Lactose Intolerance in Mammals
If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you how amused they get when I get on one of my soapboxes. These lovely friends know “how to poke the bear” and will do that from time to time just to get a good laugh. One of my little soapboxes is when I watch a movie or TV show and there is some animal related item and whatever it is, it is wrong in some way. I can’t stand that. I’m sure it is like a musician who watches an actor/actress “play” an instrument and finger placement is wrong or there is no reed in a woodwind instrument. It completely takes me out of the fantasy world in which I am trying to watch. It has gotten to the point where I avoid watching things with animals in it because of it. I bring this up because of the countless times I have seen or heard the whole “feeding milk to cats”. I literally cringe when I hear someone say that they give their cat milk and to some extent even when someone speaks about giving their dog dairy products. This blog is going to discuss dairy products with pets.
All mammals produce milk to provide nutrients to their young. At a certain age, depending on the species, they are weaned off their mother’s milk and get their nutrients from the same foods as other adults of the same species. We, as humans, are the only species that continues to consume milk once we are weaned off our mother’s milk. I’ve heard somewhere…maybe The Big Bang Theory… that it is a sign that a person is more evolved if they are lactose intolerant. … Anyways, getting back to mammals in general, there is an enzyme called lactase that is produced when they are young that breaks down milk sugars called lactose into nutrients. During the weaning process, the body slowly discontinues making this enzyme thus creating lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is fairly common metabolic adverse reaction in cats and dogs. If an animal is given too much dairy products it can cause osmotic diarrhea. Which is just some fancy words that basically means the intestines are unable to absorb the normal amount of water and electrolytes.
**VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR KITTENS**
May is the start of when people typically start finding abandoned kittens. NEVER!! NEVER!!! Give these babies cow’s milk!!!! The amount of fat and protein in cow’s milk is much higher than in a female cat’s milk. It will cause a very quick case of diarrhea that can kill the kitten from dehydration in a very short amount of time. Goat’s milk isn’t much better for them as well. There are products on the market (KMR) that can easily be purchased at any pet retail store specifically designed for a nursing kitten.
I know there are a few of you out there that are reading this and saying you give your pet cheese, or some other dairy product and they have no issues. And you know what… you’re right. There are some dogs and cats that can handle dairy products in low volumes, just like humans. I had a Great Dane who had a lot of GI issues and my veterinarian suggested giving her a tablespoon of yogurt to aid with digestion and she did much better after I did. But I advise you to only give dairy products after discussing your pet’s care with your veterinarian because the extra amount of fat and protein in the dairy products can cause an unbalance in their diet.