Like many people, a lot of dogs don’t digest dairy products well. But there are many alternatives to cow’s milk,if you want to give your dog a milky drink or snack. One of those is almond milk. But can dogs have almond milk? The answer is … it depends.
Why Cow’s Milk Isn’t Good For Dogs
Dogs often like the taste of dairy milk, but it’s not a great idea to make it a regular part of your dog’s diet. Dogs don’t have the lactase enzyme to digest lactose in milk, so many dogs are lactose intolerant,and can’t digest milk or other dairy products well. Conventional dairy milk is also high in fat and sugar and may contain pesticides and antibiotics.
But what about a plant-based milk like almond milk for dogs?
Health Benefits of Almond Milk for Dogs
From a nutritional point of view, almonds have many great qualities. Almonds are good for …
Almonds are rich in good fats (unsaturated fat) and low in saturated fat. Many studies in people have demonstrated that almonds are a heart-healthy snack that can contribute to improved cholesterol and lower heart disease risk (1).
Almonds contain essential nutrients like vitamin E, which along with antioxidants that help control free radicals that lead to inflammation and aging, is great for the health of your dog’s skin and coat.
Almonds contain vitamin B2 (riboflavin), which helps metabolize fats and proteins, and is thought to support brain health. The antioxidant content also reduces oxidative stress in the cells, which helps prevent cognitive decline.
Almonds are rich in fiber, which includes prebiotics in the skin of the almonds which promotes the growth of good bacteria and maintains a healthy flora in the gut.
Overall, while almond milk may not have all the nutritional perks of whole almonds … it’s still a healthy milk alternative, and a good option for lactose intolerant dogs.
Sounds great, right? But before you run out to get almond milk for your dog, here are some potential risks of giving your dog almond milk.
Risks of Almond Milk for Dogs
Almonds go through some processing to become almond milk. Processing of natural foods often takes away some of the nutritional value … as well as adding preservatives and flavoring agents to improve taste and shelf life. There are many commercial almond milk varieties, and all contain some additives. Some of these additives are dangerous for dogs, so you have to read the ingredient list carefully before you buy any almond milk product for your dog.
Many almond milks are sweetened with sugar. Your dog doesn’t need sugar and it’s best avoided, so only buy unsweetened almond milk. You should also avoid vanilla almond milk, which may contain extra sugar and other additives. .
But when it comes to sweeteners, there’s a much more dangerous one to look out for …
Some brands of almond milk contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol. Never give your dog any food that contains xylitol. Xylitol is toxic to dogs because it causes extremely low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). It can even lead to liver damage or failure, if your dog gets a lot of it (more than 500 mg per kg) (2). Even a small amount of xylitol can be dangerous or even deadly for your dog, so make sure any almond milk you buy doesn’t contain it.
Some symptoms to look out for in case your dog got access to almond milk with xylitol are:
- Loss of coordination
- Weakness and lethargy
If you think your dog’s eaten something with xylitol in it (candy or gum are common culprits), get hm to the emergency vet immediately,
Another potentially harmful additive to almond milk is carrageenan, which is derived from seaweed. It’s used to thicken or otherwise alter the texture of certain food and drink. There has been debate around its safety for humans and animals, with some studies associating it with intestinal inflammation, ulcers, and cancer (3)
So, be sure to choose an almond milk that doesn’t contain carrageenan as an ingredient. If your dog does drink some, you don’t need to rush to the vet. But carageenan can have some longer term health effects so is best avoided in any food.
How To Choose Almond Milk For Your Dog
It’s okay to give your dog occasional almond milk. But be careful what you buy.
It’s best to choose organic brands so you avoid almonds grown with toxins like glypohsate. And make sure you only give your dog unsweetened almond milk that’s free of dangerous additives. Ideally, make it yourself so you know what’s in it. (Keep reading for a simple recipe.)
The actual almond content of some commercial almond milks is questionable, so be sure you choose a product that contains the benefits of almond that you are looking for. One lawsuit (settled for $9 million) against the popular Almond Breeze brand claimed that only 2% of the almond milk contains real almonds, with the rest being water, sugar, carrageenan, and sunflower lecithin.
Even when you do have a safe almond milk source, only give it to your dog in small amounts, because it can be indigestible..And it’s high in calories, so again, give almond milk in moderation.
Can Almond Milk Help Dogs with Constipation?
You may have heard that almond milk (or milk in general) is an easy way to help your dog get relief from constipation. It’s true that almonds contain magnesium, a mineral that helps bring water into the intestines and stimulate the bowels to pass stool.
However, almond milk is not the best way to help dogs with constipation. There are several other ways to manage your dog’s constipation naturally. These include feeding fiber-rich foods, organ meats, and lubricating herbs.
Make Your Own Almond Milk
For a safe, nutritious almond milk that you know only contains beneficial ingredients, why not make your own? That way you don’t have to worry about unhealthy additives like xylitol, sugar or carrageenan. All you need is almonds, a blender, and cheesecloth.
Here are the steps to making your own almond milk for dogs:
- Soak a cup of almonds in water for 1-2 days
- After draining and rinsing the almonds, blend them with two cups of water to create a paste. There’s no need to peel the almonds!
- Put a cheesecloth over a bowl and scoop the almond paste into it
- Now comes the fun part- gather the cheesecloth around the paste and squeeze the milk out of it into the bowl.
Now you know a safe and easy way to make almond milk for dogs so that you can avoid dangerous additives and sugars found in commercial products.
But almonds are not an eco-friendly crop, so keep in mind some environmental issues with almonds.
Environmental Problems With Almonds
Almonds are the second most popular nut (after peanuts, which are technically legumes, not nuts). About 80% of the world’s almonds are grown in California, and almond orchards use massive amounts of water. In the San Joaquin Valley, the land is subsiding due to overuse of groundwater. Land subsidence can damage buildings and infrastructure, increase flood risk, and causes lasting damage to groundwater aquifers and aquatic ecosystems.
Irrigation water brought in from sources like rivers also deprives other aquatic life of their habitats.
Conventional almond growing uses a lot of pesticides, including glyphosate (Roundup). You can avoid this health risk for your dog by buying organic almonds or almond mlik. But that doesn’t help the bees.
California imports bees from commercial bee-keepers to pollinate the almond trees … but those bees are harmed by the pesticides and many don’t survive. One report estimated that 50 billion bees were lost during the 2018-19 winter alone … more than 1/3 of commercial US bee colonies.
In summary, it’s safe to give your dog an occasional almond milk snack (or even a whole almond or two). Make your own almond milk or check the ingredient label carefully before you buy a box of almond milk at the store. But keep in mind the adverse environmental impact of using almond products, whether for your dog or yourself.
1. Kalita, S. et al. Almonds and Cardiovascular Heath: A Review. Nutrients. 2018;10(4): 468
2. Sharon M Gwaltney-Brant DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT, University of Illinois. Xylitol Toxicosis In Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual. July 2021.
2.Tobacman, J.K. Review of Harmful Gastrointestinal Effects of Carrageenan in Animal Experiments. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2001; 109(10): 983-994.