Can Dogs Eat Cheese? Here's Everything You Need to Know

by Richard Walther, DVM
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Can Dogs Eat Cheese? Here's Everything You Need to Know
In most cases, dogs can eat cheese but only in limoited quantities as an occasional treat. Consult your vet before feeding your dog any human foods to avoid any dangerous reactions.

Cheese can be a delicious and nourishing treat for humans, but is it good for dogs? While it is true that cheese alone isn’t toxic to dogs, it will depend on your pet’s individual sensitivities whether you should feed them cheese.

So, yes, dogs can eat cheese, but there are a few things you should keep in mind before you start feeding your pooch large chunks of cheddar.

Table of Contents:

Pro tip: Milk and dairy products are common triggers for food allergies in dogs. Treatment for allergies can be expensive but luckily, pet insurance can help. Some pet insurance plans not only reimburse vet-recommended allergy tests but the complete sick visit as well.

Benefits of cheese for dogs

Cheese is packed with nutrients such as protein, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. Most dogs love cheese, so many dog trainers use it as a tool to facilitate food-motivated learners. Cheese is also great for concealing dog medication your pet might reject to eat!

Is cheese bad for dogs?

Yes, cheese can be bad for dogs if it's consumed by canines with lactose intolerance or eaten in excessive quantities.

Lactose and milk allergies

Just like humans, some pups are incapable of digesting lactose, a sugar naturally found in milk and dairy products. Lactose intolerance in canines can be mild or severe and usually manifests through loose stool and bad gas. Some pups are lactose intolerant because they don’t produce the enzyme called lactase, which is necessary for lactose digestion. Others might be allergic to the proteins present in milk, which can cause an allergic reaction to cheese.

As with all human foods, you should be cautious when giving your canine companion cheese for the first time. Start with a small amount and see if there’s any reaction. If your pet starts showing signs that they’re having an allergic reaction, stop feeding them anything dairy and call your vet.

Sodium and fat content

Cheese also contains sodium and fat, which can add some benefits to your pup’s health. However, too much sodium and fat can cause health issues in dogs.

The high amount of sodium found in certain types of cheese can lead to increased blood pressure in dogs and, eventually, cause organ damage. While sodium is important for your pup’s health, they probably get a sufficient amount from their regular food, so it is best to choose cheeses with low sodium content.

Pups suffering from kidney issues should not be fed cheese as the high salt and sodium content might worsen kidney damage.

Due to the fact that it contains high levels of fat, too much cheese can cause weight gain and obesity. It could result in pancreatitis, a serious and potentially life-threatening illness in dogs. Cheese should be kept away from overweight pups. If you’re looking for leaner alternatives for training, opt for chicken, tuna, or ham.

Finally, some cheeses can contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, like herbs, onions, chives, and garlic.

As always, consult your vet before feeding your canine friend any human foods in order to avoid any dangerous reactions.

beagle and woman next to plate of cheese (Image source: American Kennel Club)

Can dogs eat cream cheese?

Cream cheese is unripened, so less lactose is eliminated in the fermentation process. Also, as its name suggests, this cheese contains cream, meaning extra fat in addition to the extra lactose. For that reason, it is best to avoid feeding cream cheese to dogs as it can lead to stomach upset, even if they tolerate other cheeses well.

Can dogs eat cottage cheese?

This unpressed cheese has a thick, yogurt-like consistency. It is lower in sodium and fat than many other varieties of cheese, so it’s considered one of the best options for dogs. The bland flavor also makes it perfect for pups recovering from a sick stomach.

Small amounts of regular cottage cheese should not cause any issues in dogs, but some brands might contain milk. The added milk will increase the product's lactose content and could cause stomach upset.

Can dogs eat blue cheese?

The fungus used to make blue cheese and other ‘moldy’ varietals, like Roquefort and stilton, produces roquefortine C, a substance that is toxic to dogs and can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and even seizures. If you notice any of these symptoms after feeding your dog blue cheese, contact your vet immediately.

Can dogs eat parmesan cheese?

Parmesan is a hard and granular cheese with a sharp odor. Dogs have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, so this odor is very likely to put them off.

Similar to other hard cheeses, parmesean contains low levels of lactose but it's quite high in sodium, which makes it a poor choice for dogs.

Can dogs eat swiss cheese?

Swiss is a hard, nutty cheese often riddled with holes formed by gas bubbles formed during the fermentation process. As a ripened cheese, it has a low lactose content and therefore considered relatively safe for dogs when fed in moderate amounts.

Can dogs eat string cheese?

This is practically mozzarella cheese that’s been processed to align the proteins and make it stringy. String cheese contains low levels of lactose and salt, which makes it great for dogs. However, the stringiness could cause trouble swallowing, especially in puppies. Always make sure to cut it into pieces or break it into chunks before serving cheese to your dog, no matter which type.

Can dogs eat goat cheese?

Goat’s milk contains more lactose than cow’s milk, therefore it's generally discouraged to feed goat cheese to dogs.

dog looking at cheese (Image source: Hill’s Pet)

What about other dairy products?

If you're concerned about dairy for dogs, be sure to read up on these common items before introducing anything new to their diet.

Milk

Dogs don’t process fat as easily as humans do, so you should only give milk to dogs on occasion. Remember, __dogs might be lactose-intolerant__ - you will know fairly quickly if your pup has an upset stomach, diarrhea, or excessive gas after consuming milk.

Butter

Butter is made from milk, so it's a bad choice for lactose-intolerant dogs. Moreover, butter lacks nutritional benefits and is comprised of mostly saturated fat, which makes it a common cause of pancreatitis in dogs. If your dog eats a small amount of butter, they should be fine. However, if they've gotten into a tub or box of butter, they'll likely experience a stomachache and irregular bowel movements for a couple of days.

Yogurt

Yes, dogs can eat yogurt in limited quantities. Small amounts of low-fat, plain yogurt without artificial sweeteners can be good for dogs suffering from an upset stomach.

Ice cream

Many store-bought ice creams contain lower levels of lactose, but they also tend to have high levels of sugar or artificial sweeteners. If you want to treat your BFF with some ice cream, keep the portions small and make sure to choose a brand that contains zero- to low-sugar. You should also ensure that the ice cream doesn’t contain any potentially toxic ingredients like chocolate or sugar-free gum.

Serving ideas

The amount of cheese you should feed your dog depends on several factors, including their size, standard diet, and digestive response. Regardless, you should give dogs cheese as a treat - occasionally and in moderate amounts. That said, here are a few dog cheese serving suggestions to consider (with your vet's approval):

  • Provide a small quantity of cottage cheese on its own or add some to your pup’s usual food serving.

  • Combine equal parts of cooked white rice and cottage cheese to relieve your dog’s sensitive stomach.

  • Use cheese to conceal medication or to liven up prescription food. Be sure to check with your veterinarian first as some prescription diets depend on strict compliance in order to work.

  • Give small bits of mozzarella or cheddar when training your pup or as an occasional reward.

  • Create a cheese sauce and pour a very small amount of it over harder dog foods like kibble. This will soften the kibble and make it easier for your pup to digest.


Key Takeaways

  • Dogs can eat cheese as long as it’s given occasionally and in moderate amounts.
  • Dogs with lactose intolerance or dairy allergy, as well as those who are prone to stomach upsets, should avoid eating cheese.
  • If you have any questions about adding cheese to your dog’s diet, speak to your vet.

Ricky Walther, DVM

About the author

Richard Walther, DVM

Associate Veterinarian - Blue Ravine Animal Hospital

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner at Blue Ravine Animal Hospital in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

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