Milk, cottage cheese, ice cream -- all these foods have one thing in common: lactose. If your dog can digest lactose, he can eat these foods in small amounts. Milk and cottage cheese are good sources of protein and nutrients, but ice cream should be an occasional indulgence.
Just like humans, some dogs are lactose intolerant and some are not. Lactose intolerance means that your doggie lacks the enzyme lactase in his small intestine that breaks down lactose, the sugar in milk. Lactose intolerance may be inborn or developed. Because the lactose can't be broken down, it passes through the system undigested, causing symptoms like gas, bloating, and discomfort. If you feed your dog a milk product and he experiences these symptoms shortly after eating -- say 30 minutes to two hours -- he is probably lactose intolerant.
If your dog isn't lactose intolerant, he can eat ice cream as long as it's a flavor safe for dogs. Plain old vanilla is the safest bet. Many ice cream flavors aren't safe for dogs, like chocolate or rum raisin. Your doggy pal shouldn't have ice cream that contains artificial sweeteners. Consult a list of safe and unsafe foods for dogs such as from the ASPCA before choosing an ice cream flavor for Fido. Just because your dog can eat ice cream doesn't necessarily mean he should. A little bit once in a while as a treat should be fine. The drawback is that the excess fat and the sugar in the ice cream are more than your dog needs in his diet. The sugar can also make your dog extra-energetic, like a little kid on a Halloween candy bender. So feed your pup ice cream sparingly.
Milk has the highest lactose content of all common dairy products, so don't feed it to your pup if he's lactose intolerant. Even if your dog doesn't have a milk allergy, large quantities of it may be hard to stomach. However, milk has lots of nutrients good for your dog. Milk contains calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A and potassium, protein and healthy fats. If your dog can process lactose, feel free to include small amounts of milk in his diet and use it in doggy recipes.
Cottage cheese is great for two reasons: It's low in lactose and it contains probiotics, which are good for the tummy. Some dog owners feed cottage cheese to their dogs as part of a bland diet when they're not feeling well, so it's definitely easy for your dog to digest. Cottage cheese has just 3 grams of lactose per half-cup serving, about a quarter of the amount in milk. It's also high in protein and has the same nutrients as milk. Its only drawback is its higher sodium content.
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