Is Goat’s Milk Good for my Pet?
As a supplement, raw goat milk has nutritional benefits for your dog or cat. Many owners add it to kibble, canned and raw food for supplemental nutrition and extra moisture. Most goat milk for companion animal consumption does not go through pasteurization, meaning it also contains naturally occurring good microbes (probiotics) which may be beneficial for common digestive problems. However, with lack of pasteurization it is important to note that there may be increased risk of pathogens as well.1 In this blog we’ll take a closer look at the evidence and lack of evidence supporting the use of raw goat milk in cats & dogs.
Truthfully? It’s Both Fact & Fiction
There is a lot of claims from many companies that encourage the feeding of goat milk to address digestive issues, allergies, and even increase appetite. However, none of these claims are validated or peer-reviewed specifically for cats and dogs. One of the more concerning practices is recommending the use of goat milk as a sole milk replacer for orphaned kittens and puppies. This should not be the only source of nutrition for reasons we’ll explain in a bit. While it is true that goat milk has benefits, it’s just as important to be honest about the inaccuracies that are often spread.
It’s true that goat milk is different than cow milk in that it is easier to digest, in part because the fat globules are smaller.2 Goat milk contains an extensive list of naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, live enzymes, and fatty acids. Anecdotally, these components may boost your pet’s immune system which may help with common allergy-type issues. However, published research is lacking to validate this claim of benefit for goat milk consumption in cats and dogs.
Is Goat Milk Complete and Balanced for Cats & Dogs?
As a supplement to a complete and balanced diet, goat milk and milk products have the potential to provide benefit. However, this should not be considered as the sole source of nutrition. The major reason for this is because goats are ruminants. The word ruminant comes from the Latin word ruminare, which means “to chew over again.”3 Ruminants are mammals that eat a plant-based diet. We know that dogs and cats are omnivores and carnivores respectively, and their diet is therefore vastly different. Because their diet is different, the composition of their milk will also be different from that of another species. Considering this it is important to note that goat milk is inadequate to nutritionally sustain other infant species on its own.
For orphaned puppies and kittens, or those that need supplementation it is best to consider a balanced milk replacer or finding a species appropriate milk donor.4
Nutrient Content of Various Species Milk:
Comparing the nutrient content of milk from dogs, cats, cows and goats we can consider the following5:
- Fat contained in cow and goat milk is less than half that in dog and cat milk
- Protein contained within cow and goat milk is less than half that in dog and cat milk
- Calcium & phosphorus content of cow and goat milk is significantly lower than that of dog and cat milk which can risk deficiency and proper skeletal development
- Lactose amounts are higher in cow and goat milk than in cat and dog milk. This can cause diarrhea and dehydration leading to further complications.
- Because the fat content of cow and goat milk is much lower than cat and dog milk, the calorie content is also significantly lower. This means that dogs and cats, especially puppies and kittens would not adequately be able to consume all of the calories and nutrients necessary for proper growth and development
- Per this chart, the analysis of cat and dog milk is closer to each other than either cow or goat milk
Not All Bad News
The above points do not negate the practice of feeding goat milk products to pets. In fact, especially for kibble fed pets, raw goat milk provides increased moisture intake, which can improve digestion. Probiotic benefits of raw goat milk also cannot be ignored. Goat milk can also entice picky eaters since dogs and cats both love the taste. It can be used intermittently, or during fasting for those pets who may need light or bland meals due to certain conditions. While most pets can benefit from raw goat milk as a dietary supplement, it is potentially most beneficial for pets with digestive issues and those in need of immune support.
Raw goat’s milk can be given to your pet by itself as a treat, as a topper for raw food, canned food, or over kibble.
Nicci is the owner of award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut. She is also the Founder & CEO of Undogmatic Inc. Her undergraduate and graduate education includes biology, chemistry, business, and nutrition. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading international figures in the human and pet health industry. She regularly lectures at national conferences, including federal, state, and municipal K9 events. Her current research involves identifying pathogenic risk factors and transmission among raw fed pets through a comprehensive worldwide survey.
1. Katafiasz AR, Bartlett P, Lansing E. Motivation for Unpasteurized Milk Consumption in Michigan, 201. :5.
2. Lad SS, Aparnathi KD, Mehta B, Velpula S. Goat Milk in Human Nutrition and Health – A Review. Int J Curr Microbiol Appl Sci. 2017;6(5):1781-1792. doi:10.20546/ijcmas.2017.605.194
3. Latin Definition for: rumino, ruminare, ruminavi, ruminatus (ID: 33778) – Latin Dictionary and Grammar Resources – Latdict. Accessed June 6, 2020. https://latin-dictionary.net/definition/33778/rumino-ruminare-ruminavi-ruminatus
4. Can goat milk be used as a milk replacer for puppies and kittens? University of Wisconsin Madison Shelter Medicine Program. Accessed June 6, 2020. https://www.uwsheltermedicine.com/library/resources/can-goat-milk-be-used-as-a-milk-replacer-for-puppies-and-kittens
5. Hand et. al. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. 5th ed. Mark Morris Institute