Is cheese bad for dogs, or can dogs eat cheese as a snack? Can dogs have cream cheese or cottage cheese? Find out in this guide to dogs and cheese.
It can be tough to know what foods are okay to feed our dogs. Nutritious foods for us sometimes have unpleasant consequences for our furry friends.
So, can dogs eat cheese? Yes, most of them can!
But, how much and which varieties? And what happens when a dog eats cheese? When is cheese bad for dogs?
In this article, we’ll find out all about dogs and cheese, including how different types of cheese might affect your dog.
Can Dogs Eat Cheese
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, if we eat a food, sooner or later we want to give it to our dogs.
Although many people believe cheese can be harmful, the truth is that most dogs can eat cheese. But, can dogs have cheese daily? Are all kinds of cheese okay for dogs?
Cheese and 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 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.
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.
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.
When is cheese bad for dogs? When they’re lactose intolerant or allergic to milk.
We’ve talked about can dogs eat cheese and when is cheese bad for dogs, but is it good for them?
Is Cheese Good for Dogs?
Cheese is a good source of dietary calcium. Your dog needs calcium for its 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. What kind of cheese though?
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.
But, 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 dog’s stomachs. 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.
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 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 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 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!).
We’ve talked exclusively 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.
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.
Should I Give My Dog Cheese
Your dog’s nutritional needs can be easily met without including cheese in his diet. However, 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.
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.
How to Prepare Cheese for Dogs
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.
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
Can Dogs Eat Cheese Summary
Can dogs eat cheese? 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.
This article has been extensively revised and updated for 2019.
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Then check out the brilliant Labrador Handbook, by Pippa Mattinson.
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.