Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
The most common outward signs of lactose intolerance in dogs are abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea – fairly typical indications of gastrointestinal distress. This is not surprising, because the animal’s gastrointestinal system is missing a key enzyme necessary to digest the sugars in milk. Sometimes, a dog will drink excess amounts of water when suffering from lactose intolerance, since the diarrhea and vomiting associated with the condition can cause dehydration and consequent thirst.
Lactose intolerance is an adverse reaction to milk and milk products, but it is not really an allergic reaction. Food allergies are adverse reactions to food that involve some inappropriate response by the animal’s immune system. Food intolerance is an abnormal physiologic response to a food or a food additive that does not involve the immune system. Since the clinical signs of food intolerance can mimic those more commonly associated with food allergies, the two conditions are often confused. For instance, if a dog or cat licks its paws or rubs its face on the floor, its skin can become irritated and itchy. This could be the result of lactose intolerance if dairy products are a staple of the pet’s diet, or it could be caused by an immunologic food allergy.
Different dairy products can affect different dogs in different ways. Cheese, for example, can cause constipation in some animals with lactose intolerance. This can cause the dog or cat to strain while trying to defecate, producing only small, hard, dry feces. Many owners supplement their pets’ diets with yogurt or cottage cheese without and adverse consequences. Even puppies and kittens who have well-tolerated their mothers’ milk can develop lactose intolerance – especially to cows’ milk, which has higher lactose levels than does the milk from a bitch (female dog) or a queen (female cat). Lactose intolerance can cause diarrhea and an associated urgency in your dog to get to an appropriate area to relieve itself. The best rule of thumb for a dog or cat owner is to limit or simply eliminate dairy products from their pet’s diet if lactose intolerance is suspected.