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Can dogs drink milk?

Puppy drinking spilled milk
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most dogs quench their thirst simply with water, but can dogs drink milk? The short answer here is yes, but the slighter longer answer is generally yes, in moderation - or as a treat. That said, you’ll probably want to stick to the best dog food for most of your dog’s nutrition with just the occasional slurp of the good stuff now and again. 

According to the American Kennel Club (opens in new tab), while most dogs will be absolutely fine with the odd milky treat, some dogs can be lactose intolerant and therefore should have dairy excluded from their diets. Of course, these days, there are also lots of other types of plant-based milks on the market, which are also something you might consider giving to your dog - especially if they need to avoid dairy.

Lots of the food that we enjoy can be shared with our canine companions. Make sure you take a look at our guide to what human food can dogs eat to find out more snacks you can share on your next picnic. But for now, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about dogs and milk! 

Is milk good for dogs?

Milk makes for a good occasional treat for dogs, most of which you will find love getting their tongues around dairy products. That said, in large quantities dairy can cause problems that you’ll likely want to avoid - such as a diarrhoea, vomiting or just a bit too much gas. 

Other types of non-dairy milk, such as oat milk, are generally also safe to give to your dog, but you should check to see if there’s any additives - such as sweeteners or sugar - that you’ll want to avoid giving to your pup. 

If you’re at all concerned, it might be safer to stick with treats and foods that you know they’re happy with. Our guide to the best dog treats has plenty of safe and delicious options.

Why is milk bad for dogs?

Dog in bed looking at bowl of milk

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Although milk - and other dairy products - aren’t usually dangerous or toxic for your dog, if consumed regularly in large quantities they can cause problems. 

Milk is high in fat and natural sugars which too much of can cause medical issues such as obesity and pancreatitis. It’s fine for a treat, but shouldn’t be given every day and it certainly shouldn’t take the place of water for refreshment for your dog. 

You might also find that you have a dog who is lactose intolerant, meaning they can’t digest the sugars in dairy products like milk. Some dogs are better at digesting other dairy products like cheese or yoghurt, but struggle with milk.

What to do if your dog drinks milk

It’s pretty unlikely that your dog will drink lots of milk by accident - unless there’s a spillage somewhere that you don't notice. 

As such, most of the time you’ll give your dog milk in limited quantities as a treat, which is perfectly fine. Be careful of giving your dog milk too often, and watch out for signs of dairy intolerance. 

You may find that your dog experiences symptoms such as diarrhoea, gas, abdominal pain, vomiting or looser than usual stools after drinking milk. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to avoid giving your dog milk, and to get advice from a veterinarian. 

If your dog does manage to get hold of a vast quantity of milk that you didn’t intend them to, keep a close eye on them for any of the above symptoms, and again speak to your vet if you’re at all concerned. 

Overall, you shouldn’t be too worried if your dog drinks milk in most ordinary situations.

Conclusion 

Although milk is generally considered a very healthy drink for humans, it should be something that is given to your dog much less frequently, or as a treat. For most dogs, it’s perfectly safe to give them milk, but be mindful of symptoms of dairy intolerance and speak to your vet if you have any concerns.

Amy Davies is a freelance writer and photographer with over 15 years experience. She has a degree in journalism from Cardiff University and has written about a huge variety of topics over the years. These days she mostly specialises in technology and pets, writing across a number of different titles including TechRadar, Stuff, Expert Reviews, T3, Digital Camera World, and of course PetsRadar. She lives in Cardiff with her dog, Lola, a rescue miniature dachshund.