Every dog owner knows that dogs will eat just about anything that doesn’t taste like metal. So knowing what they like is different than what is good for them. Feeding your dog chocolate, in any form, is always a bad idea. What about cheese? There are many different types of cheese, and as any biology student knows, cheese is a moldy concoction. Then there is the fact that just because something is good for us humans (for example, chocolate in moderation) doesn’t mean that Old Furhead will benefit from it. To help you sort out the cheese debate, here is some information on the whats and why-nots of cheese for your dog.
Most Cheeses are Safe
First, the vast majority of cheeses can be safely eaten by your dog. As with most things the devil is in the details, so knowing which cheeses are bad and knowing how much cheese is too much is useful information. (What happens when you eat too much cheese?) Dogs, like people, can be lactose intolerant. That rules out cheese, milk, and most dairy products for the pooch’s diet. They can also be allergic to milk, which is not the same thing. The general rule to follow here is: know your dog.
Next, even if your dog is not lactose intolerant or allergic to milk, any new food you introduce into their diet should be done slowly. After giving them a sample, wait a day or two and see if there is any difference in their digestive behavior. If not, you have the green light to give them increased amounts over time. Before we continue it is important to realize there are “experts” who say that you should avoid feeding dogs any kind of people food at all. The first reason is behavioral; that once you start feeding them people food they will always be around at suppertime mooching or get caught dragging a slab of ham off of the Christmas dinner table when everyone has their back turned.
The Nutrition of Cheese
The second reason is nutritional; that the fat content in people food, including cheese, is too high for a healthy dog. (The rumor is unhealthy dogs don’t care about things like that.) But dogs aren’t people, and the science says that the genetic makeup of a dog is such that most of their energy comes from burning off fat. The logic is: the less fat, the lower the energy level. Specifically regarding cheese, another concern is the high sodium (salt) levels that will cause both peoples and doggies long term health issues. The underlying reason is that high salt content results in high blood pressure, with the long term implication of damage to the dog’s major organs. The simplest way to address this concern is to check the sodium level on the package.
As we know, real cheese is made with large quantities of milk, which contains the lactose that makes in unsuitable for the lactose intolerant. But as with most things, it depends. The quantities of lactose in cheese are significantly lower than in milk, so a dog may not be able to handle milk they may be able to be fine with a small amount of cheese from time to time. Even if your dog is fine with larger amounts of cheese, it should not replace the usual dietary regimen that keeps them healthy.
There are some positives to your dog eating cheese. One is that it is high in calcium, which makes for strong healthy bones. No one wants a dog with soft bones. Cheese is also packed with a number of vitamins, so in addition to the fat for energy it gives them that extra slice of life. Using logic, though all puppies are dogs not all dogs are puppies. So the cheese issue needs to include some info on the puppy factor. The key point to remember is that puppies are future dogs whose biological systems are not complete and continue to develop. Everything that has been said about the cheese remains true, but how any puppy will handle introducing something else other than mother’s milk for a while will depend on a dozen factors. There is no need to rush cheese into their diet.
Possible Issues with Dogs Eating Cheese
Here are a few short notes on specific types of cheese and potential problems.
- Cottage cheese has not completed the fermentation process, so is likely to be higher in lactose.
- Cream cheese has a name that screams cream, which is definitely high in lactose, so use with caution.
- Parmesan cheese is very high in sodium, which means your leftover spaghetti may also be taboo for them.
The vast majority of cheeses are fine for your dog as long as you take a second to check on the sodium and lactose levels for potential problems. Some owners like to use cheeses to trick Spot into taking their medicine, while others use it as a treat when they are training them as puppies. But what you need to avoid is feeding them leftovers that contain cheese if you don’t know what kind of cheese has been used in its preparation.