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Feeding Milk to Pets and Lactose Intolerance
Before weaning, pups and kittens obtain most of their nutrients
from their mother's milk. At weaning, a pup or kitten becomes reliant
on solid foods. Although cow's milk can be a useful source of nutrients
for young dogs and cats, it is not an essential part of the kitten or
puppy's diet. Many dogs and cats cannot efficiently digest the
naturally occurring sugar in milk (lactose) as their digestive system
does not produce enough of the digestive enzyme (lactase) that is
needed to break down the lactose during digestion, meaning the lactose
sugar accumulates in the intestinal tract and this can cause signs of
digestive upsets if milk is fed to these pets. This is called "lactose
intolerance". Typically, these pets develop a range of signs of
digestive upsets including discomfort, vomiting and diarrhoea if more
lactose (i.e. milk) is consumed than the pet can digest.
Levels of digestive enzyme (lactase) decline as pups & kittens mature
The amount of enzyme (lactase) produced by the pup or kitten declines quite
substantially as they mature. This means that even if a pup or kitten
tolerated cow's milk well when they were young, intolerance can develop as
they get older and this, combined with the fact that cow's milk has higher
levels of the natural milk sugar (lactose) than bitch or queen milk also
adds to the incidence of lactose intolerance seen in adult pets.
Milk might be fine, but not essential
While milk is not necessary for a dog or cat, it can be a great treat if
given from time to time, provided your pet is not lactose intolerant, as
milk is an excellent source of protein and calcium. If you do wish to feed
milk and milk-based products to your pet and you are concerned about
lactose intolerance, there are lactose-free milks for pets available in
Quality prepared pet foods & water
If your pet is lactose intolerant, this is not a major problem as it just
means that you need to either avoid feeding milk and dairy products or
choose other alternatives that your pet can digest as discussed above.
Alternatively, the simplest way to make sure your pet gets all the
nutrients they need is to feed your pet good quality, complete and balanced
pet foods and make sure they always have water available for drinking and
they'll be getting all the nutrition that they need. If you have any
questions about caring or feeding your new pup or kitten, your veterinarian
This article is for general information only:
This information is provided by the PFIAA as general information only. For
advice and information concerning feeding your individual pet, we recommend
that you seek the advice of your veterinarian.