Can Dogs Drink Milk? – Advice and Expert Recommendations

For most people, picturing a dog drinking milk is a ridiculous idea. But can dogs drink milk? Is it healthy or can it result in side effects?

Can Dogs Drink Milk

We are used to cats lapping up their milk noisily not dogs. While it is generally not a good idea to give your adult cat milk, the advice when it comes to dogs is not so clear cut. It all comes down to how each dog handles components found in milk. Some dogs will do fine with a bowl of milk or a lick of ice cream now and then while others will experience adverse reactions ranging from a simple abdominal ache to severe diarrhea.

What is in Milk?

Milk contains sugars. These sugars are referred to as lactose. This component decides whether your dog can drink milk or not. When dogs (and even humans) drink milk, an enzyme called lactase produced by the body breaks down lactose in milk. This enables smooth passage through the digestive tract.

Most dogs will be able to produce enough lactase to digest the sugars in milk. Others however, produce too little or none at all. It is these dogs that belong to the 'no/little milk’ category.

Lactose Intolerance

Puppies, like any other young mammals depend on the mother’s milk to survive and grow. So while it is not common for adult dogs to drink milk, puppies greatly depend on it until they are weaned. At this age, they can easily handle lactose because there is an abundance of the enzyme lactase.

But as they grow out of puppyhood, the body’s ability to break down these sugars in milk starts declining. This is as a result of reduced levels of lactase available in the body. At this point, giving the dog milk could cause some uncomfortable reactions.

Most dogs can handle a sensible amount of milk without any issue. This is because there is still some lactase enzyme available to digest lactose. But too much milk and dairy products can affect most dogs, overwhelming their digestive systems and causing symptoms like a bloated tummy and lose stool.

Some dogs have serious lactose intolerance making it difficult to digest even little amounts of dairy products. For such dogs, ingesting milk or any other dairy product results not only in digestive discomfort but also in serious clinical symptoms that require a trip to the vet.

What Experts Recommend

Can Dogs Drink Milk

The best thing you can do is observe your dog closely. It is not essential that your dog’s diet include dairy products. But if you really want to include dairy products in your dog’s diet, keep a close eye on it especially over the next 12-24 hours. Watch out for symptoms like gas, lose stool, serious diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting.

If the dog has no symptoms at all, then you can comfortably add dairy products to its diet but keep observing him for any additional symptoms. If the dog has mild symptoms, the problem is probably not the presence of lactose but the amount present in the dairy product. The best option in this case is to reduce the amount of milk you are feeding to your dog or find a low-fat and low-sugar dairy product.

Different types of dairy products have varying amounts of lactose as you can see in the table below.

Dairy Product

Amount of Lactose

1 cup of whole milk

11 grams

1 cup of skimmed milk

11 grams

½ cup of ice cream

6 grams

1 cup of low fat yogurt

5 grams

½ cup of cottage cheese

3 grams

1 ounce of swiss cheese

1 grams

1 ounce of cheddar cheese


Products like low-fat yogurt and skimmed milk are great for dogs that show some sensitivity towards lactose. They contain less fat and sugar, which helps prevent adverse digestive reactions.

If your dog begins to show serious symptoms like prolonged vomiting and diarrhea, call your vet immediately. Then consider cutting dairy products completely from your pet’s diet. It will not make it any less healthy. Make sure every family member knows the dog’s condition to prevent any serious incident involving milk ingestion.


So, can dogs drink milk? It all boils down to your specific dog. Reaction to lactose varies from dog to dog. Your neighbors dog might greedily lap up milk like a hungry kitten while your own has to deal with a rumbling stomach from just a bite of cheese.

But as we have mentioned, dairy products are not an essential part of a dog’s diet. So do not feel compelled to give your dog milk. Only do it if your dog likes it and shows no sensitivity.

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