When you think of camels, you probably think of the desert. These humped dromedaries are well-adapted to dry, harsh environments and have been used as desert transportation for centuries. But here’s something you may not know – camel milk is highly nutritious.
Camel milk has high levels of potassium, iron and vitamins B and C, and contains lower levels of fat and lactose than cow’s milk. In some countries, camel milk is said to cure numerous diseases in humans. It may also be beneficial to dogs, says naturopathic doctor Millie Hinkle. “Camel’s milk is almost a perfect food for humans so why wouldn’t it also be great for dogs?” she says.
Because dogs in other cultures are not as pampered as those in North America, case studies with dogs and camel milk are virtually non-existent. However, Dr. Hinkle has been working with several veterinarians to verify observations that camel milk can help dogs with diabetes, cancer and skin rashes. “It’s exciting to be on the cutting edge of such a unique way to treat our pawed friends,” she says.
India has more people with diabetes than any other country in the world – with the exception of one region where the disease is virtually non-existent. Most members of this particular tribe drink camel’s milk every day. Camel’s milk contains approximately 52 units of insulin per liter. Unlike prescribed insulin, camel’s milk insulin protein can pass through the stomach easily without getting destroyed.
Promising results have also been found in dogs. One published study found that after only three weeks, dogs drinking at least one cup of camel’s milk a day had a significant decrease in blood glucose levels and total protein concentrations. This improvement continued even after the camel’s milk was no longer given.
Digestion and weight gain
When a dog belonging to breeder Donna DeFalcis had a litter of ten puppies but was unable to produce enough milk for them all, Donna supplemented the mother’s milk with camel’s milk. The puppies loved it. “They would gobble up whatever we gave them and simply thrived on the camel’s milk,” says Donna.
Half the puppies had been underweight, but they gained a least a pound a week and had none of the diarrhea commonly associated with giving a dog cow’s milk. Camel’s milk is low in lactate and has a different type of casein than cow’s milk. It’s ideal for humans with milk allergies, and clearly also helps dogs.
An extensive study done by the University of Georgia confirms that cancer is the most common cause of death in dogs of any age. This devastating disease is both costly and uncomfortable to treat. The good news is that the immunoglobulins (antibodies) in camel’s milk are able to penetrate cells and fight cancer.
The milk also seems to enhance chemotherapy treatment while reducing many of the negative side effects. The milk is high in lactoferrins (ten times higher than cow’s milk), which offer major antiviral and antibacterial proprieties, and also contain a high number of probiotics. It appears to help dogs with cancer fight off illness and maintain weight.
Although many people have observed improvements in their dogs by giving them camel’s milk, there have so far been no medical studies done to confirm it. “I am reviewing results from owners of dogs with cancer to see if there is any positive benefit to the use of camel’s milk,” says Dr. Hinkle. “Although we do not have any conclusive evidence yet, the results look promising.”
Skin rashes and mange
Dry, flaky skin, itching and chronic rashes can be a very irritating and miserable problem for dogs. Traditional treatments for fleas, mites and skin allergies might reduce the symptoms, but the underlying problem can persist.
Creams containing camel milk are available for humans, and are purported to reduce the symptoms of psoriasis. It follows that camel’s milk should also be helpful for skin problems in canines. Dr. Hinkle is in the process of formulating a camel’s milk skin cream for dogs. After all, the milk contains six types of fatty acid, including lanolic acid and alpha-hydroxy acids for softening the skin. It also contains vitamin C, a natural antioxidant.
The downside to camel milk is that it’s still difficult to obtain in the United States, although Dr. Hinkle is working to increase the number of camel dairies so that supplies will be more accessible and affordable. “With my cancer study underway, the skin cream under development, and research continuing on diabetes in dogs, I know that camel’s milk will soon be more readily available and in use to help treat our canine companions.”