Can dogs eat cheese? If so, how much? Are any cheeses bad for dogs? The Labrador Site team takes an in-depth look at the truth about dogs and cheese.
Cheese contains a number of nutrients and minerals that are beneficial to dogs. But it can also be high in salt. And some dogs are allergic to cow’s milk, or can’t digest lactose in cheese properly.
So whether dogs can eat cheese depends on the dog, and on the cheese!
Most low salt cheeses are safe for dogs to eat in small amounts. But let’s take a look at why too much cheese isn’t healthy for dogs. And find out exactly which cheeses make the best doggy snacks.
Is Cheese Safe For Dogs?
Cheese is a staple food item around the world, produced from fermented milk. There are over a thousand different kinds of cheese!
Originally invented as a way of keeping milk edible for longer, it’s now a favorite part of many diets. And, when we eat a certain food, sooner or later we want to give it to our dogs.
Cheese contains calcium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc. All of these nutrients are essential to your dog’s health and well being. Cheese also contains fat and sodium, which are important for your dog’s health, but too much of either can cause problems.
Dogs And Cheese — Fat And Sodium
Dogs are, evolutionarily speaking, quite recently descended from wolves. The vast majority of a wolves’ energy comes from fat and protein. Therefore, your dog should not be negatively affected by a small amount of extra fat in his diet.
Cheese and cheese-based products are produced with humans in mind. We love the taste of salt, so it often makes its way into cheese.
Unfortunately, just like in humans, high amounts of sodium can lead to high blood pressure in dogs, which could eventually lead to organ damage.
However, sodium is essential for your dog’s health, and he probably gets an adequate supply from his regular dog food. While your dog’s sodium intake shouldn’t be limited unless directed by your vet, it’s best to check the nutrition label for sodium content and choose a cheese with modest sodium content.
Is Cheese Good For Dogs?
With all that said, is cheese good for dogs? Or perhaps it’s better to know, is cheese bad for dogs?
Cheese is a good source of dietary calcium. Your dog needs calcium for his bones and teeth to grow and stay strong and healthy.
Cheese is also loaded with fat.
Fat helps your dog absorb fat-soluble vitamins, including the vitamin A in cheese. Fat also provides energy, but too much can lead to obesity. Cheese also contains a surprising variety of vitamins and minerals.
Because there are both nutritional advantages and disadvantages to feeding your dog cheese, moderation is important. Cheese as a treat or reward or using cheese to hide a pill are appropriate ways to incorporate cheese into your dog’s diet.
When Is Cheese Bad For Dogs?
The main concerns with cheese are its lactose content and the possibility of an allergic reaction. Is the lactose in cheese okay for dogs? How do you know if your dog is allergic to cheese?
Lactose is a sugar that occurs naturally in milk. Young mammals, including dogs and humans, produce an enzyme, lactase, that enables them to digest lactose.
Most adult mammals don’t produce much lactase. This is because they can usually find their own food and don’t need their mother’s milk.
Given the above, can dogs have cheese? Is cheese okay for dogs to eat in every circumstance?
Yes, dogs can have cheese, but no, it’s not okay for all dogs.
Dogs And Cheese — Lactose Intolerance
What about the question, “When is cheese bad for dogs?”
Some dogs are lactose intolerant because they don’t produce the lactase enzyme necessary for its digestion.
Other dogs may be allergic to the proteins in cow’s milk, which may cause an allergic reaction to cheese.
The fermentation process (also called ripening) that most cheeses go through removes most of the lactose, so cheese contains far less of it than milk. Therefore, cheese in small quantities is fine, but it should not replace a meal.
So, ultimately, when is cheese bad for dogs? The short answer is, When they’re lactose intolerant or allergic to milk.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Eaten Too Much Cheese
Even if your dog isn’t lactose intolerant or allergic to milk, cheese can be a problem if your dog eats too much of it.
In the short-term, you’ll notice digestive changes that may include constipation, diarrhea, gas or vomiting.
If any of these happen, eliminate cheese from his diet and make sure he drinks plenty of water. Speak to your vet about your dog’s specific situation for treatment recommendations.
In the long-term, too much cheese can lead to problems with obesity, high blood pressure or pancreatitis. However, feeding cheese in small amounts does not contribute to the development of these issues.
Can Dogs Eat Mozzarella Cheese
Mozzarella is one of the most popular types of cheese for humans, and it only makes sense that our pets will want to join in on snacking on this mild, soft cheese.
Can dogs safely eat mozzarella cheese?
The short answer is yes. Dogs can have mozzarella cheese. In fact, it’s a relatively low-fat, low-salt cheese that can be a good treat for your pup — always remembering that moderation is key!
Can Dogs Eat String Cheese?
String cheese is usually just mozzarella that’s been manipulated so that the proteins in the cheese are in straight lines. This causes the tearing effect associated with this type of snack cheese.
Nutritionally, string cheese (and mozzarella generally) doesn’t contain a great deal of salt or lactose.
The only foreseeable trouble with this type of cheese is that the stringiness could potentially cause your dog to have trouble swallowing, which makes it a choking hazard.
This is easily solved by cutting or breaking it into small chunks.
Can Dogs Eat Parmesan Cheese?
Parmesan is a hard, crumbly cheese with a pungent odor. It’s low in lactose, like other hard cheeses. However, it’s typically very high in sodium, so it’s not a good cheese choice for your dog.
Dogs have a much more powerful sense of smell than us, so it’s quite possible the odor would put them off anyway (or entice them even more!).
So far, we’ve talked about cheeses made using cow’s milk, but those aren’t the only kinds of cheese. Let’s look at whether goat cheese is appropriate for a dog.
Can Dogs Eat Goat Cheese?
Can dogs eat cheese made from goat’s milk?
A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that goat’s milk generally contains slightly more lactose than cow’s milk. The same is true for goat cheese, so approach it with the same caution as other dairy products.
Goat cheese is usually quite expensive anyway, so it may not be the best choice for dog treats.
Can Dogs Eat Cottage Cheese?
Cottage cheese is an unpressed cheese that has a gloopy, yogurt-like consistency.
It’s also an unripened cheese, so less lactose is removed in the fermentation process. Lactose, as we’ve mentioned, can cause stomach upset in some dogs.
While normal cottage cheese for dogs should be okay in small amounts, some brands of cottage cheese may be cut with milk.
The addition of milk raises the lactose content considerably and could upset your dog’s stomach. Check the label and avoid feeding your dog cottage cheese with added milk.
Can Dogs Have Cheese That Is Soft?
Is cottage cheese good for dogs? Cottage cheese typically contains less sodium than harder cheeses, which is a big plus.
It also seems to be quite easy on the stomachs of our canine friends. A study on treating colitis in dogs used a diet that contained cottage cheese (among other things) and it resulted in no noticeable negative effects.
Unfortunately, cottage cheese is messier than other cheeses. It’s difficult to dish out in treat-sized portions unless you feed your dog from a spoon.
This, coupled with the risk of cottage cheese having added milk, might rule this one out for you.
Can Dogs Eat Cream Cheese?
Cream cheese is an unripened cheese with a high lactose content for cheese. As the name suggests, it contains cream, which adds extra lactose and extra fat.
As we mentioned earlier, if a cheese has a high lactose content, it may be more likely to upset your dog’s stomach.
And in any case, it’s best to keep the levels of “extra fat” at a moderate amount. Cream cheese stands at about a 33% fat content.
So, can dogs eat cream cheese?
Ultimately, it’s probably best to steer clear of this one. It’s messy and could upset your dog’s stomach even if he tolerates other cheeses well.
Can Dogs Eat Ricotta Cheese?
We’ve answered the question, “Can dogs eat cream cheese?” However, ricotta cheese is often used as a substitute for cream cheese. Can dogs have this cheese?
Ricotta is another soft cheese. However, though the consistency is similar, if a little dryer, the overall fat content is lower.
As opposed to the 33% we mentioned with cream cheese, ricotta stands at closer to 11%.
Ricotta also tends to have a higher level of protein and calcium, which is beneficial for your dog.
If there’s a choice between giving your dog cream cheese and ricotta cheese, ricotta is likely the healthier answer. However, it’s still a soft and potentially messy cheese, so you may prefer to stick to harder cheeses, like cheddar.
Can Dogs Eat Cheddar Cheese?
Speaking of cheddar, can dogs eat cheddar cheese?
Yes, they can! Again, it should only be given in moderation, due to the salt, lactose, and fat content.
But cheddar is a popular cheese for humans, and if you want to give a small piece to your dog now and then, it’s safe to do so — always provided, of course, that your pup is not lactose intolerant.
Can Dogs Eat Swiss Cheese?
Can dogs eat Swiss cheese?
Swiss cheese is a hard, ripened cheese with a nutty taste. The recognizable holes are caused by gas bubbles that form during fermentation.
The lactose content in this cheese is quite low, so it can be fed to dogs with relative safety. As with all cheese, feed it in moderation and watch for any adverse reaction.
Can Dogs Eat Blue Cheese?
Blue cheese is definitely a “love it or hate it” issue with humans. But what about dogs and cheese of the “blue” variety?
Blue cheese varieties are a different ballgame, as any blue cheese aficionado will tell you. Blue cheeses produce a fungus that may cause extra sensitivity in your dog, and can potentially lead to symptoms like vomiting, fever, and even seizures.
On the whole, it’s safer to stay away from blue cheese for your dog.
Can Dogs Eat Feta Cheese?
Feta cheese has higher levels of saturated fats and sodium, which makes it not the best choice for your dog’s cheese treat.
On top of that, feta is often mixed with other ingredients, such as garlic and herbs. Garlic is definitely not good for your pup!
Can Dogs Eat Cheese Puffs?
Can dogs have cheese-flavored snacks?
It’s so hard for humans to turn down bright-orange, crunchy snacks — even though we know they’re not good for us!
Imagine how much harder it is for a dog to walk away from the cheese puff you just dropped on the floor!
Cheese puffs and similar snack foods are very highly-processed foods, with high levels of sodium and other factors that are unhealthy unless eaten in strict moderation — and even then, they’re just not that great for you!
Ironically enough, cheese flavoring is often fairly skimpy on the actual cheese-related ingredients. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good, but it does mean that, overall, cheese puffs are not a good choice for your dog.
Can Dogs Eat Cheese Balls?
Very similarly to cheese puffs, crunchy cheese-flavored snacks like cheese balls contain unhealthy ingredients that should only be consumed in moderation by humans.
If one or two escapes you and your dog gets to it first, he probably won’t have any major adverse affects.
But these types of snacks are definitely not ideal for a long-term snack or treat for your pup.
Health Benefits Of Cheese For Dogs
As we mentioned, there are some beneficial nutrients in cheese.
However, your dog’s nutritional needs can be easily met without including cheese in his diet.
On the other hand, if you want to use it as a special treat or reward, or to hide a pill in, the nutrients he’ll receive are a fine complement to regular dog food.
How Can I Feed My Dog Cheese?
When buying cheese for your dog, look for lower sodium options and other than cottage cheese, stick to plain, hard cheeses. Cheddar and Swiss are good options.
Please note that some ingredients commonly added to cheese can be toxic for dogs, so avoid any cheese with added ingredients, especially chives, garlic or onion.
Of course, the piece of cheese you feed your dog should be of a size and shape that won’t pose a choking hazard.
If you would like to make homemade dog treats that involve cheese, we recommend such recipes as this one for Cheddar Dog Treats.
Can Dogs Have Cheese — And How?
It’s best to introduce any new food slowly. If your dog doesn’t react badly, there’s no reason not to give him cheese on occasion.
However, if your dog does react badly, stop feeding him cheese and speak to your vet about his reaction.
Dogs can develop allergies at any time, so always keep an eye out for a change in behavior or toileting habits when there’s a change in diet.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance or milk allergy include vomiting, gas, bloating, diarrhea (which may cause accidents), skin redness and itching.
We’ve answered the question: Can dogs eat cheese? But what if your specific dog can’t? Let’s look at other options for treats and rewards.
Alternatives To Cheese For Dogs
Here are some options if you’re looking for an alternative to cheese for your dog.
- Peanut Butter Treats
- Homemade Dog Treats
- Healthy Dog Snacks
- Best Dog Training Treats
- Best Dog Treats
Does Dog Food Contain Cheese?
We can’t say for certain that no commercial dog foods contain cheese, but there are caveats to that. For one thing, cheese in its true form needs to be refrigerated, which is not generally true of dry dog kibble.
So if a dry dog food does contain cheese, it will be in a dehydrated, highly-processed form.
On the other hand, if you find a wet food that involves cheese or other dairy products, it is likely to be very moisture-rich and may go bad far more quickly than regular, human-food cheese.
Overall, it’s quite rare to find cheese as a significant ingredient in commercial dog food.
Can Dogs Eat Cheese Summary
Can dogs eat cheese? And is cheese good for dogs? Well, it depends on the dog.
If you’re already aware of your dog’s lactose intolerance or milk allergy, it’s best to steer well clear. Otherwise, introduce it slowly and see how it goes!
Cheddar and Swiss are the best cheese types to try but avoid varieties with any added ingredients.
Every dog we’ve ever met has loved cheese, so yours might too!
Does your dog like cheese? Tell us about your dogs and cheese in the comments.
References and Further Reading
- Campbell, A.K., Waud, J.P., Matthews, S. B., “The molecular basis of lactose intolerance,” Science Progress, 2005.
- Fox, P.F. “Cheese: An Overview,” Cheese: Chemistry, Physics and Microbiology, 1993.
- Nelson, R.W., Stookey, L.J., and Kazacos, E., “Nutritional Management of Idiopathic Chronic Colitis in the Dog,” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 1988.
- USDA Food Composition Database
- White, S. D., “Food allergy in dogs,” Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practicing Veterinarian, 1998.
- Zentek, j., Marquart, B., and Pietrzak, T., “Intestinal Effects of Mannanoligosaccharides, Transgalactooligosaccharides, Lactose and Lactulose in Dogs,” The Journal of Nutrition, 2002.
- “Functional Foods In Pet Nutrition”
- “Is Blue Cheese Poisonous To Dogs?” Vet Advice
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website