflavones.

Can dogs drink goat’s milk?

As with all dairy products, moderation is key. Compared to cow’s milk, goat’s milk is higher in some nutrients such as potassium and calcium, but lower in others, like folate and vitamin B12. Goat’s milk also contains less lactose than cow’s milk, and proponents claim that because of the differences in its protein and fat structures, lactose-intolerant dogs can drink milk from a goat with less likelihood of sensitivity and allergic reaction due to an easier digestive process.

If you’re interested in feeding your dog goat’s milk, start with a small amount to see how they tolerate it, and only serve it from time to time.

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What dairy products are safe for dogs to eat?

Generally speaking, it’s safe to feed dogs a small amount of dairy on special occasions, as long as they do not have any known food sensitivities. It’s best to offer dogs dairy products that have low lactose content, such as plain yogurt (4 grams per 1/2 cup), cottage cheese (3 grams per 1/2 cup), and cheddar cheese (0 grams of lactose).

Dogs can eat cheese in most varietals thanks to its low lactose levels, and yogurt is often beneficial in dogs with stomach upset because it contains prebiotics that can alleviate gas or diarrhea.

It may be tempting to give your dog a bite of ice cream, but be very careful and make sure to check the label for chocolate and xylitol beforehand. These two toxins are very common and extremely dangerous in canines, so exerise caution wherever it may be present.

What to do if your dog drinks milk

If your dog gets their paws on a large helping of milk, monitor for symtpoms of abdominal distress. Gastric upset will generally occur within about 12 hours after a dog drinks milk but can last for much longer, so prepare for frequent trips outside so your poor pup can relieve themselves. If you notice these signs of lactose intolerance, or a change in behavior possibly caused by dairy’s adverse effects, call your vet right away.

Key Takeaways

  • In general, milk served in small amounts should not cause any harm to dogs. However, many dogs are lactose-intolerant, so it is best not to give your pet milk without testing for lactose intolerance first.
  • Both normal milk and lactose-free milk, as well as other dairy products like cheese and ice cream, contain fat and should only be given occasionally in small amounts as treats.
  • Pups can also safely consume small amounts of plant-based milk such as soy milk, coconut milk, and almond milk.
  • Talk to your vet before feeding any new human foods, and seek veterinary care if your pet starts to show signs of lactose intolerance.

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Is Milk Bad For Dogs?

Is milk bad for dogs? It depends. Most dogs can handle small doses of milk at a time, such as a tablespoon or two. However, large quantities of milk and dairy, like ice cream and cheese, can cause dogs to get an upset stomach. Learn more about whether dogs can drink milk using our guide below.


Dog drinking milk off of a plate

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Is Milk Bad For Dogs?

As you browse social media, you might come across videos of happy dogs eagerly licking up a cup of whipped cream from a coffee shop or licking a scoop of ice cream. But is milk good for dogs? As with any food designed for humans, dogs can experience side effects if they consume too much milk or dairy.

Milk isn’t necessarily bad for dogs, but they can be allergic to dairy products or intolerant of milk and milk products. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell until your dog consumes a dairy product. And even then, it’s not so simple. If you’re wondering whether dogs can have milk, keep reading below. In this article, you’ll learn how much milk dogs can have, the potential side effects of consuming milk and dairy, whether dogs can become lactose intolerant, and more

  • Can Dogs Drink Milk?
  • How Much Milk Can Dogs Drink?
  • Can Dogs Become Lactose Intolerant?
  • What Are Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Dogs?
  • What Can Happen if Your Dog Drinks Milk?
  • FAQs
  • Final Notes

Can Dogs Drink Milk?

A dog’s ability to drink milk and eat dairy products changes over its lifetime. A newborn puppy that’s nursing produces a lot of lactase, which is an enzyme that allows them to break down lactose, a sugar found in milk. 1 That’s why puppies can drink their mother’s milk easily with no side effects like an upset stomach. However, once the puppies are weaned and are no longer dependent on their mother’s milk, they stop producing most of that lactase.

For some dogs, the effect is minimal, and they produce enough so that they can have dairy in moderation. Others can have some forms of dairy, like cheese, but they can’t drink milk straight. Others might not be able to handle any dairy at all. Most dogs can have very tiny quantities of milk, along the lines of a tablespoon or two, but if you see signs that your dog is lactose-intolerant or allergic to dairy, don’t give them any milk.

Is milk safe for dogs?

Even if your dog appears to handle dairy well, it’s recommended to practice in moderation. Too much dairy, especially if it’s high- or full-fat, can give even the most tolerant dog gastric upset.

How Much Milk Can Dogs Drink?

Unless your dog is allergic or lactose-intolerant, which is when they’re unable to break down lactose in milk, a little milk won’t hurt. As mentioned, a tablespoon or two of milk, a lick of ice cream, those tiny cups of cream from coffee shops, and a few small slices of cheese will most likely be tolerated and enjoyed by your dogs. However, large quantities of milk and dairy are a common dog food allergy , which can result in a few different side effects.

However, if your dog is having a lot of dairy, stealing chunks of cheese, and making off with scoops of ice cream daily, there could be a problem. The fats in dairy products can lead to side effects like dog constipation , stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea if eaten in large quantities, even if the dog doesn’t have a problem with dairy.

Can Dogs Become Lactose Intolerant?

Yes, like humans, dogs can become lactose intolerant, which is the body’s inability to digest lactose. 2 All naturally produced milk contains a form of sugar called lactose. You need to have an enzyme called lactase in your body to digest lactose properly, and it’s the same with dogs. Newborn puppies have plenty of lactase in their bodies that help them break down their mother’s milk. However, as puppies are weaned off their mother’s milk, their bodies stop producing lactase in varying amounts. The less lactase they produce, the more intolerant they’ll be to lactose.

What is lactose intolerance?

Dairy is one of the top dietary problems and dog allergies . When a dog can’t digest lactose, the sugar passes through its body instead of being absorbed. Sugars are hygroscopic, meaning they attract and absorb moisture. As the sugar travels through the intestine, it absorbs water, including that in the tissue of the colon. 2 As you can guess, that leads to problems like diarrhea, which is just one side effect.

What Are the Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Dogs?

There are several symptoms of lactose intolerance in dogs. Some stem from the water absorption by lactose we previously mentioned, while others take place elsewhere in the GI tract. For example, undigested lactose can also ferment in the colon and lead to gas. Symptoms of lactose intolerance in dogs include 1 :

Symptoms of lactose intolerance in dogs

  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Vomiting
  • Pain
  • Indigestion
  • Lethargy
  • Cramping
  • Decreased appetite
  • Bloating

What Can Happen if Your Dog Drinks Milk?

Dog near its owner with its paws on the counter near a bowl of milk and cereal

So, now that you know the potential side effects that can occur if your dog consumes any dairy products, what would happen if the dog managed to get a few drops of ice cream or drink a little out of your kid’s glass of milk?

If your dog is lactose intolerant, monitor the dog for the next 12 hours or so, and maybe a little longer. Most symptoms should show up in that timeframe. It could be that your dog had so little dairy that nothing will happen, or it will have a slightly upset stomach. But if your dog has a larger reaction, you want to be sure you can care for the dog at that time instead of leaving it alone when it might need help.

If your dog isn’t lactose intolerant but eats a relatively large amount of dairy, you’ll need to monitor the dog then as well. «Large» is a vague term, but if it eats more than a couple of tablespoons, keep an eye out. Your dog could end up vomiting, or maybe your dog has diarrhea from the fats in the dairy. If this keeps happening and the dog is continually eating a lot of high- or full-fat dairy products, the dog could develop pancreatitis. For more serious symptoms, always contact your veterinarian, who can provide more information on the steps to take if your dog consumes too much dairy.


The dairy products mentioned are assumed to be from cow’s milk. However, cow’s milk is only one kind of animal-produced milk, and now there are a lot of alternative «milks» and products that people like to have around to eat and drink. If your dog gets into those, is there anything to worry about? Explore these frequently asked questions about different types of milk that dogs might get into.

Is Almond Milk Bad for Dogs?

Almond milk is not the best drink for dogs, and that warning extends to products made with almond milk, like almond milk ice cream. This nut milk is safe only in small quantities. Almonds contain enough fat that they can be difficult for dogs to digest, and too much almond fat can also lead to pancreatitis in dogs . Also, dogs can’t eat chocolate , and many almond-milk products are flavored with chocolate, so avoid giving your dog those products. If you really want to give your dog some almond milk, keep the amounts very small and infrequent. One big warning is to look for xylitol in the ingredients. Xylitol is toxic to dogs, and any almond milk product that contains xylitol is a complete no – your dog shouldn’t have any of it. This goes for products beyond almond milk, such as peanut butter and other products that might contain this toxic sugar.

Can Dogs Drink Goat Milk?

Goat milk is milk produced by goats, but it actually has less lactose than cow’s milk. That can make goat’s milk a little easier for dogs to digest, but that doesn’t mean they can have it in abundance. Treat it like cow’s milk; let your dog have just a little at a time. Be aware that goat’s milk is generally higher in calcium and potassium than cow’s milk, which is important to note if your dog has any dietary restrictions related to those nutrients.

Can Dogs Drink Oat Milk?

Oat milk is generally safe in small quantities. Large quantities can cause stomach upset, so you want to give this to your dog in moderation, too. Dogs have been known to like the taste of oat milk, so watch out and make sure you’re not letting the dog have too much.

Can Dogs Drink Coconut Milk?

Coconut milk is fatty – from the coconut oil in the liquid – so while it’s safe in small quantities, you need to be careful about how much the dog drinks. Otherwise, the dog can face the same abdominal and intestinal problems that fatty cow’s milk products can create. Coconut milk in very small quantities can help improve the dog’s coat, making it shinier. Make sure you give the dog coconut milk products that contain as few additives as possible.

Can Dogs Eat Cheese or Yogurt?

Cheese and yogurt, even if they’re made with cow’s milk, aren’t as problematic for some dogs because they contain less lactose than the milk itself. As with other milk products, you have to be careful; if your dog handles them well, that’s good, but they can be fatty and thus need to be handed out sparingly. Too much, and the dog can face an upset stomach again. You must check labels for common dog poisons like xylitol, especially with yogurt that is sweetened. It’s rather common for a dog that can’t handle liquid milk to be able to eat cheese and yogurt.

Final Notes

Is milk good for dogs? While it contains some nutrients, in general, you have to be careful. Many dogs are lactose intolerant to the point where they can’t have any milk, or maybe they can have a little yogurt or cheese. Even those dogs that aren’t lactose intolerant can’t have dairy all the time, as it can lead to stomach problems and pancreatitis if the dog eats too much fat. Alternative milks, both plant and animal, can come with the same issues.

If your dog shows signs of being lactose intolerant, or you’re not sure if you should try feeding your dog some dairy, contact your veterinarian or look into a veterinary telehealth appointment through . These services are convenient and easy to sign up for, giving you quick access to telemedicine for pets . If you want to introduce your dog to dairy products, a check-in with a vet through Dutch is a good idea.

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