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Can I Give My Dog and Cat Dairy Products?

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We have all seen the movies and cartoons where a cat owner goes out onto the porch and pours cow’s milk into a small dish for their cat. This has often led cat owners to ask, “Can my cat have milk?” And then the question often leads to, “What about my dog? And what about ice cream? Yogurt? Cheese?” And…well, you get the idea. So, can your dog and cat have dairy products? Unfortunately, it’s not a straightforward yes or no answer.

Lactose Intolerance and Dairy Allergies

First off, it’s important to note that dogs and cats are lactose intolerant, meaning they cannot properly digest dairy. Some are more sensitive than others, or some may also have a food allergy to a specific dairy product. It’s safe to assume though that too much of any dairy product will cause your pet to be sick. Symptoms typically include gas, loose stools, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain.

With that being said…

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Can my pet have milk?

Kittens and puppies get specific nutrients only from mom’s milk, so don’t supplement them with cow milk, which has a lot more sugar and fat. Aside from young pets, cats and dogs don’t need any type of milk in their diet. Their food and plain water should contain everything they need. However; if your pet laps up a few sips from your cereal bowl or cleans up a few spilt drops, this small amount most likely won’t cause any symptoms.

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Can my pet have yogurt?

A small spoonful or two of plain Greek yogurt with no added sugar won’t cause harm if your pet doesn’t have a dairy allergy. If a homemade treat recipe calls for yogurt, this is also the type of yogurt to use. Remember to check the label though as some low-fat yogurts (as well as sugar-free puddings) use xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is deadly to pets.

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Can my pet have cheese?

When it comes to cheese, moderation is key. Cheese contains a lot of fat and calories, so consider your pet’s daily calorie count when using plain cheese as a small treat. Too much cheese may cause obesity; the fat can also cause pancreatitis. If you use cheese to hide pills or if your dog is a cheese lover, then we recommend giving them small amounts of low-fat cheeses like mozzarella or cottage cheese.

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Can my pet have ice cream?

Ice cream has a lot of calories, fat, and sugar. No pet needs these things! If you really want to provide your pet a small treat of ice cream, save this for truly special occasions only. A small scoop of plain, vanilla ice cream is the safest option. Never provide flavored ice cream or toppings, as this could increase the risk of toxins like chocolate or macadamia nuts, as well as increase the risk of obesity and pancreatitis. Also, like yogurt, always check the label as some light ice creams use xylitol. Other options include pet-specific treats like Frosty Paws or Cool Claws, as well as homemade frozen treats!

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Can my pet have butter?

No one needs plain ol’ butter…so we’ll assume this is more of a “what if my dog accidentally eats butter off the counter” scenario. Butter is saturated fat and does not provide any health benefits for pets. A small amount isn’t likely to cause harm, but the bigger concern is that butter and other fatty foods can cause pancreatitis. Avoid leaving a butter dish on the kitchen table or other areas your pet may be able to access.

If your pet ingests a small amount of a dairy product, you don’t need to rush to the vet. Just be prepared for the possibility of some seriously stinky gas, as well as diarrhea and vomiting! Always monitor your pet carefully after they have any dairy products, whether intentional or accidental. Seek veterinary advice if your pet ate a large quantity of any dairy product, if symptoms are not resolving, or if you suspect your pet is experiencing secondary issues such as pancreatitis or dehydration from too much diarrhea. Also, if too many dairy treats are causing your pet to gain weight, then it’s time to scale back on the dairy treats and review your pet’s diet with your family veterinarian.

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