Are Dogs Lactose Intolerant?

Because lactose intolerance in dogs is a thing 🥛

dog lactose intolerant

You know that some people can really struggle to digest dairy, but what about your pup? Can dogs be lactose intolerant, too?

Lactose intolerance is actually pretty common in dogs, so before you sneak your BFF a slice of cheese, there are a few things you should know.

We spoke with Dr. Cristina Bustamante, an associate veterinarian with Caring Hands Animal Hospital in Florida and founder of Dr. B. Vet, to find out all about lactose intolerance in dogs.

Can dogs have dairy?

Dogs can have a little bit of dairy since it’s nontoxic to them.

In fact — if your pup’s stomach can handle it — cheese can be a fun little treat or an effective way to give your pup his pills, and he’ll go absolutely nuts for the occasional Starbucks Puppuccino or scoop of vanilla ice cream. But your dog shouldn’t have too much since dairy has a lot of fat (and sometimes sugar).

It’s possible that dogs can be lactose intolerant, too, which means even a tiny bit of dairy can cause stomach problems.

Can dogs be lactose intolerant?

When a dog’s lactose intolerant, they don’t have the enzyme that breaks down the lactose in dairy products.

“Their bodies do not produce enough lactase to digest milk,” Dr. Bustamante told The Dodo.

Not all dogs are lactose intolerant, but a good majority of them are.

“Most dogs are not able to digest it as well as when they were puppies and can get an upset stomach,” Dr. Bustamante said.

Are dogs lactose intolerant as puppies?

If your dog’s lactose intolerant, he wasn’t always that way.

“Puppies are not lactose intolerant,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Puppies are able to digest their mom’s milk while they are nursing.”

But just because your young puppy isn’t lactose intolerant, that doesn’t mean you should pour him some of your milk from the fridge.

“They do best with special puppy milk formula instead of cow milk,” Dr. Bustamante said.

Try this puppy milk replacer formula from Amazon for $24.99

Puppies will eventually stop producing lactase when they no longer need their mom’s milk, which is typically around 4 weeks old.

“After being weaned from their moms, their body stops producing large amounts of the chemicals needed to digest milk well,” Dr. Bustamante said.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance in dogs

Signs your dog is lactose intolerant include:

  • Vomiting
  • Soft stool
  • Gas
  • Decreased appetite

What to do if your lactose-intolerant dog eats dairy

If your lactose-intolerant dog got into your cheese stash, his tummy’s not going to be happy with him.

A bland diet is a low-fat and low-fiber diet that’s typically made up of one protein and one simple carb, like chicken and rice. This diet can help settle your pup’s stomach after feeding for a day or two. And be sure to keep dairy products out of his reach to prevent your dog from sneaking dairy again (although some dogs are ridiculously determined).

If your dog got into a lot of dairy (like a whole carton of milk or a block of cheese), call your vet. Excess dairy could potentially cause pancreatitis — aka a disease that inflames his liver — and could require hospitalization to treat.

So there you have it! A lot of dogs are lactose intolerant once they wean off their mothers’ milk. And if giving your dog an occasional piece of cheese really messes with his system, odds are he’s lactose intolerant, and you should find other non-dairy snacks for him.

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