Lactose intolerance happens when there is a lactase deficiency. Lactase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down the sugar (known as lactose) present in milk and other dairy products. Since lactose intolerance is very common in dogs, it is normal to ask yourself, “are all dogs lactose intolerant?”.
Are All Dogs Lactose Intolerant?
Many dogs are lactose intolerant, but not all of them. Dogs with lactose intolerant cannot digest milk or have difficulty doing so.
However, some lactose-intolerant dogs can consume dairy products like cheese and plain yogurt but have problems consuming milk. It is because cheese and plain yogurt are simpler to digest. Meanwhile, lactose-intolerant dogs could respond poorly to dairy in general (like milk, cheese, yogurt, etc).
To make it short, there are different types of lactose intolerance. Thus, some dogs can manage different types of dairy, but some are completely allergic to all dairy products.
On the other hand, there are canines out there that can completely digest dairy or lactose without experiencing any digestive issues and food allergies – or dogs without lactose intolerance.
But, that does not mean you should always give milk or dairy products to your dog. Both milk and other dairy have high-value of fat and natural sugars. It is not good for your dog’s diet and can lead to diseases like obesity and pancreatitis.
Causes of Lactose Intolerance in Dogs
There are different causes on why dogs are lactose intolerant, and here are some of them:
This is the most common cause of lactose intolerance in dogs. As mentioned, lactase is the type of enzyme responsible for breaking down sugar or lactose found in different milk products. Because of lactase deficiency, dogs encounter problems with digesting milk and dairy.
The body’s immune system reacts to a threat by producing food allergies. An allergic reaction develops over time and is not the first time an individual is exposed to the allergen. After displaying intolerance symptoms, dogs who consume milk proteins may be more prone to develop an allergy eventually.
According to Greencross Vets, food intolerance is frequently accompanied by changes in the color or consistency of the feces, gas, and gurgling sounds from the digestive tract. In situations of lactose intolerance, these symptoms might worsen and escalate to vomiting and diarrhea.
Food intolerances and allergies are distinct in several ways, even though they may cause the body to respond similarly. The first time a dog takes the trigger meal might elicit symptoms since dogs’ food intolerances are not immune system-related.
Usually, these symptoms are isolated episodes of an upset stomach. However, if you consistently give your dog a diet containing the food component to which they are sensitive, it will result in them having ongoing digestive problems.
Signs of Lactose Intolerance in Dogs
Identifying whether your dog has lactose intolerance can be hard. If your dog has drank a lot of milk, it can be difficult to tell if they are lactose intolerant. Even dogs that are not lactose intolerant might have vomiting and diarrhea due to overconsuming dairy.
With that, here are the following signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance in dogs:
The most typical indication of lactose intolerance is diarrhea. Your dog may develop diarrhea from lactose intolerance if you notice a rise in the number of stools your dog passes, or if they are watery or loose. Typical feces should be hard and shaped.
You can check this detailed stool chart from Purina to identify your dog’s stool normalcy. Within 12 hours of your dog eating a dairy product, you will most likely see diarrhea if they have lactose sensitivity.
Lost or Decreased Appetite
Your dog may be experiencing nausea as a result of gastrointestinal problems if they are not eating as much as it used to. However, you must know whether your dog is naturally a picky eater or if their lack of appetite results from their recent contact with milk or dairy products.
Whether it is lactose intolerance, a sickness, or an injury, a sudden change in appetite is always caused for concern. With that, visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Vomiting is another common sign of lactose intolerance. Dogs that are sensitive to dairy products may vomit as a result of digestive system alterations. Drooling or licking surfaces by your dog may indicate that they are feeling queasy and are going to vomit.
Your dog may seem and feel bloated due to an increase in gas content in the stomach, and small, and large intestines. When there is too much gas present, bloating is painful.
Can Lactose Intolerance be Treated?
After knowing the signs and causes of lactose intolerance, let us now discuss the possible treatment in dogs.
First, since dairy is not necessary for a dog’s diet, the standard form of lactose intolerance treatment is to eliminate dairy from their diet. However, if you are looking for products that resemble dairy, here are some of your options:
- Almond milk: Another option that lactase-insufficient dogs can tolerate, at least in modest doses, is almond milk products. However, larger quantities might upset your pet’s stomach because of its fat content.
- Soy milk: Soy is typically safe for most dogs to eat. However, excessive quantities have been reported to induce estrogen-like activity and can reduce thyroid levels. Plus, soy is also a common food allergen among dogs (Mueller, et al, 2016).
- Lactose-free milk and dairy: Numerous milk and dairy products for lactose intolerant people may be appropriate for your pet, such as goat’s milk.
What to Do If Your Dog Ate Dairy?
If your lactose-intolerant dog accidentally ate dairy, here are the things you should do:
First, you can give your dog a bland diet that is low in fat and fiber and often consists of one protein and one basic starch, such as chicken and rice. Giving your dog a bland diet for a day or two can help it calm down its upset stomach.
However, if they accidentally consumed a large amount of dairy or milk, and exhibited worse symptoms like extreme vomiting and diarrhea, it is best to go to your veterinarian immediately. Overindulging in dairy products may result in pancreatitis, a condition that inflames the liver and calls for hospitalization.
Are All Dogs Lactose Intolerant: FAQs
Before we end this article, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about if all dogs are lactose intolerant:
When consumed in moderation, milk is safe to consume. However, it’s usually best to refrain from giving your dog a whole bowl at once because doing so might result in unpleasant side effects including diarrhea, vomiting, and loose feces.
Yes, some dogs are not lactose intolerant. However, veterinarians still recommend pet owners not give their pets too much milk or dairy since it can still lead to various health problems like stomach issues and obesity.
Cheese has a lower amount of lactose. Thus, dogs with no lactose intolerance can digest it without experiencing any problems. However, giving cheese to your dog should not be included in their daily diet since it can cause short and long-term health problems like obesity.
Similar to cheese, yogurt usually contains lower amounts of lactose. With that, some dogs also digest it better compared to other milk products and can have it sometimes. However, it still causes gastrointestinal upset due to the high-fat content so it is best to avoid them if your dog has a sensitive stomach. The high-fat content can set off a painful and very serious condition in dogs called pancreatitis.
There is no exact percentage of dogs that are lactose intolerant. However, it is known that the majority or many dogs have lactose intolerance. The only percentage currently available is the number of dogs who visit the veterinarian due to food allergies and intolerance, which is 1-2% (Olivry and Mueller, 2016).
To summarize, the answer to the question, “are dogs lactose intolerant?” is no. Even though the majority of dogs are lactose intolerant, not all of them are. Moreover, if your dog is not lactose intolerant, veterinarians still do not recommend including milk and dairy in your dog’s occasional diet. Milk and dairy have high fat and natural sugar content.