Can Dogs Drink Milk or Cream?

Puppies need a different nutrient balance from milk than calves do.
Puppies need a different nutrient balance from milk than calves do. (Image: oscarcwilliams/iStock/Getty Images)

There are good reasons to keep milk, cream and other dairy products out of your dog's diet. Lactose intolerance or reactions to dietary changes can make your pet sick. Raw dairy and excessive vitamin D pose health risks to dogs. As tempting as it is to think foods you like are treats for your pet, she's better off being spared the risk of the smelly, messy and possibly painful consequences of drinking milk or cream. Consult your veterinarian about quality dog food and feeding guidelines.

Too Much Vitamin D

Too much vitamin D is toxic for dogs and cow's milk for humans usually contains supplemental vitamin D. Vitamin D in a quality dog food or a supplement approved by your vet is fine. Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it gets stored in your dog's liver and fat tissues. Poisoning may result if there's excessive vitamin D in your pet's diet, according to PetMD. Dogs of all ages are prone to this toxicity, but young dogs and puppies are at the highest risk. This condition is extremely serious and costly to treat. Talk to your veterinarian before changing your dog's diet or adding any supplements.

Nasty and Dangerous Reactions

Sensitivities and allergies to foods are common in dogs. Dogs fed table scraps and common people foods including milk and dairy products may experience digestive problems, including flatulence -- commonly known as stinky dog farts -- and abdominal pain. Raw and unpasteurized milk and cream may pose health risks due to possible bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli. Although healthy people may tolerate a raw foods diet, feeding raw milk, eggs and meat to pets may harm them, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. As with humans, dogs who are young, old or who have impaired immune systems are particularly vulnerable to foodborne illnesses.

Why Dairy Isn't a Treat

Many dogs are lactose intolerant. They're unable to digest milk, cream and other dairy products. Like lactose-intolerant humans, they can't break down the milk sugar, lactose. This naturally occurring sugar can trigger bloating, indigestion and diarrhea. It's challenging for veterinarians to distinguish between symptoms of lactose intolerance, food sensitivities, food allergies, food poisoning and diseases. Forgoing giving your dog milk, cream and other people foods is much simpler than diagnosing the unpleasant and possibly painful symptoms of dietary reactions to foods she can't tolerate. Cheese is lower in lactose than milk and cream but is generally high in fat. Cheese also may trigger unpleasant dietary reactions.

Milk Substitute For Puppies

Cows milk isn't a suitable substitute for dog's milk. Dog's milk is much lower in lactose and has a different nutritional profile than milk from cows and goats. If puppies are orphaned or their mother is unable to feed them, a canine milk replacement formula is the safest food for them. Some veterinarians and pet supply vendors sell puppy formula. Recipes for homemade puppy formula are generally for emergency use, not for ongoing use. Ask your vet for help in choosing a formula to meet the nutritional needs of puppies.

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