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When you go to the vet, you'll often see them employ many different tactics to build trust with your dog, including giving them treats like spray cheese to distract them from certain procedures. However, you may wonder, "Can dogs eat cheese?" If you see your vet giving your dog anything at the clinic, you can bet that it's safe for dogs. However, not all cheese and spray cheese is created equal.
In general, cheese is safe for dogs and makes a great high-value reward for training or stressful situations like going to the vet. Dogs love cheese, likely because it smells and tastes great. It also contains a few key nutrients for them, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily healthy. Unflavored, low-lactose cheeses are typically best for dogs because they're lower in fat. However, several types of cheeses are bad for dogs because they contain additives, coloring, and salt. Of course, feeding your dog small quantities of cheese likely won't cause any adverse reactions. If you’re wondering, "can dogs have cheese?", you've come to the right place. Let's discuss everything there is to know about feeding your dog cheese.
- Is Cheese Good For Dogs?
- Is Cheese Bad For Dogs?
- Dogs Can Be Lactose Intolerant
- How Much Cheese Is Too Much Cheese?
- Frequently Asked Questions:
- Final Notes
Is Cheese Good For Dogs?
Can dogs eat cheese? Yes, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily good for them. Cheese contains several important nutrients for dogs, including protein, calcium, vitamin A, B vitamins, and essential fatty acids.1 However, dogs don't necessarily need these additional nutrients since they should already be getting all the nutrients they need from their regular diets. Therefore, cheese should only be used as a treat and in moderation.
There are several non-health benefits of cheese for dogs. First of all, dogs love cheese because it smells good and is delicious. Whenever your dog hears a package of cheese open, they may run to the kitchen in hope that you'll share it with them. You can use this love of cheese to your advantage. Cheese is a high-value reward great for clicker training and obedience training. Professional trainers often use it to reward dogs for learning new skills. In addition, it's used in behavioral therapy to help dogs associate anxiety-inducing situations with a positive experience. For example, if a reactive dog barks and lunges at other dogs, trainers might use cheese to help the dog form more positive associations with other pets.
Additionally, cheese is a great way to mask pills and medicine.1 If you've ever tried to give a dog a pill, you know how difficult it can be. Even though it seems like most dogs will eat anything, many dogs will spit out pills and never give them a second thought. However, since dogs tend to swallow small treats whole with fairly little chewing, cheese is a great way to mask the pill so your dog swallows it.
Of course, when feeding your dog cheese for fun, training, or to mask pills, only give it to them in moderation. Since cheese can cause minor GI issues like gas, bloating, and diarrhea, you should cut the cheese into small pieces to prevent your dog from overeating.
Is Cheese Bad For Dogs?
While cheese is considered safe for dogs in moderation, there are a few caveats.
- High-fat content: Cheese has a high fat content, which isn't safe for some dogs, especially those with diabetes or pancreatitis. However, in moderation, the high fat content in cheese shouldn't cause adverse reactions in healthy, active dogs.2
- Additional calories: Cheese contains calories that your dog likely doesn't need as long as they're eating their dog food. Since dogs gain weight faster, even just a few extra calories a day can increase their chances of weight gain, diabetes, and various associated health conditions.
- Lactose intolerance or allergy: We'll get more into this, but in general, dogs can be lactose intolerant just like humans, which can cause several unpleasant side effects like gas, diarrhea, and constipation, which may require dog laxatives. Some dogs may also have food allergies, causing them to be allergic to milk, which can lead to symptoms like itchy skin.
In addition, even though cheese is safe, there are several types of dogs that shouldn't eat it, including:
- Overweight and diabetic dogs: Since cheese is high in fat, it should be kept away from dogs struggling with weight issues. Instead, opt for leaner treats like meat.3
- Dogs with food intolerances: If you know your dog has lactose intolerance, don't feed them cheese.
- Dogs with sensitive stomachs: Some dogs have difficulty digesting food that isn't part of their regular diet, which is why you should always change your dog's food gradually. Any type of human food can cause GI issues in dogs leading to gas, vomiting, and diarrhea simply because their stomachs are more sensitive.3
When feeding your dog cheese, always start with a few small pieces to see how they respond. If your dog handles the cheese well, you can continue to feed it to them. However, it's typically best to avoid cheese as a regular treat if they have diarrhea or gas.
Dogs Can Be Lactose Intolerant
As we've already mentioned, dogs can be lactose intolerant, but not all dogs are. In general, pets don't have enough lactase, the enzyme in the digestive tract that breaks down lactose in dairy products, resulting in GI issues.4 Unfortunately, you won't know if your dog is lactose intolerant until they try dairy products for the first time.
Ultimately, the higher the amount of lactose, the greater the risk of digestion problems, but many types of cheese contain less lactose than milk, so they're less likely to cause GI upset.5 Additionally, how your dog processes dairy products changes as they age, and older dogs are more likely to experience lactose intolerance.
Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance In Dogs
Again, you won't know if your dog is lactose intolerant until they try dairy for the first time. However, they're likely lactose intolerant if they experience these symptoms after consuming dairy products:
- Decreased appetite
- Bloated stomach6
How Much Cheese Is Too Much Cheese?
Dogs should only be fed cheese in moderation. It should be a special treat used for training exercises requiring high-value rewards, masking pills, or an occasional treat when you feel like sharing a snack with your dog. Start with a few small pieces to see how your dog responds to cheese, but remember, they don't need cheese in their diet.
It's important to note that not all cheese is safe for dogs. Moldy cheese can be harmful, no matter what type of cheese or how much they're fed.7
In addition, it's always best to consult your vet before feeding your dog anything new, including cheese. In most cases, cheese is considered safe, but you should always talk to your vet if your dog has an underlying illness like diabetes or pancreatitis.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What cheese should you not give to dogs?
There are several types of cheese your dog should not eat, including blue cheese with fungus that creates a substance known as roquefortine that is poisonous to dogs and causes vomiting and seizures.8 You should also try to stay away from high-fat cheeses like mozzarella.
What kind of cheese can dogs eat?
Since cheese is generally safe for most dogs, you might wonder what types of cheese are safe for dogs. For example, can dogs eat cream cheese? They shouldn't since it's high in fat content. In addition, some cream cheese contains additional ingredients that can be harmful to dogs, especially flavored cream cheese that might contain garlic. However, dogs can eat cottage cheese because it's low in fat and contains probiotics. Other types of cheese safe for dogs include:
- American Cheese
- Cheese Spray
Of course, when feeding your dog any dairy products, always check the ingredients. Since there are many different types of cheese, you should always confirm the foods you share with your dog don't contain any toxic ingredients.
Why do dogs love cheese?
Most dogs love cheese, but while they can't tell us why they love it so much, there are a few things we can assume. First off, cheese is much smellier than other types of food, and dogs love smells (even bad smells). Dogs have a strong sense of smell that allows them to smell things we can't, so while some cheese may not smell like much to us, and some may even smell unpleasant, dogs love it. Additionally, dogs like the taste of cheese, even though they seem to gobble it up without giving themselves a chance to actually taste it.
Cheese is a safe treat for dogs when fed in moderation. However, even though cheese contains proteins and important vitamins and minerals, your dog should already get all the nutrients they need through their regular diet. Therefore, dogs don't need to eat cheese. However, they love it, so it makes a great high-value training reward and can help you mask pills to make giving your dog medication a little easier.
Cheese should only ever be an occasional treat because it contains fat and calories that can contribute to weight gain or exacerbate the symptoms of illnesses like diabetes and pancreatitis. In addition, feeding your dog too much cheese could result in GI upset with symptoms like gas, diarrhea, and even vomiting, so you should always monitor your dog after giving them cheese.
Wondering if cheese is safe for your dog or what to feed a dog with an upset stomach? Ask Dutch. We can help you find the safest high-value treats for your dog, depending on their age, weight, and health, to ensure you can reward your dog without potentially causing health issues or GI distress. Try Dutch today.
Kriss, Randa. “Can Dogs Eat Cheese? Is Cheese Bad for Dogs? Feeding Cheese to Your Dog.” American Kennel Club, 30 Aug. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-cheese/.
“Can Dogs Eat Cheese? Is Cheese Bad for Dogs?” Veterinarians.org, 14 Sept. 2022, https://www.veterinarians.org/can-dogs-eat-cheese/.
“Can Dogs Eat Cheese?” Blue Cross, https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/can-dogs-eat-cheese.
“People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets.” ASPCA, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/people-foods-avoid-feeding-your-pets.
“6 Things That Give Your Pet Gas.” PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/6-things-give-your-pet-gas#slide-5.
“Lactose Intolerance.” Lactose Intolerance | Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/lactose-intolerance
“Good Dog, Bad Food: Foods for People That Are Bad for Your Dog.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/good-dog-bad-food-foods-people-are-bad-your-dog.
Walter, Sean L. “Acute Penitrem A and Roquefortine Poisoning in a Dog.” The Canadian Veterinary Journal = La Revue Veterinaire Canadienne, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2002, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC339273/.