Goat’s milk is one of the most popular kinds of milk consumed around the world and has been gaining in popularity in the United States as a healthy supplement to feed dogs. But is goat milk healthy for dogs? What are the benefits of goat milk for dogs?
As with any new food fad, it is important to pause, do the research and see what the science says before feeding anything new to your dog. To help you with that, here is a veterinary perspective on goat’s milk for dogs.
What is Goat’s Milk?
Goat’s milk comes from domestic goats. According to the USDA, goat’s milk is similar to cow’s milk with a few differences:
- Goat milk is higher in calories, protein and calcium than cow milk.
- It has higher prebiotics and probiotics, which promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria.
- Goat milk has higher levels of potassium, niacin, and vitamin A than cow’s milk and it has lower levels of vitamin B12, folate, and selenium than cow’s milk.
- Goat milk may be easier to digest than cow’s milk because it has slightly lower levels of lactose, a sugar that many dogs and people cannot digest.
In human medicine, goat milk has been shown to help reduce inflammation in people with allergies or other inflammatory conditions and lower cholesterol in rat studies. Some claim that the smaller size of fat globules in goat’s milk vs. cow’s milk also makes goat’s milk more digestible. However, unless you are feeding raw milk, most milk is homogenized, which reduces the size of fat globules in both goat’s milk and cow’s milk to about the same size.
Is Goat Milk Good for Dogs?
As of now, there are no objective, peer-reviewed studies available to prove or disprove the health benefits of feeding goat’s milk to dogs. Most of what you will read is anecdotal, stemming from personal experience or marketing hype from companies that want to sell you goat milk. That said, pasteurized goat’s milk will likely not cause any negative side effects and is safe when fed in small amounts to most adult dogs.
Benefits of Goat Milk for Dogs
Goat milk provides the following nutritional benefits to dogs:
- It’s a source of hydration. Since the major component of goat’s milk is water, the main benefit of feeding goat’s milk to a dog is promoting healthy hydration.
- It has healthy fat and protein. Goat’s milk is rich in fat, which can be used as an energy source for active or underweight dogs, and high in protein and amino acids, which benefits muscle building and repair of damaged tissues.
- It supports a healthy gut and strong bones. Goat’s milk has calcium to build bone strength and high probiotics and prebiotics to support healthy gut bacteria.
People also use goat’s milk as a supplement to help with common inflammatory ailments, including gastrointestinal issues, allergies, osteoarthritis and cancer, but does it help? We’ll look at some of the science in more detail below:
Goat’s Milk for Dogs: What the Science Says
Here are some common beliefs surrounding feeding goat’s milk to dogs and what the science says:
Potassium in Goat’s Milk Helps Reduce Stomach Acidity and Helps with Intestinal Issues
False. All dairy products, including goat’s milk, can be inflammatory, and inflammation is often a major driver of digestive problems. Goat’s milk has whey proteins, hormones and sugar, which can cause inflammation. Goat’s milk does not change the acidity of a dog’s stomach, and if your dog has any digestive issues, it is better not to give your dog any dairy products, including goat’s milk.
Goat’s Milk Helps Dogs with Itchy Skin
False. Like many digestive issues, dog skin problems are often inflammatory and exacerbated by giving dairy products. If your dog has itchy skin or any inflammatory conditions, including osteoarthritis and cancer, skip the goat’s milk or talk to your veterinarian before giving it.
Goat’s Milk Boosts a Dog’s Immunity
Possibly True. Goat’s milk is rich in probiotics, which help promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Since the largest immune system in the body is in the gut, this could promote a stronger immune system.
Types of Goat’s Milk for Dogs
If you are interested in giving your dog goat’s milk, there are many different forms to choose from:
- Pasteurized goat’s milk. This is the most common form of goat’s milk available for dogs and is convenient and safe. Pasteurization removes potentially pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella that can cause illness in you and your dog, prolongs the product’s shelf life and provides a consistent product. It can be fed alone or by adding to food.
- Goat’s milk powder. This form of goat milk is often sold as a supplement you can sprinkle over food or mix with water. Goat milk powder has also been marketed as a milk replacement powder for puppies. However, goat and cow milk do not provide the proper nutrients for growing puppies and should not be used solely as puppy replacement milk. Unpasteurized goat milk should not be fed to puppies because of their underdeveloped immune systems.
- Goat’s milk kefir for dogs. Kefir is a fermented product made from pasteurized milk, supplemented with probiotics, and then incubated to activate the probiotics. Kefir can be used as a food topper or fed alone. In humans, kefir is beneficial in inflammatory conditions, gastrointestinal conditions, boosting immunity and fighting cancer. If your dog is suffering from any of these conditions, talk to your veterinarian to see if goat’s milk kefir can benefit your pet.
- Raw goat’s milk. Raw goat’s milk has not been pasteurized. A veterinary nutritionist and the CDC would say that consuming raw milk products puts your dog at risk of pathogenic bacteria, including Salmonella, E. Coli and Listeria. Use your discretion when deciding on raw goat milk, and get your veterinarian involved in the conversation if you intend to feed your dog any raw milk products.
How Much Goat’s Milk for Dogs is Safe?
When feeding goat milk labeled for dogs, feed the amount listed on the label for your dog’s weight. If you are feeding human goat milk products, as with any treats, goat milk should not exceed 10 percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake, and the other 90 percent should be a food labeled complete and balanced by AAFCO.
If your dog shows any negative side effects, reduce the amount of goat milk you are feeding or stop feeding it entirely.
Goat Milk for Dogs Side Effects
Goat milk is not for all dogs. Some dogs may develop negative side effects, including loose stool, intestinal gas or diarrhea, and goat’s milk is not suitable for these dogs. In addition, if your dog has any of the following medical conditions, goat’s milk is not a good treat:
- Pancreatitis or history of pancreatitis
- Obesity (goat’s milk is high in fat and calories)
- Inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis, digestive disorders, auto-immune disorders, cancer or skin conditions
Where to Buy Goat’s Milk for Dogs
Goat’s milk can be purchased at grocery stores, health food stores, pet stores and online retailers. You can feed dogs goat milk marketed for humans and goat milk marketed for dogs.
The most important thing is to purchase good quality goat milk that has been pasteurized to remove harmful bacteria. In general, goat milk sourced from goats that are organically raised and fed grass on pasture is of better quality.