Is It Safe for Dogs to Eat Cheese?

Dog owners may wonder whether cheese is safe for dogs to eat. In small to moderate quantities, it usually is, but over-consumption of cheese can cause digestive upsets in your pet.

What Cheese Provides

Cheese is a good source of protein for your dog. It also provides vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, Vitamin A, B-complex vitamins and essential fatty acids. A small piece of cheese can also provide the perfect camouflage for medications that your dog may need to take someday, so it can be helpful to offer your dog occasional treats of cheese, but only if his body can handle it.

Other Beneficial Dairy Products for Your Dog

Two dairy products that your dog should be able to consume in moderation are cottage cheese and plain yogurt. Both add benefits to his diet in different ways.

Cottage cheese can be a good protein source for a dog that has occasional episodes of diarrhea. It can also provide protein for a dog that is recovering from illness or injury.

If you’re planning to add cottage cheese to your dog’s diet, try to offer a brand that has lower levels of sodium and fat to further improve your dog’s overall health.

Plain yogurt with acidophilus cultures or a cultured milk supplement called kefir provide beneficial bacteria for your dog’s digestive system. These dairy products can help settle an upset stomach, or they can provide long-term digestive improvement from the cultures they provide to your dog’s digestive system. Yogurt provides probiotic supplements to improve digestive health while helping to remove some bacteria that aren’t healthy for your dog’s digestion.

When You’ve Fed Too Much Cheese

Determining your dog's dairy product tolerance level may become a trial-and-error process, and you may end up giving him too much cheese. Here's what might happen next: Since many dogs are lactose intolerant, overfeeding of any dairy product may result in diarrhea, flatulence, bloating and other digestive upsets. Some dogs may even become constipated.

All the digestive distress is because most dogs cannot properly digest lactose, the most common sugar in milk products, because they lack the digestive enzyme lactase. Some dogs may also have difficulty processing the high fat content found in some cheeses.

The lactose content of dairy products varies greatly, ranging from 11 grams of lactose in a cup of whole milk to 0 grams of lactose in a 1-ounce serving of cheddar cheese. Plain yogurt has 5 grams of lactose in a 1-cup serving, while a half-cup of cottage cheese contains 3 grams of lactose. American and Swiss cheese have 1 gram of lactose each in a 1-ounce serving.

Not all dogs are completely lactose intolerant, so you’ll have to test your dog’s dairy product consumption limits. If he suffers no ill effects from consuming cheese, you may continue to offer him small portions as occasional treats. If, however, he becomes ill after eating cheese, it’s best to take cheese off his treat list, or you might try offering a lactose-free cheese as a treat to see how your dog’s body will handle it.