Can Dogs Drink Milk? And Which Milk Alternatives Can They Have?

can dogs drink milk
  • Can dogs drink milk instead of water?
  • Is milk bad for dogs? Should they avoid it?
  • Which milk alternatives are best for dogs?

In this article we help you decide whether or not milk is a good drink for your pet. Looking at all the different types of milk available, and which ones are good for dogs. Because whether your dog can have milk to drink depends on their individual circumstances, and the type of milk you are offering.

Can Dogs Drink Milk?

What type of beverage comes to mind when you hear the word milk? While most people think of cow’s milk, there are other dairy and non-dairy milks too. Cows’ milk is the most common, so it’s the most likely to be given to a pet. And generally, the answer to, “Can dogs have milk?” is yes. But there is a catch.

Are Dogs Lactose Intolerant?

Many dogs can drink small amounts of cows’ milk without any problems. But some dogs are lactose intolerant and cannot drink cows’ milk. So we’ve taken a look at the pros and cons of giving cows’ milk to dogs. And at the alternatives, including goats’ milk, almond milk, soy and coconut. So you can make the best healthy choice for your pup’s personal needs.

Can Dogs Have Dairy?

Pet nutrition experts warn that some dogs do have difficulty digesting lactose, a natural sugar found in dairy products. Lactose can cause digestive problems in not only dogs, but also cats — and humans, too. If your dog has an intolerance, or even an allergy, to dairy products, then traditional cow’s milk might not be the best choice for your dog.

Milk And Dogs

Just like people, some dogs can develop an intolerance or an allergy to certain ingredients in food. Dairy products that contain lactose can be a prime source of trouble (as can certain meats and grains) in some dogs. A food intolerance is a gastrointestinal sensitivity to a component of your dog’s food. A true food allergy is a system-wide reaction to a protein in your dog’s food.

Pet owners often use the words “allergy” and “intolerance” interchangeably. But they are not the same. A good rule of thumb when monitoring symptoms in your dog is to understand that allergies will generally cause red, itchy skin, whereas intolerances will show up mostly in the digestive system. Look for loose stools after your dog drinks milk.

When Is Milk Bad For Dogs?

The main issue with giving milk to a dog is the potential for an intolerance response. This can cause stomach upset to your pup.

Even if your dog doesn’t seem to have an adverse reaction when you give him milk, it still isn’t a good idea to let him drink too much, or have it too often. It’s important to always monitor your pets when they encounter new foods for the first time. In case of adverse reaction, stop feeding your pet the food immediately, and contact your vet if symptoms continue or worsen.

Is Milk Good For Dogs?

What if dogs show no signs or symptoms of lactose intolerance? Can dogs eat milk then? Milk is a good source of nutrients like protein and calcium, as well as important vitamins like D and B12. But your dog gets these from his regular food anyway.

Moderation is key when it comes to dogs and milk. Adult dogs should drink plenty of water, and can be given milk in small quantities as an occasional treat. Milk has a lot of fat and sugar. Large amounts of fat in the diet can lead to obesity as well as more serious health issues like pancreatitis. Now that we’ve got some understanding of why you might consider this issue, let’s look at some specific types of milk and dogs.

can dogs drink milk

Can Dogs Drink Cows’ Milk?

Even with the plethora of different milk types available, cows’ milk is still the most common type of milk that people drink. As such, it’s the sort most likely to be given to our pets. But can dogs have milk from cows? The short answer is yes, milk from cows is okay for dogs — on rare occasions, and in small quantities.

Can Dogs Have Almond Milk?

Suppose the vet has confirmed that your dog is lactose intolerant and cannot digest any dairy products. What about non-dairy beverages? Almond milk is one of the most popular plant-based milks. Can dogs drink almond milk?

Some nuts (especially macadamia nuts) can be toxic to dogs. Canine health experts warn that while almonds are not as harmful as some other nuts, dogs generally don’t digest almonds well. They are also high in fat, which can lead to obesity and pancreatitis in large quantities.

Small amounts of almond milk (tablespoons, not bowls) should be okay for your dog as an occasional treat. Try some as a test and look for signs of gastric upset. Be sure to read the label of any packaged almond milk you buy. Some almond milk is sweetened, so stay away from any milk that contains the sweetener xylitol, which is very toxic to dogs.

Can Dogs Have Soy Milk?

Soy milk is another non-dairy, plant-based milk alternative. What are the risks and benefits of giving your dog soy milk? Soy milk contains proteins called isoflavones. Some of these proteins are known as phytoestrogens, which are estrogens (female hormones) found in plants.

There is some debate about feeding your dog soy protein in large quantities, but small amounts are safe. Some advocates say that isoflavones have health benefits for your dog. In humans, they can lower cholesterol and reduce the incidence of estrogen-sensitive cancers.

can dogs drink milk

Anecdotal evidence suggests that soy protein can reduce urinary incontinence in dogs. Some veterinarians may even recommend supplements containing isoflavones. Soy in moderate amounts is not harmful to your dog. Many commercial dog foods contain soy-based ingredients. Dogs generally digest soy products well, and soy milk is okay for your dog to drink in small amounts.

Can Dogs Drink Oat Milk?

Much the same principles and rules apply for the question, “Can dogs have milk made from oats?” Oat milk is another non-dairy milk substitute. Oats are not toxic or dangerous to dogs, so dogs can have oat milk — but again, it should only be given once in a while and in small quantities.

Can Dogs Drink Coconut Milk?

Coconut milk is particularly popular for lactose-intolerant humans. But can dogs have milk from coconuts? Once again, the general understanding is that coconut milk won’t harm your dog, as long as it is in small quantities and only occasionally. However, the ASPCA has included coconut milk in its list of human foods not to give to your pet.

This isn’t because of toxicity, but because coconuts contain oils that could cause stomach upset and diarrhea when eaten in larger amounts.

Is Goat Milk Good For Dogs?

What about raw goats’ milk for dogs? With its increasing popularity as an alternative to cows’ milk, many dog owners are wondering if this is a safer and healthier choice for their dogs. Veterinarians are reporting that more and more of their clients are using raw goats’ milk for dogs in the belief that it has significant health benefits. Is this true?

When compared side by side with cows’ milk, goats’ milk is higher in some nutrients like calcium and potassium, but lower in others, such as vitamin B12 and folate. Goats’ milk has a slightly lower amount of lactose than cow’s milk.

Advocates for goats’ milk say that because of the differences in its fat and protein structures, it is easier for your dog to digest than cows’ milk, and that dogs with allergies are less prone to allergic reactions when they drink it.

The bottom line on goat’s milk? Moderation is key. Large quantities of any dairy product are never a good idea. If you are interested in switching to goat’s milk, try giving your dog a small amount to see how it’s tolerated, and only give it occasionally.

Can Puppies Have Milk?

Can puppies drink milk? Mother’s milk is always the best source of nutrition for nursing puppies, but what about after a puppy is weaned from the mother, or if a newborn puppy is orphaned? Sometimes an alternative must be found to the mother’s milk, but commercial milk replacer is always better than cows’ milk for nursing puppies.

A dog’s milk is richer in protein and calories, and much easier to digest than cow’s milk. Always choose a vet-recommended milk replacer over cow, goat, or plant-based milk for newborn puppies. After a puppy is weaned and begins to eat solid food, proceed with caution when giving your puppy milk.

Remember, cows’ milk has more lactose than dog’s milk, so a lactose intolerant puppy will be especially sensitive to the effects of lactose. Eliminate all dairy products if your puppy has loose stools after drinking milk.

can dogs drink milk

Puppy Milk Replacer

It is especially important for a puppy to drink its mother’s milk in the first few days after birth. The milk contains an ingredient called colostrum, which is high in protein and boosts the puppy’s immune system.

Is milk good for dogs when they’re young? Milk formula for puppies is the best alternative to mother’s milk and should always be chosen over any other kind of dairy or non-dairy milk. Research on different brands of milk replacer has shown that some compare better to natural dog’s milk than others. Some puppy milk replacers have lower concentrations of essential nutrients like calcium, protein, and fat than other replacers, as well as dog’s milk.

Dog nutrition experts recommend milk replacers with higher amounts of calcium, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. Be sure to talk to your vet if your puppy needs a milk replacer.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Had Too Much Milk?

The question, “Is milk bad for dogs?” is usually answered, “No.” Dogs that can tolerate lactose should have no problems drinking small amounts of milk as an occasional treat. If your dog cannot properly digest lactose, even a small taste of cow’s milk can contain more lactose than your dog’s digestive system can handle.

Pet nutrition experts report that there is more lactose in cow’s milk than in dog’s milk, which is why the delicate digestive systems of puppies can be especially sensitive. You will know if your dog is lactose intolerant if you see loose stools whenever your dog consumes milk. Other symptoms may include gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. A few tablespoons of milk will produce a reaction in affected dogs, but even non-affected dogs may show gastric distress when given a large bowl of milk.

Milk For Dog Constipation — Can Milk Treat Constipation In Dogs?

Is milk good for dogs who are constipated? Frequently, milk is listed among “home remedies” for constipation in dogs. This suggestion, notably, is not found to be recommended by very many veterinarians.

Milk works as a laxative when dogs are lactose intolerant. So giving them too much can end up leading to the opposite problem. If your dog is constipated, especially if it happens regularly, it’s recommended instead that you consult with your vet for a different option, one that is more sustainable and which won’t cause additional problems.

Should I Give My Dog Milk?

We’ve answered the question of whether dogs can have milk — but should they? Generally speaking, milk is neither a big detriment to a dog’s diet nor a useful addition. Dogs may like milk, but it’s always best to give it in moderation.

If giving your dog milk to drink, give her only a little at first. Watch for any signs of an adverse reaction, such as an intolerance or allergy. If she doesn’t seem to be lactose intolerant, it is safe to give her a small amount of milk as a treat now and then. But remember that her regular diet should contain all the nutrients she needs, so milk is strictly an occasional extra.

How To Prepare Milk For Dogs

When you are sure that your dog is not lactose intolerant and does not have any stomach issues as a result of milk, you can give her a small amount.

Don’t think in terms of bowls — think in terms of tablespoons.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

A few tablespoons may not seem like much more than a few slurps for a medium-sized dog, but remember, it’s a treat, not an important part of her diet.

Alternatives To Milk for Dogs

If your pup is lactose intolerant and you don’t have any dairy alternatives handy, there are plenty of other snacks you could share with her!

The important thing to remember is that treats are just that: treats. They should be given sparingly, and your dog’s regular diet should see to her nutritional needs. This is especially important for Labs, which can tend towards obesity.

Can Dogs Drink Milk?

So, is milk good for dogs? And can you give dogs milk? The answer is generally yes, in moderation, but be sure to keep a close eye out for signs of food allergy or intolerance.

Dogs don’t need milk once they are weaned. But if your dog enjoys the taste of milk, a little dairy or non-dairy milk is okay for many dogs as an occasional treat — perhaps something like half a cup, once a week.

References and Further Reading

  • Banfield Pet Hospital. “Understanding Food Allergies in Your Pets.”
  • Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. “Some Pets Unable to Tolerate Dairy Products.” 2012.
  • Feldman, G. and Boehme, K. “Raw Goat’s Milk for Your Dog: Health or Hype?” The Drake Center for Veterinary Care.
  • Marsden, S., Messonnier, S. and Yuill, C. “Soy Protein.” VCA Hospitals, 2008.
  • Downing, R. “Feeding Orphaned Puppies.” VCA Hospitals, 2013.
  • Heinze, C.R., Freeman, L.M., Camilia, R.M., et al. “Comparison of the Nutrient Composition of Commercial Dog Milk Replacers with that of Dog Milk.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2014.
  • Dog Constipation Remedies, Germantown Veterinary Clinic. 2017

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website