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According to Wikipedia most mammals stop producing or decrease production of Lactase after weening.

Lactase is essential to the complete digestion of whole milk. Lactase breaks down lactose, a simple sugar which gives milk its sweetness. Lacking lactase, a person consuming dairy products may experience the symptoms of flatulence, diarrhea & nausea

In general how concerned do I need to be? If my pet is lactose intolerant does that mean they can't have any dairy products?

  • The key is to figure out IF your pet is or isn't lactose intolerant. I am lactose intolerant because when I drink normal milk, it gives me gas or the runs but I can eat all other dairy product and nothing happens. – Huangism Jan 21 '15 at 21:17
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Yes, if your pet is lactose intolerant, don't give them dairy products with lactose. While it is discouraged to give pets human food, there are lactose-free or low in lactose dairy products, such as lactose free milk, which a lactose intolerant animal could consume without getting symptoms.

Animals with lactose intolerance tend to have similar symptoms to humans with lactose intolerance -- as you said, flatulence, diarrhea, nausea. So, nothing to take them to the vet for, unless the symptoms don't clear up in 24 hours or are particularly severe, but I think you and your pet will be much happier to avoid experiencing those symptoms.

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  • Knowing people who are lactose -intolerant, i agree that it's better not to inflict that on your pet, no matter how much they beg. Like it or not, in this relationship you have to be the grown-up. If you really insist on letting them have some dairy, even though they wouldn't "in the wild", there are a few products which have either been made with cultures that break down lactose or which have been treated with enzymes that do so; shopping as you would for a human who has this intolerance would at least be an improvement. – keshlam Jan 20 '15 at 18:20

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