Can Dogs Eat Cheese?
What you should know before feeding your dog cheese 🧀
If cheese is your all-time favorite snack — and you’re definitely not alone there, trust us — it’s probably super tempting to give some to your dog while he’s staring at you with his puppy-dog eyes. But can dogs eat cheese?
In short, yes, but there are a few things you should know before you go breaking off a hunk of cheese for your BFF.
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Erica Irish, a veterinarian and member of the board of advisors for betterpet, and Dr. Chyrle Bonk, a veterinarian working with Doggie Designer, to find out if cheese is safe for dogs.
Is cheese safe for dogs?
Most cheese is generally safe for dogs since it’s technically nontoxic. But when it comes to giving your pup cheese, a lot of dogs are actually lactose intolerant, i.e., they don’t produce lactase (aka the enzyme that breaks down lactose). Plus, too much cheese can cause your dog to have stomach issues (more on that below).
So before you go around slipping your dog a slice of cheese, chat with your vet first.
How is eating cheese good for dogs?
Cheese can be good for dogs when it’s fed in small quantities (and if the pup’s not lactose intolerant) because it actually contains a bunch of nutrients, like:
- Vitamin A
- B vitamins
- Fatty acids
Not to mention, a lot of dogs love the taste, so you can use it to get your pup to take his pills. “It even makes a great treat to hide medications in,” Dr. Bonk told The Dodo.
How is eating cheese bad for dogs?
While there are benefits to giving your dog cheese, eating it can also cause some issues, especially if he eats too much.
“Yes, most can eat cheese, but it may not mean that they should eat cheese,” Dr. Irish told The Dodo.
Regardless of whether or not your dog is lactose intolerant, the fat in cheese can cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset, meaning it can lead to things like:
- Stomach pain
The fat content can also contribute to weight gain and even cause pancreatitis, which happens when your dog’s liver becomes inflamed.
Which cheeses are safe for dogs?
If you are looking to give your pup a tiny bit of cheese every now and then, there are some options that are safe for him to eat.
Aged cheeses — think cheddar, Parmesan and Swiss — typically contain less lactose than other varieties, meaning they should be easier on your dog’s system.
However, a lot of these cheeses can be pretty salty, so you’ll have to be careful that you aren’t overdoing your pup’s sodium intake.
Low-fat cheese, like part-skim mozzarella, can also be a suitable option for your dog in small quantities.
Cottage cheese has less lactose, fat and sodium than a lot of cheeses out there, so it won’t be nearly as upsetting to your pup’s GI tract if he eats some.
What about vegan cheese?
Your dog can eat most vegan cheeses, too. But just like everything else you feed him, always scour the ingredients list first for anything potentially harmful.
“Most cheese alternatives are also safe for dogs, but always check the ingredients list to be sure there is nothing toxic in there,” Dr. Bonk said.
Which cheeses are unsafe for dogs?
While most cheeses are safe for your dog to eat, there are a few he should absolutely steer clear of.
Cheese with garlic, herbs and seasonings
As soon as you add extra ingredients to cheese, you run the risk of including something that can be poisonous to your dog.
“Some cheeses may contain toxic elements, like chives, garlic and onions,” Dr. Irish said. “It can cause anemia due to hemolyzed red blood cells.”
Even spicy cheeses can upset your pup’s stomach. So in general, it’s best to avoid giving your dog any cheese with herbs or seasonings.
It’s important to keep your pup away from blue cheese. Blue cheese technically contains mold (sorry if you didn’t already know this) and is made with a fungus that can cause vomiting in dogs.
High-lactose and high-fat cheese
Goat cheese, brie and feta should generally be avoided. These cheeses are pretty high in both lactose and fat, so they could really mess with your dog’s GI system.
Cream cheese isn’t the best option to give your dog because it has such a high fat content. Eating cream cheese can cause gastrointestinal upset, weight gain and even pancreatitis.
How much cheese can dogs have, and can dogs eat cheese all the time?
If you’re trying to figure out how much cheese your dog can eat, it’s best to stick to a super small amount per day.
“This means a bite or two at a time,” Dr. Bonk said. “Giving a small amount every day usually isn’t a big deal for most healthy dogs.”
That being said, always check with your vet to make sure your dog can actually handle eating cheese, even if it’s just a little bit.
“If they cannot tolerate lactose, a few bites of cheese can cause trouble,” Dr. Irish said.
Even if your dog isn’t lactose intolerant, but you’re still worried about giving him cheese, try getting him some cheese-flavored treats for dogs.
So while eating cheese can provide your dog with a bunch of good nutrients, it can also cause a lot of issues if you aren’t feeding it to him safely. That’s why you should always check with your vet before introducing cheese (or any new food) to your dog’s diet.
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