Lactose Intolerance in Dogs: 5 Common Symptoms and Factors Influencing Lactose Allergy in Dogs

Lactose Intolerance in Dogs: 5 Common Symptoms and Factors Influencing Lactose Allergy in Dogs

You’ve probably wondered about feeding your dog a dairy product at some point in your life. Chances are you actually did feed your pooch some low-additive dairy. After all, if you’re eating yogurt or a container of ice cream, the dog is most certainly getting a few licks! Since dogs are mammals, and they drank their mother’s milk as their primary diet when young, they shouldn’t have a problem with drinking milk as adults, right? Wrong! Dogs simply can’t digest milk properly. This condition is known as lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance in dogs is actually fairly common. Many dog owners think their furry friends only have trouble digesting milk because they’re “allergy-sensitive” and therefore unable to tolerate cow’s milk. Actually, there are different causes of lactose intolerance within a dog.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder in which dogs can’t properly digest the sugar in milk because they are missing an enzyme called lactase. Your dog’s small intestine normally produces lactase. This enzyme breaks down what is known as lactose molecules into simple sugars called glucose and galactose, which can then be absorbed in the small intestine into the bloodstream and used for energy by body cells.

However, if a dog is lactose intolerant, they don’t have enough of this enzyme and are therefore forced to miscarry much of the lactose they consume. The result is uncomfortable symptoms that often don’t show up for months.

Puppies generally have the enzyme in abundance as it is used to break down their mother’s milk while nursing. But as they are introduced to more adult foods, they’ll produce less lactase in their system, and that is when they can become lactose intolerant. It’s very uncommon in puppies, but it does happen. Most dogs will develop lactose intolerance as they get older. It usually occurs around eight to ten weeks of age, but lactose intolerant dogs can develop symptoms as early as four weeks of age. However, most dogs will experience symptoms once they are six months old or older.

Lactose intolerance is not genetic, nor is it a disease. There’s no blood test or physical exam that can confirm the condition. But, if a dog has the characteristic symptoms of lactose intolerance, it’s safe to assume that’s what you’re dealing with.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Dogs

Lactose intolerance can present itself in a range of symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, flatulence, and gastric problems. However, every dog reacts differently to dairy products. Some might show some of the symptoms while others may not show any at all. Not all symptoms will appear in each instance by any means. In addition to the common gastrointestinal problems above, lactose intolerance can also cause skin conditions like rashes and hives. The symptoms usually appear 8-12 hours after consuming dairy products.

Dogs may experience symptoms that last for weeks. Or they can have repeated episodes every month or two, depending on how much lactose they consume or how sensitive their digestive system is.

Here is a list containing short summaries of the symptoms seen as a result of lactose intolerance:

1. Diarrhea

This is the most common symptom. It can be mild or severe depending on the amount of lactose your dog eats and how long s/he’s ill. Diarrhea can be loose or semi-solid. You might notice your dog has a bit of a bloated belly too.

2. Gas and Bloating

Not only will your dog experience diarrhea, but they could also experience gassy diarrhea. This means your dog may have gas trapped in their gut that they can’t release. Over time this could lead to an incredibly bloated belly.

3. Vomiting

If your puppy is lactose intolerant, they might vomit as a result of the gas and bloating problem or from the actual dairy product they consumed. Vomiting is a pretty uncommon symptom of lactose intolerance but it does happen.

4. Dehydration

Any form of diarrhea and vomiting can lead to dehydration. However, dehydration is very rare in puppies with lactose intolerance.

5. Skin Problems

Some dogs with lactose intolerance will develop skin problems like rashes or hives. This problem is very rare though.

The severity of the issue depends on a number of factors, including the dog’s age, diet type, and level of lactose. Young puppies may just have mild symptoms such as loose stools or abdominal pain and discomfort. Mature dogs, on the other hand, can experience any of the above-listed health issues. These symptoms can be triggered by smaller amounts of dairy that are consumed.

How Can I Tell If My Pup Is Lactose Intolerant?

Most owners don’t know that their dogs are lactose intolerant even after they’ve been feeding milk to their dogs for a long time. You can tell if your dog is lactose intolerant if you see the following symptoms after you feed them some milk:

  • Loose stools
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating

Since most dairy products contain a lot of fat, consumption of such products can lead to pancreatitis in your dog, which is a highly severe condition.

Try feeding your pup a small amount of milk, and if they show the symptoms mentioned above, find a different treat. Generally, dogs can experience gastrointestinal upset sometimes within twelve hours of drinking or eating dairy products. However, trying to determine if your dog is lactose intolerant can be difficult if they have had a large amount of milk. Even non-lactose intolerant dogs are prone to vomiting and diarrhea if they drink too much milk.

Also, check out “Can Dogs Drink Milk?

Dairy Products That Could Cause Problems

Common dairy products, such as milk and cheese, are the most common triggers for lactose intolerance. However other products like ice cream and yogurt can also be triggers. Some dogs have no problem with dairy products, while others can’t tolerate any amount of dairy. It just depends on how much of the enzyme your dog is producing in their system. Keep in mind though that the more dairy products a dog consumes, the more likely they are to develop lactose intolerance.

Some dogs can tolerate small amounts of dairy but not large amounts. Even small amounts of lactose can cause a dog to have diarrhea or bloat if they consume it regularly.

Low Lactose Dairy Products

Luckily, there are many lactose-free dairy products that you can feed your pup. Lactaid milk is one of the most recognizable brands on the market that offers a lactose-free product. You can also find lactose-free milk in many stores, or you can simply feed your dog cheese, yogurt, and ice cream without any problems. It’s important to remember that any time you introduce a new diet to your pet, you should do it slowly to avoid digestive problems.

Most cheeses have low lactose amounts; dogs intolerant to milk can also eat cheese without any risks. In fact, almost any cheese can make a great natural treat for your dog. Yogurts are also great for dogs. They are usually in the 6% lactose range, which is easily digestible by most dogs.

Check out this Yak Cheese stick on Amazon. Your dog is sure to enjoy chewing on these sticks, especially if they are aggressive chewers.

Another luxurious reward for your pet is ice cream. With that being said, it’s important to note that some dogs will have issues with ice cream even if they tolerate other dairy products well. Take the flavor and sugar in the ice cream into consideration, if you plan on feeding some to your furry friend.

The best way to determine what foods are good for your dog is to start a diary – keep track of how often you feed your dog dairy and what foods they eat it in. This will help you understand whether or not your dog is lactose intolerant. It’s also a good idea to stop feeding milk for 2 weeks before introducing new dairy products into his diet. This will help ensure that he doesn’t have any reactions to the milk protein while testing for intolerance.

If you want to feed your dog milk or yogurt for the probiotic benefits, try giving them a probiotic supplement specifically made for dogs such as NUSENTIA Probiotic. It could be a good alternative to promoting good gut bacteria without falling ill to the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

You should always consult your veterinarian before introducing any new products to your pet’s diet, especially if you suspect a lactose intolerance issue. Dog digestion is an interesting subject, and it’s important to note that some dogs may tolerate certain dairy products better than others. Your vet will be able to help you find the best solution for your pup.

Dietary Factors in Intolerance

Some dogs have no problems with dairy and can eat it without issue. Any dog that has never had dairy is likely to have no tolerance for it later on as they age. The average small intestine length in a dog is 3 feet, which makes it impossible for them to absorb significant amounts of lactose from milk or other dairy products that are consumed. Dairy is the only food that will cause a malabsorptive problem for dogs.

Most omnivores, meaning dogs that aren’t strictly carnivores, can tolerate dairy products well but develop lactose intolerance later on in life. They become intolerant due to creating less lactase throughout their lives. It’s also important to note that breeds like beagles and terriers often have higher levels of lactose intolerance than other breeds, as they tend to have longer small intestines.

How Much Lactose Can My Dog Tolerate?

The main factor that determines how much lactose your dog will tolerate is the amount of lactase they produce. Lactase is a key enzyme responsible for breaking down the diary. The more lactase they produce, the more dairy products they can tolerate and the less likely they are to become intolerant to dairy foods.

The factors which influence the extent of lactose allergy in dogs include:

1. Age

Young dogs will likely be more tolerant of dairy products due to their higher levels of lactase production in their younger years.

2. Body Build

Dogs with more muscle mass such as boxers or pit bulls are less likely to develop lactose intolerance. This is because their digestive systems can handle large amounts of dairy products.

3. Diet Type

Dogs that eat a high fiber diet are less likely to develop lactose intolerance than dogs that eat a low fiber diet. However, it’s important to note that most dogs tolerate dairy very well, even if they have a high-fiber diet. Extended periods of vegetarian diets could also cause dairy intolerance in dogs.

4. Underlying Health Issues

Dogs with poor health are more likely to develop lactose intolerance, especially if they’re on medications or have other GI issues. It also takes longer for lactase production to become significant in the intestines.

The breed type can also determine a dog’s intolerance to dairy products. There are many different breeds with varying degrees of lactose intolerance. Some breeds are more likely to develop intolerance than others. However, it’s important to note that many dogs of different breed types can be just as intolerant as others. Breeds like Aussies, Border collies, and Jack Russell terriers are slightly more likely to develop lactose intolerance than other dogs.

Other factors like the amount of fat a dog has can also play a small role in regulating lactose intolerance. Dogs with more fat are more likely to tolerate dairy than dogs without much fat.


Dairy isn’t always bad for dogs, but it can be dangerous if your dog has a food intolerance. So before giving your dog any dairy product, you should stop and think. The best way to ensure that your dog won’t have any issues consuming dairy is to feed them small amounts of lactose-free products. Some dogs might react negatively to eating dairy while others do not.

If you’re a dog owner and you want to introduce some dairy into your pet’s diet, be sure to consider the amount of lactose your dog is accustomed to and stick with small quantities of dairy. Small amounts of dairy can be fine for many dogs as long as they eat small portions. And if you find out your dog to be lactose intolerant, do not give them any high lactose content dairy products. You could give them Lactaid milk, and some low-lactose content cheese, instead. Always make sure to check the label on dairy products. Just because a product says it’s lactose-free doesn’t mean that it has little to no lactose content.

You could always try consulting the vet if you are ever unsure about feeding something new to your pooch.

Thank you for reading the article.

To explore more, check out other articles related to dog health that you might be interested in.

Is your dog lactose intolerant? Do you give them lactose-free products? We would love to hear from you. Please share with our community by leaving a comment below!

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