Can Dogs Eat Cheese and Other Dairy Products?
A common question from dog owners is, “Can my dog eat people food?” Canines have specific nutritional needs based on breed, activity level, age, health issues, and their likes (or dislikes).
A frequently asked question is whether or not one’s beloved Fido or Fifi can have dairy products as part of their diet. Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of your pup consuming dairy products like cheese, cottage cheese, milk, ice cream, yogurt, and other dairy products.
Dogs easily digest some milk products. How a dog reacts to eating dairy foods can be determined by the amount of lactose. A high amount of lactose can potentially cause stomach pain and gastrointestinal discomfort.
What is Lactose?
Lactose is a sugar composed of two glucose (sugar) molecules tightly bound together. Lactase is an enzyme in the intestines that breaks lactose into these two easily digestible sugars, which create energy for your dog.
The difference in lactose levels for dairy products affects how they are processed and tolerated in a dog’s digestive system. Almost all types of cheese contain less lactose than milk. Most soft cheeses are lactose-free or have less than 2% lactose. This equates to a couple of hundred grams or less per human serving.
Cottage Cheese Health Benefits for Dogs
Cottage cheese offers a multitude of advantages for a dog’s health. This soft cheese is rich in proteins, minerals, magnesium, vitamin A, probiotics, and fatty acids.
However, too much cottage cheese may be harmful to dogs — particularly puppies. Whole milk cottage cheese consists mainly of fats. If consumed in large amounts, it may lead to excessive fat and obesity, causing pancreatitis.
Cottage cheese also has high sodium levels that can cause high blood pressure. Some types of cottage cheese have flavoring agents such as onions, chives, and garlic which can cause serious harm to your dog.
How Much Milk Can Dogs Drink?
Dogs can drink milk in small quantities. Milk is high in fat and sugars, so it’s essential for pooches not to overindulge.
Introducing a small amount of cow’s or goat’s milk is an occasional good reward for your dog or puppy and won’t cause adverse effects.
Drinking too much milk may cause your dog to experience nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, or loose stools. Milk can also cause gas to build up in the stomach and intestinal tract.
What dog owner hasn’t been rudely awakened by the wafting smell of something that didn’t agree with their dog? Too much dairy can be one of the culprits.
Are Cheese and Ice Cream Safe for Dogs?
Moderation is everything when it comes to dogs eating dairy foods. Hard cheeses and ice cream contain a higher percentage of milk fat, sugars, and salt.
Check to ensure there are no other components in cheese or ice cream that could be harmful to your dog. Some cheeses contain garlic, onions, chives, wine, and nuts.
Keep your dogs safe by not feeding them ice cream or frozen yogurt with nuts, chocolate, and other unsafe foods.
Can Dogs Be Allergic to Dairy?
Most dogs don’t have problems with consuming small amounts of dairy products. Just as some people have severe digestive issues, dogs can also have similar stomach and intestinal upset.
Proteins in milk may cause allergies in dogs. Unlike the digestive symptoms of lactose intolerance, a milk allergy causes immune reactions.
Symptoms such as itching can be an adverse reaction or allergy. Generally, it’s also an indicator that your dog is lactose intolerant.
What Symptoms Do I Look for in My Dog?
Each dog’s reaction to dairy food depends upon its capability to break down and digest the ingredients. As with cottage cheese and milk, less is more for dogs and puppies.
Signs of adverse reactions may include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, lethargy, gas, and changes in the color or consistency of your dog’s stool.
What Can I Add to My Dog’s Diet Instead of Dairy Products?
It’s tempting to share ice cream with a dog when the weather is hot. Instead, provide fresh ice water for your dog.
Other frozen treats can include frozen bananas or berries, frozen bone broth, or specialty dog ice cream that is dairy-free.
Can Dogs Be Lactose Intolerant?
Yes, dogs can lack enough lactase to process lactose into sugar. Without this nutrient-rich enzyme, dogs cannot adequately digest milk.
Lactose intolerant dogs cannot convert lactose into the sugars needed for energy.
Before Sharing With Your Pooch
It’s always wise to consult with your dog’s veterinarian before introducing new foods into your dog’s diet. This article is meant to educate and inform and is not a substitute for dietary advice from a veterinarian.
Once cleared to do so, try adding a small amount of various dairy products to your dog’s diet. Occasional treats of small pieces of cheese (what dog doesn’t like cheese?), low-fat cottage cheese, or a few licks of ice cream are a special treat for pups.
Watch your dog to determine any problems that may arise. Your dog can enjoy these foods as a treat with you in safe, tiny amounts.