Have you ever been snacking on a piece of cheese and found your dog looking up at you with pleading eyes, hoping for a delicious morsel? It's no surprise. Our dogs tend to love cheese just as much as we do.
Can dogs eat cheese? Yes, they can, but it's important to make a few considerations before feeding this food to Fido. Cheese isn't toxic to dogs, and it can even offer some health benefits, but that doesn't mean you should feed it to your dog without a second thought.
Before you start including cheese as a regular part of your dog's diet, let's take a look at what benefits cheese can offer, as well as the risks it presents. Then, you can learn how to feed your dog cheese safely, if you feed it at all.
Health Benefits of Cheese
Cheese contains several beneficial nutrients that are good for your dog's overall health. They include:
- Protein: Protein is an essential part of your dog's diet because it builds and repairs muscles, provides energy, and keeps the immune system functioning properly.
- Essential fatty acids: Fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, aid in skin and coat health, promote proper inflammatory balance around the body, and support healthy neural and nervous system development. Another way to give your dog essential fatty acids is with an omega-3 product like Native Pet's Omega Oil, which can help boost skin and fur health and alleviate joint pain.
- Calcium: Calcium is, of course, important for strong bones and teeth. It's also good for Fido's nails, coat, and nervous system.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A supports a dog's eye health, skin, and immune system function.
- B-complex vitamins: B-complex vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid are crucial to your dog's health. They provide energy, keep the skin and coat healthy, and aid in cognitive function, among other benefits.
So, cheese is one of those human foods that can offer some nutritional value to dogs. But can dogs eat cheese without any risk? No. While a small bit of cheese every now and then probably won't hurt your dog, too much can start to cause health issues.
Risks of Cheese for Dogs
While cheese contains some beneficial nutrients, it's also a food with a high fat content and lots of calories. Plus, some dogs don't respond well to dairy products like cheese. Let's take a closer look at some of the risks of feeding cheese to your dog:
If you eat an entire block of cheese in one sitting, you'll probably have an upset stomach. The same goes for your dog. Too much of any foreign food can cause an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea in dogs, and cheese is no exception.
To avoid any strain on your dog's digestive system, it's wise to only feed a small amount of cheese to your dog at one time. We'll learn more about that below.
Most cheeses are high in fat. While it may not be true for every single dog, eating cheese on a regular basis could lead to weight gain over time. And too much fatty food in one sitting can lead to acute pancreatitis, a very serious and potentially life-threatening illness.
A low-fat cheese like cottage cheese, low-fat goat cheese, or low-fat mozzarella is generally safer for dogs. Still, it's key to keep the portion size very small.
Did you know that dogs can be lactose intolerant, just like many humans are? Lactose intolerance means that a dog doesn't possess enough of the enzyme lactase in their digestive system to digest lactose, the main enzyme found in dairy products.
Cheese contains less lactose than, say, whole milk, but too much can still cause adverse reactions in lactose-intolerant dogs. Vomiting and diarrhea are likely to occur in dogs with lactose intolerance who are fed cheese.
Aged cheeses like Swiss, parmesan, and cheddar cheese contain less lactose than other cheeses, so they may be less likely to cause an upset stomach. But — you guessed it — too much can still cause harm.
To give your dog’s gut health a boost, try Native Pet’s all-natural Probiotic. It can help to create a thriving environment for healthy flora in your dog’s digestive tract, making an upset stomach less likely.
Harmful Types of Cheese
Some specialty cheeses contain additional ingredients like chives, garlic, or onions, all of which can prove toxic to dogs.
Cream cheese, in particular, is often made with these additives. Dog owners should avoid giving their pets any kind of cheese with these added ingredients. When it comes to cream cheese, stick to plain cream cheese and, as always, keep the portion size very small.
Blue cheese can prove dangerous to our canine friends, too. The fungus used to make blue cheese, including the popular Stilton blue cheese, can produce a substance called roquefortine C. This substance can cause a dog to experience vomiting, diarrhea, and even seizures. Avoid giving your dog blue cheese.
How to Feed Cheese to Your Dog Safely
Can dogs eat cheese safely? We've learned that most dogs can eat most cheeses in very small portions, unless the dog is severely lactose intolerant. And barring any cheese that contains potentially harmful ingredients — onions, chives, etc. — most low-fat cheeses are safe.
Want a safe and convenient cheese snack for your dog? Try Native Pet’s all-natural Yak Chews. These high-protein hard cheese chews are a great way to give your dog the taste of cheese that they love.
Follow these best practices when giving your dog cheese:
Consider Your Dog’s Health Status
Any dog who is suffering from obesity or kidney problems should not be given cheese. The high fat, sodium, and calorie content of cheese will only exacerbate these issues. And if your dog is lactose intolerant, you'll want to avoid cheese altogether.
Keep the Portions Small
Too much cheese will cause an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea in virtually any dog. If you're going to feed your dog cheese, give one or two thumbnail-sized bites at a time.
Choose a Low-Fat Cheese
Low-fat mozzarella, cheddar cheese, or plain cottage cheese are a few good low-fat options. (Always choose plain options, rather than a low-fat cheese with additives like herbs, nuts, or fruit.) Giving your dog a cheese high in fat is more likely to cause an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea, and large amounts even run the risk of pancreatitis. And always avoid cheese that is bad for dogs, like blue cheese or cheese with additives like garlic or chives.
Only Feed Cheese Occasionally
Tiny cubes of cheese can be useful for dog training, since most dogs will go wild for a bit of cheese. Otherwise, only consider cheese as an occasional treat option, not as a standard part of your pet's diet.
Be Careful With Medication
Many dog owners find that cheese is useful for helping their dog to take pills. Pushing a tablet into the center of a small glob of cheese is a great way to conceal medication. One word of caution, though: Never do this with antibiotics. Ingredients in antibiotics may bind to the calcium in cheese, making the medication less able to be absorbed in the intestines and therefore rendering it less effective.
If you're unsure whether or not a certain type of cheese is safe for your pooch, don't gamble with your pet's health. Call your veterinarian to get the all-clear. It's always better to play it safe. Ask about a safe portion size, too. And don’t forget to see if your dog would benefit from a probiotic supplement like Native Pet’s Probiotic powder, which can help support a healthy digestive system.
Can Dogs Eat Cheese or Not?
Can dogs eat cheese? Yes, they can. But dogs should only be given very small quantities at one time; there's no need for cheese to be a regular part of your dog's diet. Give your dog one or two thumbnail-sized cubes of cheese at a time as the occasional treat or as an incentive for training purposes.
Always choose a type of cheese that is safe for dogs. Look for a low-fat cheese that doesn't have added harmful ingredients such as chives, onions, or garlic. As you should with any human food, check with your vet first before giving Fido any type of cheese you're unsure about.For more articles on dog care, health, and wellness, visit the Native Pet blog.