Recently, goat’s milk for dogs has become one of the most popular supplements in the world of pets. Goat milk has been promoted to improve digestion, help with allergies, and even cure cancer.
It is widely available in pet stores and online, but are the claims made by commercials true?
Understanding why milk is so important
Milk is a physiological fluid secreted by the mammary gland that constitutes food and protection for the newborn. Nature causes this food to be produced to the exact extent of the specific needs of the offspring. Hence it can hardly be substituted.
The origin of the components of milk is twofold: a series of these are synthesized in the mammary gland itself, while other parts are taken already formed from a selective filtration of the blood. Milk not only nourishes but also promotes the maturation of the intestinal and immune system.
Milk substitutes for newborn dogs
Puppies may need to be fed milk substitutes to save their lives. The circumstances in which this occurs may be maternal death, rejection by the dog, or prematurity.
Disorders that reduce the milk supply of the dog, such as mastitis or congenital anomalies such as macroglossia (enlarged tongue), also count.
How to weigh the suitability of goat’s milk for dogs?
Nutritionists value the quality of any milk by the content of four elements: protein, lipids, vitamins, and minerals. Of course, it is easy to understand that there is high variability in the composition of milk between one species and another.
However, even among the same species, there is variability in breast milk associated with genetic and non-genetic factors. Among the genetic ones, they count race and variety, while in the nongenetic ones, they count the age of the mother, the time post-glare, the diet, and the exposure to unfavorable surroundings like the stress.
Next, we present the average content of the leading milk protein, casein, and lactose content, expressed in grams per kilograms of water.
Casein (protein) Lactose (sugar)
Dogs 69.6 37.3
Goat 28.8 47.2
Cow 32.1 55.0
Why lactose content is important when considering goat milk for dogs
Lactose is digested by the action of an enzyme called lactase. Naturally, bitch milk has a much lower lactose content than goat and cow’s milk.
If the puppy does not have enough of the enzyme, he may have more difficulty digesting it. Thus, the lactose found in milk will reach the intestine without absorbing it.
This undigested sugar will attract water to the colon and cause diarrhea. Additionally, the high presence of lactose triggers a fermentation process by colonic bacteria, which causes flatulence and discomfort. The puppy can develop lactose intolerance.
Why does casein content matter?
Commonly, milk and dairy products are triggers of food allergies in dogs. Dairy proteins that can act as inducers of an allergic reaction appear to be primarily alpha-S1-caseins and beta-lactoglobulin.
It is essential to highlight that in goats, there is a genetic variability linked to a greater or lesser amount of casein in milk. This aspect has aroused particular interest since the casein content determines the industrial and consumer use of this milk. In French goats, Alpina and Saanen, the variability of the alpha-S1-casein gene have been established.
Thus, as regards the content of alpha-S1-casein, four different classes of goat milk are distinguished: null level, a total absence of alpha-S1-caseins (more digestible, ideal to avoid food allergies), low levels and high levels and intermediate (suitable for cheese making).
A food allergy to milk or dairy may appear as skin irritation, redness, itching and gastrointestinal discomforts, such as vomiting and diarrhea
From all of the above, it follows that goat’s milk of certain breeds can be considered hypoallergenic compared to cow’s. Therefore, choosing the type of goat’s milk according to the genotype of the producing animal may be the ideal solution when supplying goat’s milk for dogs. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian if your puppy needs a milk substitute.