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Lactose Intolerance In Dogs

Lactose Intolerance In Dogs

Have you ever tried giving a splash of milk to your fur baby, only to be met with an upset tummy or a grumpy growl? It’s not your dog being picky; they might just be lactose intolerant! Yup, you read that right. Just like humans, our four-legged pals can suffer from lactose intolerance, and it’s more common than you’d think. In this tail-wagging guide, we’ll unpack what lactose is, the signs that your pup’s tummy isn’t a fan, and what you can do about it. So, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of lactose intolerance in dogs.

What is Lactose?

Lactose Intolerance In Dogs

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Lactose is a type of sugar found primarily in milk and dairy products. It’s what gives your cup of tea that lovely, creamy taste when you add a dash of milk. In technical terms, lactose is a disaccharide, meaning it’s made up of two simple sugars — glucose and galactose. Usually, an enzyme called lactase breaks down lactose into these simpler sugars, making it easier for your body, or your dog’s, to absorb.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

So, what happens if lactase decides to play hooky? That’s where lactose intolerance comes into the picture. Simply put, lactose intolerance is the body’s inability to properly digest lactose. Without enough lactase to break down this sugar, lactose hangs about in the digestive system, leading to a range of uncomfortable symptoms. And guess what? Your furry friend isn’t immune to this condition. 

But how do you know if it’s lactose intolerance that’s troubling your pup? Don’t fret, we’ve got a list of tell-tale signs coming right up.

5 Signs Your Dog Has Lactose Intolerance

Lactose Intolerance In Dogs

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If you’re concerned that your four-legged friend might be lactose intolerant, keep your eyes peeled for these symptoms:


One of the first and most telling signs is diarrhoea. If your dog is dashing to do their business more often than usual, and the stool is loose or watery, it’s time to consider lactose as the culprit. This change in bowel habits is especially concerning if it occurs shortly after a dairy-laden treat or meal.


Another warning bell is vomiting. If your dog starts retching or actually throws up after having a bit of milk or cheese, take note. Vomiting is the body’s way of quickly eliminating something that it can’t process, and in this case, it could very well be lactose.

Lack of Appetite

When dogs aren’t feeling up to snuff, their enthusiasm for food usually takes a nosedive. You might observe that your dog approaches their food bowl, sniffs around, but then decides to walk away without taking a single bite. This is especially telling if they’re turning their nose up at foods they usually can’t resist.


If your pooch’s belly starts to resemble a balloon more than usual, it’s likely they’re experiencing bloating. This swollen tummy can be uncomfortable, or even painful, and is a common result of the gas build-up that occurs when lactose isn’t properly digested.


And let’s not skip over the issue of flatulence. If you find that your home suddenly has a, well, more ‘fragrant’ atmosphere following your dog’s dairy indulgence, take it as a sign. Increased and odorous flatulence is yet another symptom that lactose might be the culprit.

What Causes Lactose Intolerance in Dogs?

Lactose intolerance in dogs isn’t a result of some sudden change or a dietary mishap. It’s usually down to a shortage of that all-important enzyme, lactase. As dogs age, their ability to produce lactase often decreases, making it more difficult to break down lactose efficiently. Some breeds are also more predisposed to lactose intolerance than others. The bottom line? It’s not something your dog ‘catches,’ but rather a digestive limitation they may inherently have or develop over time.

How to Treat Lactose Intolerance in Dogs

dog in vet

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If you’ve recognised that lactose is causing some tummy troubles for your dog, don’t panic; there are several approaches you can take to make your fur baby more comfortable.

Eliminate Dairy

The most straightforward step is to cut dairy out of their diet entirely. This means not just milk, but also cheese, yoghurt, and any commercial dog treat that lists dairy as an ingredient. If you’re unsure, always read the packaging or consult your vet for recommendations on lactose-free options.

Veterinary Consultation

Once you’ve identified the likely issue, make an appointment with your vet for a formal diagnosis. They may recommend tests or specific elimination diets to confirm the intolerance. A vet’s guidance is crucial for addressing any underlying issues and ensuring your dog gets balanced nutrition without dairy.

Dietary Supplements

Sometimes, the vet may suggest enzyme supplements that contain lactase to help your dog better digest lactose. However, these are typically considered a short-term solution and not a permanent fix.

Alternative Foods

Luckily, the pet food market offers a plethora of dairy alternatives. From lactose-free milk to dog treats made without any dairy, you can still spoil your pet without upsetting their stomach. Look for options that are fortified with the necessary nutrients to ensure your dog isn’t missing out on any essentials.

Monitor for Changes

After making these changes, keep a close eye on your dog to note any improvements or worsening of symptoms. Any new symptoms or failure to improve should prompt a return visit to the vet for further investigation.


Let’s face it, we all love spoiling our fur babies. But it’s crucial to remember that not all human treats are doggy delights. Lactose intolerance is a common but often overlooked issue that can turn your dog’s snack time into a tummy-turning ordeal. 

By understanding what lactose is and recognising the signs of intolerance, you can spare your pet from unnecessary discomfort. Keep the cheese and milk for yourself, consult your vet for tailored advice, and opt for lactose-free alternatives that let you pamper your pooch without worry. Because when it comes to your dog’s well-being, knowledge really is the best treat of all. Cheers to a future of tail-wagging, lactose-free joy!

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