Can dogs or cats have milk?

May 25, 2023
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.

Can dogs eat milk?

Many people often wonder whether it is safe for their dogs to consume cow's milk. The answer is yes, but with some important limitations. Milk contains lactose, which can be hard for some dogs to digest, especially those who are lactose intolerant — which many are to varying degrees. Therefore, it's important to give your dog a limited amount of milk and monitor their reaction. Some dogs may display no negative health effects when consuming small amounts of milk; others may not be able to tolerate milk at all; and yet others may be able to tolerate certain foods that contain lactose (like cheese and yogurt) but not milk alone.

If you're considering giving your dog some milk-based treat or supplement, it's essential that you first read the label and check whether the product has any added sugar or artificial flavoring, as these ingredients can be harmful to your pet's health in large amounts. Additionally, make sure that the milk you offer them is plain and unsweetened; no chocolate or flavored milks allowed!

When given in moderation and without additives, milk provides several benefits for dogs, like providing natural calcium and vitamins that help maintain strong bones and teeth. It also acts as an excellent source of protein, which helps keep muscles healthy.

The bottom line: While not all dogs are able to tolerate dairy products due to lactose intolerance issues, when cow's milk is unlikely to cause harm when given in moderation, and is in fact likely to yield some health benefits. However, you should always consult with your veterinarian before introducing new food items into your dog's diet plan.

Can cats eat milk?

Many people believe that cow's milk is safe for cats, but in reality it can cause digestive issues. This is because most adult cats are lactose intolerant, meaning they lack the enzyme needed to break down lactose (the sugar found in milk). As a result, drinking too much milk can lead to upset stomach and diarrhea.

However, some cats may be able to tolerate very small amounts of milk given as an occasional treat, and benefit from the calcium and protein found in dairy products. It's important to note that low-fat or skim milk should be used instead of whole options, which can contain high levels of fat that may contribute to unhealthy weight gain or obesity.

If you do decide to give your cat some milk as a treat, make sure it's just a small amount — no more than 1 tablespoon at a time — as excess consumption can still trigger tummy upset. If you notice any symptoms of gastrointestinal distress after giving them small quantities of milk, such as vomiting or excessive gas, then stop giving them milk in the future. Instead, you can contact your veterinarian for advice on possible alternatives based on their individual dietary needs.

The bottom line: Some cats (not all!) may be able tolerate cow's milk or dairy products in small amounts, and may even benefit from the nutrients in these items. But overindulging your cat with large amounts of lactose is likely to make them sick and undermine their long-term health.

Information Purposes Only

The suggestions offered here are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for pet-specific advice from your veterinarian. Never disregard your vet’s recommendations, or delay in acting on them, based on something you have read on this site. Regardless of how a food is rated here, any food that you give your pet can pose potential health risks, including allergic reactions, choking, or other health conditions such as bloat. Always monitor your pet while they’re eating, and never introduce a new food into your pet’s diet without first consulting your veterinarian. 

Pet Poison Emergency Protocol

If your pet is acting sick, call your regular veterinarian immediately. If your regular veterinarian is closed, call a nearby on-call veterinarian, animal urgent care, or veterinary emergency hospital. If your pet is not acting sick but you think they may have been exposed to a poison, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661).

Food Safety Statuses


Could be given almost daily without harm

Safe in moderation

Not toxic, but should not be given regularly


Toxic or simply too risky to give to your pet