Can dogs eat cheese? Ask your dog and he will most likely give an enthusiastic tail wag, “Yes!” But not so fast. There are many different kinds of cheese and some can be better for your dog (and you) than others. Plus, cheese doesn’t agree with every dog.
Before you roll out a wheel of cheese for your dog, to his delight, find out what’s good and bad about cheese for your dog.
There are literally hundreds of different varieties of cheese in the world, if not more. Nutritional information can vary depending on the cheese. In general, most cheese is relatively high in calories, protein, fat, and calcium.
Many cheeses contain lots of vitamins A, B, and B-complex vitamins, as well as minerals such as zinc and phosphorus. Cheese is rich in nutrients.
On the other hand, many cheeses are high in fat. Even the average cheese generally contains about 100 calories per ounce. Cheddar cheese, for example, contains 120 calories per ounce. Mozzarella has 85 calories per ounce and feta has 60 calories. It’s very easy for your dog to become overweight or obese if cheese becomes a regular part of his diet. Eating foods with too much fat can also lead to pancreatitis, a condition that can be fatal in dogs.
Aged, hard cheeses can also contain lots of salt which helps preserve them. Too much salt can be bad for your dog. It can lead to sodium poisoning or kidney problems, especially if your dog doesn’t consume enough water.
Again, cheese can vary in the amount of salt or sodium it contains. Feta contains 360 mg of sodium per ounce compared to mozzarella with just 138 mg of sodium per ounce.
While cheese is considered to be a whole food since it is not very processed or refined and it provides lots of nutrients, it does lack any fiber. Eating too much cheese can lead to constipation in some dogs.
Some dogs (not all) can have an issue with lactose-intolerance. This is the same lactose-intolerance that can affect some humans in which the enzyme in the body for breaking down lactose in dairy products is missing. As a result, these dogs can experience gas, diarrhea, and other digestive problems when they eat foods that are high in lactose such as milk (after puppyhood). Some cheeses contain only a trace of lactose, such as Cheddar, parmesan, and Swiss, so they should not bother lactose-intolerant dogs. Other cheeses which contain more lactose can be a real problem. Again, not all dogs are lactose-intolerant.
Can I Give My Dog Cheese?
Yes, most dogs can eat some kinds of cheese in small amounts. It’s best if you choose a cheese that is appropriate for your dog.
If you are concerned about possible weight gain, choose a cheese that has fewer calories or a low-cal, low-fat cheese. Your dog will still love it.
You can also find low-sodium cheeses.
If your dog is lactose-intolerant, stick to cheeses that are low in lactose such as Cheddar, parmesan, and Swiss. You can check the nutritional profiles for a cheese to see the content for “sugars” since lactose is a sugar. Cheeses that are very low in sugars will usually have very little lactose.
If you’re not sure if your dog is lactose-intolerant, keep an eye on him after giving him some cheese, especially if it’s creamy or higher in lactose. See if he has any digestive upset for the 24 hours after eating the cheese.
Cheeses to Avoid
There are a few cheeses that dogs should avoid.
Do not give your dog any cheese that contain garlic, onions, chives, or other ingredients that can be dangerous to dogs. If in doubt about a cheese, read the ingredients. Contents are not always obvious just by looking at top label.
Don’t let your dog eat any cheese balls that are covered with nuts. Not all nuts are bad for dogs but some are. Plus, cheese balls are usually made from creamy cheeses which can be more likely to be a problem for dogs that are lactose-intolerant.
Blue cheese and other ripe, moldy cheeses such as Stilton and Roquefort should also be avoided. During the “ripening” process for blue cheese it produces a mycotoxin known as Roquefortine C. It comes from the mold inside the cheese. This mycotoxin can be very toxic to dogs. It’s best to completely avoid any moldy cheeses for this reason. If your dog eats a tiny amount of this kind of cheese he will probably be okay but if you have any doubts, contact your veterinarian. If your dog eats more than a small amount, take him to the vet right away, especially if your dog vomits, has diarrhea, tremors, or a seizure.
How Much Cheese Can You Give Your Dog?
Many people use cheese as a training reward since dogs love it so much. Adding a little cheese to a meal for an old dog can also be a good way to encourage him to eat. For most dogs, however, it’s best to keep the servings small because of the fat and calories in cheese.
Even if you are using cheese as a reward when training your dog it’s a good idea to keep the cheese pieces very small.
In general, treats and snacks should not make up more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily calories. If your dog needs 1200 calories per day, you could give him 120 calories in cheese. (You can adjust your dog’s daily calories based on his weight, age, activity level and other factors.)
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Cheese?
Dogs will quickly expect cheese every time you open the fridge door once you start giving them some. When my dog knows I have cheese in the house, she barks at me to go get her some! It’s best if you only give your dog a small amount of cheese occasionally. You could give your dog a little cheese 3-4 times per week – on your schedule.
Cheese is packed with nutrients and it’s high in protein and calcium. Some cheeses can be high in fat and calories. Consider your dog’s health and choose the right cheese. Look at things like fat and calories, salt/sodium levels, and lactose. Buy low-fat, low-calorie choose if necessary. Cheese can make a great treat that dogs love if you use just a little care.