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Is Milk Good for German Shepherds? Nutritional Insights

Last Updated: October 29, 2023

Milk has been a long-standing topic of discussion among pet owners, with various opinions on its benefits and drawbacks. In my experience with my German Shepherd Willow, feeding milk to her has been pleasant, and she hasn’t had any issues so far.

However, I’ve heard umpteen times from my other friends who have German Shepherds about digestive issues caused by milk. What’s the truth? Is milk good for German Shepherds?

While milk isn’t mandatory for German Shepherds, you can still mix one portion of milk with 3 portions of water and feed occasionally. Start with a small quantity, and if it doesn’t cause any symptoms, your German Shepherd isn’t lactose intolerant. You can include milk in their weekly diet. Otherwise, choose lactose-free milk options.

Do you want to make a careful decision for your little giant? You need to read this further as I talk about nutrients in milk, benefits, risks, and other dos and don’ts so you ensure careful feeding.

Sometimes, what you feed isn’t dangerous, but how you feed can be an issue. So, head on, and let’s get started!

Is Milk Good For German Shepherds?

Can German Shepherds Drink Milk?

German Shepherds can drink milk in moderation. Milk contains essential nutrients, such as calcium, vitamins, and minerals, which can benefit your dog’s health. However, you should be cautious with the amount of milk you give your GSD, as excessive consumption may lead to obesity and other health issues.

Many German Shepherds, like other dogs, are lactose intolerant. This means they lack the necessary enzyme to break down lactose, a sugar found in milk. If your dog consumes too much dairy, this can cause digestive issues, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. To avoid these problems, it’s vital to monitor your dog’s reaction to milk and adjust the amount accordingly.

One alternative is yogurt. In fact, several German Shepherd pet parents choose yogurt over milk to ease their stomachs and avoid potential digestive issues. On the other hand, some dogs don’t digest even yogurt or cheese. Hence, it’s better to avoid milk if your German Shepherd shows the slightest negative symptom.

Here’s a table of different types of milk and their respective lactose, fat, and protein content.

Milk TypeLactose ContentFat ContentProtein Content
Cow’s MilkHighVariesHigh
Goat’s MilkMedium-HighVariesHigh
Sheep’s MilkLow-MediumHighHigh
Almond MilkLowLowLow
Soy MilkLow-MediumLowMedium-High
Coconut MilkLowHighLow
Oat MilkLow-MediumLowLow-Medium

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance in German Shepherds occurs when they can’t properly digest lactose due to a deficiency in the enzyme lactase. Lactase breaks down lactose into simpler sugars, glucose, and galactose, which the body can then absorb.

When lactose isn’t properly broken down, it can cause inflammation and irritation in the digestive system, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain.

Here’s the breakdown of lactose:

Lactose Chemical Composition
Lactose Chemical Composition

The National Institutes of Health claims that an alternate, lactose-free diet is the solution for humans. This is pretty much the case with German Shepherds as well.

“Stop worrying if there are solutions for your lactose-intolerant German Shepherd. It isn’t a disease; it’s only a condition that needs a change in diet!”

German Shepherd Drinking Milk From Bowl. Can German Shepherds Drink Milk?
My German Shepherd Drinking Milk From Bowl

Benefits & Risks of Milk For German Shepherds

Milk can provide some essential nutrients for your German Shepherd, but it’s necessary to understand the potential risks involved.

In this section, we’ll discuss the benefits and risks of incorporating milk into your German Shepherd’s diet.


  • Hydration: Milk contains a high percentage of water, which can help keep your German Shepherd hydrated. Most importantly, the International Dairy Foods Association ascertains that milk contains 87% of water, which boosts the water level in dogs.
  • Essential Minerals: Milk is a source of important minerals like calcium, which is vital for maintaining healthy bones and teeth in your dog.
  • Protein: Like other dairy products, milk is a good source of protein and could potentially provide some benefits to your dog’s muscle development and maintenance.


  • Lactose Intolerance: Some German Shepherds may be lactose intolerant, and consuming milk can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain. If your dog shows any signs of lactose intolerance, it is best to avoid giving them milk.
  • Dairy Allergies: Allergies to dairy products are not uncommon in dogs and can result in itchiness, skin irritations, and digestive problems. If you suspect your German Shepherd has a dairy allergy, avoid giving them milk or other dairy products. Say no to cheese, milk, yogurt, and anything on this line!
  • High Fat Content: Some milk products, particularly full-fat milk, can be high in fat. Feeding your German Shepherd too much high-fat dairy can lead to obesity and other health issues.
  • Inappropriate Dietary Balance: Dogs primarily need a diet of high-quality dog food formulated with the right balance of nutrients for their specific breed and health needs. Adding milk to your German Shepherd’s diet might contribute to an imbalanced diet, which can cause long-term health problems.

Perhaps, these risks weigh on the same scale as that of benefits. Irrespective of the breed, I’d caution you on these aspects when it comes to milk.

How To Feed Milk To German Shepherds

Should German Shepherds Drink Milk? A German Shepherd having some milk.

Feeding milk to your German Shepherd comes with various considerations and potential issues. Before giving milk and milk-based products to your canine companion, you should be cautious and well-informed.

Whenever I foster a new dog, and my Willow jumps to get her share of milk, I try this quick test to confirm the presence of dairy allergy in the dog. Of course, this is only the case when the pet parent wants me to feed milk.

  • Mix 1 portion of milk with 3 portions of water.
  • Dilute it really well.
  • Offer the diluted milk to the German Shepherd and wait 15 minutes to observe any reaction.

This is the perfect way to test any dog concerning intolerance.

Plain, unsweetened yogurt is easier to digest for some dogs, and puppy formula is specifically designed for young puppies that have been weaned from their mother. You can also mix milk substitutes with their regular dog food for a smooth transition.

In addition to dairy products, you can offer vegetables to your German Shepherd. Foods such as small portions of pumpkin or green beans provide valuable nutrients while appealing to their taste buds.

Here’s a list of vegetables safe for German Shepherds:

When it comes to the ideal quantity of milk for your German Shepherd, take their age into account. Here’s a simple guideline to follow:

Age of GSDIdeal Quantity of Milk
Adult180 ml per day
Senior100-180 ml per day (depending on tolerance)

How Can You Tell If a German Shepherd Has a Bad Reaction to Milk?

Having spoken adequately about lactose intolerance in German Shepherds, remember that it isn’t alarming. It’s a common aspect.

From my experience fostering dogs, including my friend’s Chihuahuas, I found that some quickly show bad reactions when taking a specific food, including milk. Here are some key signs:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Gas
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Bloating
  • Itchy skin or hives

So, what do you do when you observe a bad reaction in your German Shepherd?

I’ve compiled a table for you to simplify this process.

Bad Reaction SignWhat to Do
DiarrheaOffer fresh water, rest, and bland food for a few meals.
VomitingKeep your dog hydrated, withhold food for a few hours, then offer bland food.
GasProvide smaller, more frequent meals and avoid milk products.
Abdominal discomfortLimit activity, monitor closely, and consult your vet if symptoms persist.
BloatingDiscontinue milk consumption and consult your vet.
Itchy skin or hivesBathe your dog in cool water, apply a soothing cream, and consult your vet if needed.

Never let symptoms persist for more than a day. It can only do more harm.

Alternatives to Milk For German Shepherds

Stop giving milk to your dog!

Did someone tell you that? If a qualified person is warning you to skip milk for your German Shepherd, it’s time to look for alternatives.

Stop searching around! Here’s the list of alternatives:

  • Soy Milk and Almond Milk: These plant-based milk alternatives are typically easier for German Shepherds to digest and can be a good option for hydration. However, confirm with your veterinarian before introducing them to your dog’s diet.
  • Goat’s milk: Another excellent alternative to milk is goat’s milk. This is nutrient-rich and is also limited in terms of lactose level. Further, this type of milk is light on your dog’s stomach.
  • Well-balanced Dog Food: Choose high-quality dog food formulated for large breeds. These brands provide key nutrients that German Shepherds need without the risk of digestive issues from milk.
  • Grain-Inclusive Options: If your German Shepherd has no food sensitivities, consider grain-inclusive brands as they provide balanced nutrition while being gentle on their digestive system.
  • Treats and Snacks: Instead of milk-based treats, offer your German Shepherd healthy snack options like organic peanut butter or dog-safe fruits and vegetables. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian before introducing new snacks to your dog’s diet.

You should constantly monitor your German Shepherd’s diet and ensure they receive the appropriate nutrition to maintain good health.


Can cow’s milk upset a German Shepherd puppy’s stomach?

Yes, cow’s milk can potentially upset a German Shepherd puppy’s stomach. German Shepherds can be lactose intolerant, which means they have difficulty digesting lactose present in cow milk. This can lead to stomach upset, diarrhea, and gas. Instead of cow milk, it is best to provide your puppy with the mother dog’s milk or a specially formulated puppy milk replacement if needed.

What is the recommended milk intake for German Shepherds?

While their mother’s milk is the best source of nutrition in the early weeks, puppies begin the weaning process around 4-6 weeks of age. This is when you should start introducing solid puppy food, ideally designed for large breed puppies, gradually replacing their milk intake. When they are 7-8 weeks old, your puppy should mainly consume solid food.

Are lactose-free milk products suitable for German Shepherds?

Lactose-free milk products might be a better alternative for your German Shepherd if they have difficulty digesting lactose. However, remember that adult dogs do not require milk as part of their diet, and lactose-free milk should only be offered as an occasional treat, not a regular dietary supplement.

Is alternative milk like almond milk safe for German Shepherds?

Some alternative milk products, like almond milk, may be safe for German Shepherds in small quantities and as an occasional treat. However, you should always check the ingredients list and avoid milk products containing harmful additives, such as xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs.

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Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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