Can dogs eat cheese?

Can Dogs Eat Cheese?
The Essential Guide

Salty, creamy, and oh-so-delicious, cheese is practically everywhere in most people’s diet. There are even some vegan options for those that prefer it! and considering it’s so easy to come by it can be a no-brainer to offer some to your dog.

But can dogs eat cheese? And if so, how often? To help you make the healthiest decision for your pup, our experts gathered everything you should know about it.


Can Dogs Eat Cheese?

The short answer is, sometimes. Whether or not a dog can eat cheese will depend on your dog, the quantity and the type of cheese you’re offering. Cheese is a good source of calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals that are essential to your dog’s health.

However, cheeses also contain v high salt and fat percentage that can cause serious problems. Keep reading to figure out how much cheese should your dog eat -or not! -.

dog sniffing camembert cheese

What You Need To Know About Dogs Eating Cheese

Dogs can be lactose intolerance

Just like people, not all dogs are lactose intolerant, and some can eat cheese. However, some pups can’t digest lactose. In this case, your dog might develop uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea and gassiness, or even skin reactions including allergic dermatitis.

Keep in mind some dogs might be able to digest small quantities of lactose but won’t be able to handle a lot of it. In other cases, your pup might develop a full-blown allergic reaction to lactose. Plus, not all cheeses are high in lactose so your dog’s reaction might change.

Since it’s impossible to know whether nor not your dog is intolerant, test how much cheese and what types they can eat. In general, vets consider small portions of cheese to be safe as an occasional treat. But if at any point your dog gets ill after eating it, avoid it as a snack from then on. Like people, dogs can develop allergies at any time, so if and when they get an allergic reaction, avoid dairy.

PRO TIP: Always consult with your vet before starting to give cheese to your dog

Avoid fresh cheese

Lactose is the main issue for dogs that eat cheese. However, the fermentation process transforms this compound. This means some cheeses have less troublesome lactose than others. In general, ripened and smelly cheeses are lower in lactose than fresh ones. However, some fresh cheeses like cottage are high in lactose but many dogs tolerate them well. The trick is doing some trial and error with small quantities to see what works.

Avoid too much salt

Another issue with cheese is the high amounts of salt. While there are some no-salt cheeses, these are often fresh ones. Others, particularly ripened cheeses, are high in salt and are particularly concentrated due to fermentation. Many kinds of cheese don’t taste particularly salty to us but have enough salt to give trouble to dogs with kidney issues. In general, if your dog is on a low-salt diet you should avoid giving them cheese.

Moderation is key

this is a common theme with human treats. Your dog has different nutritional needs, so human food can be an issue. Even if your pup isn’t lactose intolerant or allergic to milk, excessive cheese can be a problem. Too much cheese can cause an upset stomach, constipation, diarrhoea and vomiting. Plus, the high fat content in most cheeses can make your dog gain weight quickly or suffer from pancreatitis and high blood pressure.

Don’t give cheese to your dog if they have kidney issues

Food high in calcium oxalate is the leading cause of kidney and bladder stones in pets. Certain cheese varieties are among these foods. On the other hand, the high salt and fat content in cheese can cause painful gallbladder stones in your dog. If your pup has any medical history of gallbladder or kidney issues, avoid cheese completely.

Artificial flavours can be harmful

Some cheeses contain herbs or other products that are toxic to dogs. These include common ingredients like garlic, onions, and chives. In general, stick to unflavoured cheese and avoid those that contain fillers and extra flavours.

Never offer mouldy cheese to your dog

Mouldy dairy food, including blue cheese, can contain mycotoxins that are very harmful to your dog. These include fungi like aflatoxin, penitrem A and roquefortine, associated with liver toxicity in dogs. In different recent studies, these toxins caused muscle tremors, ataxia, convulsions and even death in dogs. Other side effects included vomiting, diarrhoea, flatulence, and tachycardia. Just avoid the stinky cheeses to be safe.

Cheese can be a useful treat

Since many dogs love cheese, it’s a great way to train a food-motivated pup. On the other hand, a small piece could be a great vessel for pills. Of course, this should only be used if your dog can handle the dairy and doesn’t have any side effects.

PRO TIP: Does your dog have colitis? Try cottage cheese

Recently, a study reported that dogs with chronic colitis showed improvement after being fed cottage cheese. After a colitis episode, dogs fed with a mix of cottage cheese and white rice showed improvement over those that resumed their regular diet. Of course, this diet should be transitional only, and a way to slowly get your dog to eat their regular balanced diet again. On the other hand, cottage cheese is a safe option as part of a temporary bland diet to combat diarrhoea.


How To Give Cheese To Your Dog?

When buying cheese for your dog, look for lower sodium options. Other than cottage cheese, stick to plain hard cheeses to lower their sodium intake. Cheddar and Swiss are good options.

Consider your dog’s mouth size and cut the pieces accordingly. Make sure the cheese pieces won’t be a choking hazard.

In the case of cottage cheese, choose low-fat, low-sodium cottage cheese, no milk added, and squeeze out the excess liquid before serving.


Final Thoughts

Overall, dogs can eat cheese in small to moderate quantities. However, keep in mind over-consumption can cause digestive upsets. Keep a close eye on your dog after giving a new type of cheese or if you know they ate too much, this way you’ll notice if they have an allergic reaction. As always, consult your veterinarian before offering any human food to your pet and if you’re already aware of your dog’s lactose intolerance or milk allergy, it’s best to steer clear.

Want to learn more about what types of food dogs can and can't eat? Check out our below guides:

References
  1. Kim, Y. et al. (2020). Investigations on Metabolic Changes in Beagle Dogs Fed Probiotic Queso Blanco Cheese and Identification of Candidate Probiotic Fecal Biomarkers Using Metabolomics Approaches. Metabolites, 10(8), 305. https://doi.org/10.3390/metabo10080305
  2. Nelson, R. et al. (1988). Nutritional management of idiopathic chronic colitis in the dog. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 2(3), 133-137. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1939-1676.1988.tb02809.x
  3. Boysen, S. et al. (2002). Tremorgenic mycotoxicosis in four dogs from a single household. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 221(10), 1441-1444. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Daniel_Chan4/publication/7138023_Tremorgenic_mycotoxicosis_in_four_dogs_from_a_single_household/links/0c960527d00fa18fde000000/Tremorgenic-mycotoxicosis-in-four-dogs-from-a-single-household.pdf
  4. Barker, A. et al. (2013). Tremorgenic mycotoxicosis in dogs. CompendContinEduc Vet, 35(2), E2. https://knowthecause.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/mycotoxins-in-dogfood.pdf
  5. Ploder, R. The effects of systematic training of shelter dogs on their behaviour linked to new dog handlers (Doctoral dissertation, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz). https://unipub.uni-graz.at/obvugrhs/content/titleinfo/1653138/full.pdf
Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is a dog lover & anthropologist. She enjoys writing content that will actually help people understand their dogs better. Eloisa is able to use her expertise to write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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