When I was growing up, if you had asked me what cats drink I would have confidently answered milk. With cartoons such as Garfield and Sylvester the cat, who if you don’t recall loved to guzzle milk, informing my young opinions it is no surprise my own family cat would get a bowl of milk from time to time. I am therefore never shocked when clients ask me whether they should be giving their cats or dogs milk. Like most things in veterinary medicine the answer is not that simple. Technically once weaned from their mothers neither cats nor dogs require anything more than water to drink. In fact, we are the only mammal to regularly consume another species’ milk after weaning. But are there benefits to adding milk to our furry friends’ diets? In short there can be, but it all depends on the type of milk as not all milks are created equally!
Just like the majority of humans, after cats and dogs are weaned from their mothers most begin to lose the ability to digest the lactose that is present in almost all mammalian milk. This is because they stop producing the enzyme lactase, which is what breaks down the lactose in milk, allowing it to be digested. If the lactose is unable to be digested, gut bacteria begin to ferment it and this can lead to a whole host of gastrointestinal symptoms for your furry family member such as vomiting, diarrhea, gas and bloating. Anyone who suffers from lactose intolerance themselves knows this is not comfortable! Consequently, if we are to consider adding milk to the diet of our feline and canine companions it needs to be lactose free to ensure maximum digestibility.
So should you just buy lactose free cow’s milk from the supermarket for you fur baby? Whilst you can, and your pup or puss will probably lap it up, besides being a good source of calcium, there isn’t much of a benefit in adding this to their diet. There is however an exciting new milk product from the good people at K9 Natural and Feline Natural for those wanting to supplement their four-legged family member’s diet.
K9 Natural and Feline Natural specifically formulated Milk for Cats and Milk for Dogs are lactose free milk from free-range New Zealand grass fed cattle. Not only a good source of calcium, they have added Taurine to aid heart health, eye health and immune function as well as Omega 3’s to help with a shiny, itch free coat and increased immunity. Compared to regular store bought milk, these offer far more bang for your buck in terms of health benefits and are an excellent compliment to a complete and balanced diet in weaned cats and dogs.
In addition, a study at Massey University in New Zealand indicated these milks are highly palatable. This is particularly poignant for those pussycats that aren’t good drinkers as Feline Natural Milk for Cats could be an effective way to increase their fluid intake, which is critical for kidney and urinary tract health.
As a currently breast feeding mother, it is nice to know we now have a nutrient dense product to treat our furry family members with and continue that special bond a mother’s milk provides – so it turns out, you can bottle love.
Written by Dr. Josie Gollan