If you're heard of stories of owners using cheese as a reward for training, you may wonder if this is a good idea. Yes, dogs can eat cheese, but they should only do so in moderation. Discover how to make cheese a safe treat for your pup, along with which cheese varieties are toxic to dogs.
Cheese Is a Safe Treat for Dogs in Moderation
Not only is cheese delicious, but it does carry some nutritional value. Most cheeses are rich in calcium, protein, vitamins A and B12, and omega-3 fatty acids. The smooth texture and vibrant taste make this a great food to help hide pills and is useful for training. However, cheese also contains a significant amount of saturated fat.
Feeding your dog high-fat foods can lead to weight gain, putting them at risk for developing diseases like diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease, and cancer. But even as an occasional snack, use caution when feeding cheese. Consuming too much in a single sitting can result in vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or even acute pancreatitis.
Are Dogs Lactose Intolerant?
In addition to fat, the dairy in cheese can be a concern. Dogs stop producing the enzyme necessary to digest lactose after being weaned as puppies. For this reason, adult dogs typically do not tolerate dairy well.
Cheese does have lower levels of lactose compared to milk, but it can still upset your dog's stomach. Common signs consistent with lactose sensitivity include flatulence, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and decreased appetite. If your dog is sensitive or allergic to lactose, avoid cheese and other dairy-based products.
How Much Cheese Can Your Dog Have?
Offering excessive amounts of cheese can have harmful consequences, which is why moderation is key. Follow the "90/10" guideline: dog treats and extra snacks should make up no more than 10 percent of your pet's daily calories. Cheese weighs in at approximately 100 calories per ounce, meaning a 20-pound dog should be limited to 1/3 ounce of cheese as their only treat for the day. Keep in mind, an ounce of cheese is only about the size of your thumb.
That doesn't seem like much, does it? But for your dog's tiny size, that's almost an entire meal. Hills Pet Nutrition created a guide that powerfully illustrates just how much it is. Their Dog Treat Translator reports that an ounce of cheese for a 20-pound dog is equivalent to one-and-a-half cheeseburgers for an adult human. Imagine eating that multiple times each day in addition to your regular meals!
Some pets should avoid cheese all together. Dogs who are already overweight or obese should skip this snack and elect for lower-fat treat options like dog-friendly vegetables. Diabetic dogs, dogs with sensitive stomachs, or those with a history of pancreatitis or kidney disease should also avoid fatty foods.
How to Prepare Cheese for Your Dog
Because cheese is ready-to-eat, there isn't much preparation involved. However, there are a few essential precautions that pet owners must take before offering cheese to dogs.
- Cut cheese into small, bite-sized pieces to prevent choking.
- Confirm that the cheese or cheese dish does not contain toxic ingredients like onion, chives, or garlic (particularly important with cheese spreads or cheese balls).
- Avoid unsafe cheese varieties like blue cheese and feta.
Types of Cheese to Avoid
A few cheese varieties contain ingredients that are toxic or harmful to dogs. Do not share these cheeses with your canine companion.
- Blue cheese: Blue cheese contains a fungus called roquefortine C. This is the element that gives this variety its distinct smell and flavor, and it happens to be toxic to dogs. When ingested, blue cheese can cause gastrointestinal upset, hyperthermia, tremors, seizures, or even death. If your pup gets into blue cheese, seek urgent veterinary care, or call a pet poison service for guidance.
- Feta: Feta cheese itself isn't toxic, but it does have a high salt content. Although a little of this cheese likely won't hurt, excessive amounts of salt can lead to salt poisoning. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, excessive thirst, excessive urination, tremors, and seizures. Contact your veterinarian if your dog consumed a large amount of feta or another salty cheese.
Administering Medications with Cheese
Many veterinary professionals recommend using cheese to medicate particularly challenging patients. Cheese is very tasty, plus it's soft enough to shape around any pill, making it an easy way to give medicine. Although this method can be very effective, it's important to practice caution. Use only a small amount of cheese; it doesn't take much to coat a pill or capsule. Many owners like to use cream cheese.
Avoid using cheese when administering antibiotics. Dairy can reportedly reduce the efficacy of antibiotics and other medications when ingested together. Confirm with your doctor that it's safe to use cheese with your dog's specific medicine.
Take it Cheesy with This Treat
Most types of cheese are not toxic to dogs, but it can be dangerous in large volumes due to its high fat content. Keep your pup safe by limiting the amount of cheese you offer them. Whenever possible, elect for healthier cheese varieties like cottage cheese or low-fat mozzarella.