Much like humans, dogs can also have adverse reactions to certain foods. There are several components in dairy products that can cause issues – protein, sugar, fat, and preservatives. We will talk about the warning signs and explain the difference between a true allergy to dairy products or lactose intolerance.
Let’s start off by talking about dairy allergies. A canine allergy to dairy products is due to the inability to tolerate the protein in milks (rather than the sugars). While some of the symptoms mirror lactose intolerance (we will explain more soon), others are quite different. To break it down, a dog with a food allergy will have a more severe reaction to ingesting the food compared to a dog with intolerance. The signs of a dairy allergy may include diarrhea, vomiting, itchiness, hives, swelling, and even difficulty breathing.
An intolerance is not immunological, but rather an abnormal physiological response to a food additive and can occur after the first ingestion of the food. Lactose, a sugar found in milk, is broken down by an important enzyme, Lactase, that newborn puppies have when feeding on their mother’s milk. When puppies are weaned from their mother’s milk, the activity of this enzyme decreases dramatically, which causes them to tolerate only small amounts of milk at a time. Feeding puppies their mother’s milk after they are weaned can lead to signs of lactose intolerance. Signs include lack of appetite, bloating, flatulence, vomiting, and diarrhea.
You can probably see why it is so confusion to determine if its an allergic reaction or a lactose intolerance. To confirm that dairy is the culprit, simply eliminate dairy products from your dog’s diet. Continue to monitor them to see if there is a decrease in symptoms. You will need to contact your veterinarian if you do not see any changes after eliminating dairy.