Food for Thought
By Linda Nagel
Dogs, being man’s best friend and part of the family, are often allowed to eat whatever we are eating. That’s especially true if we have two-legged kids as well as our four-legged fur babies. But to ask “Can dogs eat dairy? – surely that is a silly question. I mean, we all know not to feed our dogs chocolate. But is it a silly question?
We’ve all taken our four-legged friend to the vet and ended up with pills that we had to give them.
What does the vet tell us to do if we’re having trouble giving our dog their medicine? Haven’t you been told to try hiding it in a piece of cheese or something? Wait, what? Cheese is dairy.
So, can dogs eat dairy? The answer is a resounding maybe. That’s right, you read correctly, maybe. Maybe your dog can eat dairy, in varying amounts. Maybe it can’t.
I know this reality check makes me rethink some of my patterns that my dogs have instilled in, or trained if you will, in me. For example, when I eat a bowl of cereal, my dog gets to drink the leftover milk. The same thing when I eat ice cream. Unless it’s chocolate, Kiwi, my Schnauzer, gets to lick the bowl.
Now, after researching the subject, I might have to retrain myself and Kiwi both. I might have to because the answers to whether a dog can have dairy truly is a maybe. I know that the small amounts of dairy that I give her have never caused any major adverse reactions. Some dogs may be able to consume large quantities of dairy with little or no adverse effects. Other dogs might not be able to consume any dairy at all.
Man’s best friend, not unlike the man himself, may have different levels of lactose tolerance. Keeping that in mind, as a responsible dog owner, you want to watch for signs of lactose intolerance in your canine kid.
Some of the signs are easily identified while others are a little less obvious and even harder to pinpoint to lactose intolerance. Even with the obvious symptoms, identifying them as being symptoms associated with lactose intolerance as opposed to other dietary or even lifestyle/stress-related changes can be challenging. A consultation with your doggy doctor might be in order.
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If you and Rover partook in an ice cream binge last night and you woke up to dog diarrhea and vomiting, Rover might be lactose intolerant and should sit out the next ice cream binge. It could be the large quantity of dairy that he consumed though rather than fully lactose intolerant. Of course, vomiting and diarrhea are obvious and easily identifiable symptoms.
They are also immediate indicators of a medical issue and a red flag telling you to call the vet.
What about some of the other symptoms? Flatulence is a possible sign or symptom of a food/ dairy allergy. What if Spot is always gaseous? Then if you suspect dairy products are the culprit causing the gas, cut the dairy out of his diet. If the gas goes, you nailed it.
If Lassie can share cheese and crackers with you with no or minor adverse effects, then go ahead and share your Gouda. Spot likes milk with his biscuits, and all that happens is he becomes a bit gaseous if you can tolerate it, set him up with milk and cookies.
The other symptoms, in my opinion, merit a trip to Dr. Doolittle, Animal Physician Extraordinaire. If Fido develops a sudden lack of appetite, weight loss, excessive itching/scratching, or any of the other physical symptoms from any dairy product; don’t delay, get Fido to the vet.
I never questioned whether my dog could eat dairy before this. I assumed that she obviously could. It never even crossed my mind to think otherwise. Fortunately, nothing bad has happened to her from any consumption of dairy. I was ignorant to the fact that dogs can be lactose intolerant. They can be allergic.
So now what? Has the question been answered? Yes and No. Like humans, dogs can have, whether they develop them or are born with them, allergies to certain things. A dog can be lactose intolerant. If it is, then it’s a matter of the severity of it.
One of my children was born with a lactose intolerance. The symptom was nothing major. The reaction would never have killed him. The lactose gave him a horrendous odor that no amount of bathing could alleviate. At about eighteen months old, he outgrew it. He now often consumes large quantities of all kinds of dairy products. Another son, at fourteen developed lactose intolerance. I have a niece that throughout her childhood drank so much milk that I would tease her that she was going to turn into a cow. Now she has very low lactose tolerance that developed after adulthood. She must supplement soy or almond milk in all her cooking recipes.
What does anything about my family have to do with if a dog can eat dairy? Dogs, just like my family members, can develop lactose intolerances or conversely outgrow them.
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Let’s do a quick recap. The question as for whether dogs can eat dairy is not a simple yes or no. The answer is maybe. The question you must ask yourself is “Does my dog show any symptoms or have any adverse effects when they do eat dairy products?”. Watch for the symptoms, especially the more easily identified and often more severe symptoms. If the dog vomits or develops diarrhea after eating dairy, then don’t feed it dairy.
Use common sense in your decision-making process, however. If the dog ate a two-pound block of cheese and consequently became sick from it, it might have more to do with the quantity eaten than a real lactose intolerance.
Common sense can go a long way. If you know your dog as well as I know mine, then any change in behavior you recognize quickly. Remember to factor in anything that might cause the symptoms to include diet, change in environment, new lifestyle, etc.
IF your lovable pooch got into the cream cheese and it made her sick, it is possible that she has a lactose intolerance. If you’ve always shared your milk and cookies with your best friend and he’s never gotten sick; chances are you can continue to share. If you suspect your pet may be allergic to dairy, contact your veterinarian. Get a professional opinion. Make the time to have your dog checked out thoroughly. And remember. Your dog can eat dairy…MAYBE
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