Can My Puppy Drink Milk?

Providing them nutritious, easily-digestible food is an essential part of raising a puppy, it’s true. Just like a human baby, a puppy needs a wide variety of nutrients to grow, mature, and become a healthy, well-balanced adult dog. 

Of course, if you’ve never had a puppy (or a baby) before, you might not have a single clue as to what’s best for the furry little freak. I was thinking today about my first puppy and how clueless I was about proper puppy nutrition. I felt they could more or less eat what I eat, including one of humanity’s staple foods; cow’s milk.

That got me thinking about a question I’m asked frequently by readers (and today I know the answer to); can my puppy drink milk?

The answer is that, yes, your puppy can drink milk, but only in minimal amounts and only after they’ve been weaned. (That’s about 8 weeks old, just FYI.) Like all dairy products, milk contains fat and enzymes, some of which your pup might have trouble digesting. 

That’s why it’s suggested that you give your puppy cow’s milk as an occasional treat, and only if they don’t show signs of lactose intolerance. If they are intolerant to lactose, it can lead to stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Now that you know that, yes, your puppy can drink milk in small amounts, you likely have other questions about your puppy and cow milk. For example, what other types of milk can they drink? Can puppies drink plant-based milk, and are there any types of milk that might be harmful to them? If yes, I’ve got the answers to those questions and several more below!

What Happens if a Puppy Drinks Cow Milk?

Yes, your puppy can drink cow milk, but only as an occasional treat, as I mentioned above. If they have an allergy to cow milk, though, it’s best not to give them any. Even if they don’t have an allergy, however, giving your puppy too much cow milk can cause several health problems, some worse than others. They include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Loose stools
  • Vomiting, which can be severe
  • Diarrhea, which can also be severe
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • High amounts of gas and flatulence

Most of these symptoms and health conditions are caused by lactose intolerance. More specifically, it’s caused by a lack of lactase, an enzyme that helps break down lactose so that the body (dog or human) can digest it well.

Another problem with drinking too much cow milk is that it can lead to pancreatitis or inflammation of your pup’s pancreas, which is a severe and, sometimes, deadly health problem. Pancreatitis occurs because whole cow’s milk contains a high amount of fat.

Many veterinarians recommend giving your puppy no cow milk at all because, frankly, they’re not cows. While humans drink it by the truckload, cow milk is truly only meant for one animal: baby cows. For example, you wouldn’t give human breast milk to a puppy, and thus giving cow milk to them isn’t a great idea either.

In short, if you want to give your puppy cow milk, you should always do so in moderation. A minimal amount on their kibble, for example, or a ½ teaspoon of ice cream as a treat. Although they can’t tell you, if your pup has a problem with cow milk, they will usually show signs and symptoms within the first 12 hours after ingesting the milk.

When Can Puppies Drink Cow Milk?

If you ask many vets and dog experts, they’ll tell you that never is the best time to give your puppy cow milk. The fact is that puppies and adult dogs lack the enzyme lactase, as I mentioned earlier, so they can’t break down lactose in their intestinal (GI) tract.

Because of this, the cow milk will travel through their GI tract practically untouched. This lack of digestion is what causes the most severe problems for your puppy, including diarrhea and vomiting, as well as soft, watery stools. Until the cow milk has left their digestive system entirely, they’ll be prone to these and other health problems.

What Dairy Products are Safe for Puppies?

Because of their lack of the lactase enzyme and inability to digest milk, there are very few dairy products that are indeed ‘safe’ for your puppy. All of them, especially whole milk products, pose the risk of the symptoms and conditions that I’ve talked about today already. That being said, below is a list of the dairy products that your puppy can have in minimal, occasional amounts. They include;

  • Whole milk (Probably the worst choice.)
  • Skim milk
  • Fat-free milk
  • Lactose-free milk- The best choice.
  • Cheese
  • Plain yogurt

What Alternative Milk Products are Safe for Puppies to Drink?

Goat Milk

Goat milk has a slightly lower amount of milk than cow milk and thus is somewhat safer for your puppy. However, they should only be given goat milk in very small amounts and only occasionally as a snack, similar to cow milk.

Almond Milk

Dogs generally don’t digest almonds very well, although they aren’t nearly as bad as macadamia and other types of nuts, which can be toxic to them. One suggestion is to test your pup with a tiny amount of almond milk. Also, beware of almond or any other type of milk sweetened with xylitol, which is highly toxic to puppies and dogs.

Soy Milk

Most dog experts say that soy milk is safe for puppies in small amounts. Soy milk also contains isoflavones, a protein that mimics hormones. These isoflavones might help reduce certain types of cancer, but more research is needed.

Oat Milk

Non-toxic to puppies and dogs, you can safely give them small amounts of oat milk.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk contains several different oils that are difficult for puppies to digest. For this reason, the ASPCA has put coconut milk on their list of human foods that you shouldn’t give to your puppy or adult dog.

Dog Milk Formula / Milk Replacer

One of the best milk alternatives for puppies is so-called milk replacers, which are formulas based on the nutrients that puppies need to mature and grow. They have higher amounts of calcium, essential fatty acids, amino acids, and lower concentrations of fat.

Using Cow Milk as a Dog Laxative

You may have heard that you can use cow milk as a laxative for puppies and dogs that are constipated. Yes, the truth is that milk does work as a laxative, especially in lactose intolerant dogs. However, if your dog is constipated constantly, it’s recommended that you talk to your veterinarian rather than give them cow milk. That way, your veterinarian can develop a better solution that doesn’t pose any risk to your precious puppy.

Final Thoughts 

Can my puppy drink milk is a question I hear frequently. The answer is that, in most cases, yes, they can drink a tiny amount of cow milk. However, you need to keep in mind that cow milk isn’t made for puppies, and they don’t have the necessary enzymes to digest it. 

Often that can lead to more health problems than it’s worth, which is why most veterinarians and dog experts recommend against giving your puppy cow milk. Puppies can certainly get along without cow milk, but a milk replacer is recommended if they need extra nutrition.

I hope you enjoyed today’s article and that it answered all your questions about puppies and cow milk. If you have more, or you have questions about other types of food to give to your puppy, please see my other blogs on this important subject. They’re filled with practical, real-world information to help you raise your puppy into a healthy, happy, and well-adjusted adult dog.