Like humans, pets can suffer from lactose intolerance
Cats drinking from a saucer of milk is a common iconic image. It's well known that dogs love dairy products such as cheese. There are even companies out there that make ice cream for pets. But did you know that like in humans, pets can suffer from lactose intolerance?
It's not unusual for both cats and dogs to be lactose intolerant. Milk is not toxic to them, however lactose intolerance can cause some nasty symptoms. The most common symptoms when milk is consumed by a lactose intolerant animal includes intestinal symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, and vomiting. It can also cause stomach and abdominal pain. All symptoms that are not fun for either the pet or it's owner.
What lactose intolerant animals, humans included, are reacting too is a nutrient found in milk called lactose. Lactose is actually a kind of sugar. When consumed, some animals bodies are not able to properly break down the lactose molecules, which is what causes the symptoms of lactose intolerance. In order to break down lactose, the body must make an enzyme known as lactase. But after being weaned, most mammals bodies stop produce lactase.
While drinking milk probably isn't the worst thing in the world for a dog or cat, it's not uncommon for it to cause distressing symptoms. Also, a small percentage of animals can actually be allergic to the protein in milk, but this is rare.
So what should you do if you want to give your pet milk or some other dairy product but don't want to chance making them feel sick? Most grocery stores sell lactose free milk meant for lactose intolerant humans, and some pet stores will even carry brands of lactose free milk marketed especially for pets. It's also important to remember that the more lactose an animal consumes, the more likely it will have digestive upset. Choosing dairy products that contain lower levels of lactose, and controlling portion sizes can help your pet better cope with lactose containing snacks. Goat's milk contains a bit less lactose than cow's milk does. Most types of cheese and also yogurts contain much lower levels of lactose than milk does. That's probably why most dogs can eat a piece of cheese or a spoonful of yogurt without any issues, but a cup of milk may bother them. Remember that many cats are lactose intolerant as well. They may enjoy drinking milk, but it can cause the same problems for lactose intolerant cats as it causes in other lactose intolerant animals such as humans and dogs.
In conclusion, milk is not toxic to pets. However many pets suffer from lactose intolerance and experience unpleasant symptoms after eating or drinking dairy products. If dairy products bother your pet, consider eliminating them from his/her diet, or look into alternatives such as lactose free milks.