The domestic dog, Canis Familiaris has been man’s best friend for ages.
This long and colorful relationship has uniquely enabled dogs to become attuned to aspects of human behavior and most importantly the human diet.
Cheese is a type of food derived from milk and is quite popular for its nutritional value and rich flavor. Many dog owners across the globe often wonder: can dogs eat cheese?
After all, it is only right to share the best things life has to offer with your best friend right?
I feel the same way about my dog Charlie, a Doberman. This article aims to explore this delicate concern while bringing into greater focus the health benefits and risks feeding your dog cheese carries.
About cheese and dogs, a few facts
A large percentage of dogs will experience no problem digesting cheese. However, dogs being man’s best friend are also predisposed to similar health and dietary conditions that their owners might suffer. These conditions can be lifestyle related or diet induced. A small percentage of dogs can’t tolerate milk or associated milk products. This is known as Lactose intolerance. Cheese being a dairy product contains varied amounts of Lactose. Dogs with lactose intolerance may suffer severe reactions to the sugar lactose upon ingestion of cheese.
Cheese is formed by coagulation of the milk protein casein found in cows, sheep, goats or even buffaloes. Cheese may vary in flavor depending on the age, region of origin, origin of the milk used and its overall butterfat content.The question of whether or not it is safe to feed your dog cheese is dependent on several factors.
Can dogs eat cheese?
Yes, indeed they can. It is safe to feed cheese to adult dogs with no proven history of lactose intolerance. While feeding your dog cheese, animal nutritionist strongly recommends that you must be mindful of how much cheese you feed your dog in caloric terms. Veterinarians are of the opinion that the total caloric intake amount of cheese fed to your dog should not be more than 10% of the total caloric intake per meal. An inch cubed of cheese contains approximately 90 calories which to medium and small dogs can be considered excessive.
Cheese is good for your dog’s health and its benefits are visible after a short while. Cheese contains the following nutrients:
Proteins from the principle structural material in your dog’s body and organs. Proteins are made up of 23 types of amino acids and the sad part is that your dog can only synthesize 13. The balance is made up for through dietary sources and cheese is an excellent source.
The nutrient calcium is necessary for strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also a necessity in pregnant and lactating dogs. Blood coagulation in dogs is also dependent on Calcium. A deficiency results in the condition Rickettsia. Cheese is rich in calcium.
This vitamin ensures the continued optimal performance of your dog’s internal organs such as the live, kidney and the lungs. Essentially it acts as “motor oil”. Vitamin A has also been proven to have an effect on your dog’s fur coat and skin. Vitamin A present in cheese is completely different from synthetic Vitamin A found in supplements.
Vitamin B complexes
Comprise B2 and B12 found in cheeses. B2 is involved in the energy conversion process at the cellular level. B12 is directly involved in the production of blood cells and their subsequent proliferation.
Cheese contains an amount of Zinc that is essential to the maintenance of good health in dogs. Studies have proven that this trace element is involved in over 200 metabolic and enzymatic processes.
This dietary mineral is required in high amounts slightly lower than Calcium. Studies have shown that phosphorus and calcium are directly involved in the formation and maintenance of bone density in dogs. In excess amounts, phosphorus is known to cause renal failure.
When is it not safe to feed your dog cheese?
To a large percentage of dogs, cheese is generally safe in controlled amounts. To a separate smaller group, lactose intolerance prohibits the ingestion of cheese and milk products generally. It is recommended that before feeding cheese to your dog, embark on a fact – finding mission to establish whether or not your dog is lactose intolerant. The process is simple, feed small amounts of cheese to your dog while observing signs of any adverse reactions.
Veterinarians advise against feeding lactose intolerant dogs cheese. In the same category are overweight and obese dogs. Dogs are prone to heart conditions and weight related abnormalities such as obesity and diabetes. For dogs on medication such as antibiotic drugs, it is ill advised to feed cheese to your dog as compounds present in cheese coagulate and hinder the absorption and effectiveness of the prescribed medicines.Dogs with a history of pancreatitis and heart disease cannot also be allowed to have cheese.
Instances when cheese is recommended for your dog
To your canine friend, cheese should be used as a high – value reward. Dogs learn new tricks and behaviors by association and good old fashioned classical conditioning. This type of learning involves teaching the dog a new trick or behavior and “rewarding” it with a cheese treat. Through this method, the dog learns to associate cheese with good behavior or a particular trick.
In old dogs, low appetites aren’t uncommon. Cheese is used to induce the dog to eat owing to its strong scent and flavor. A decline in the sense of smell and taste has been attributed to the loss of appetite in these old timers.
Another important function cheese can serve is the masking of medicines. Dogs won’t readily agree to take prescriptions. Throw in a bit of cheese to the equation and the story changes. It has been proven that cheese is a useful way of administering tablet or capsule formulation medicines.Too much of everything is toxic. This is the same case concerning cheese. Dog-safe cheese may elicit negative effects if consumed in copious amounts. Cheese should not be offered as a main course but rather as the garnish on dog food.
There are instances when you would prefer a little bit more weight on your dog. Cheese, in this case, helps in weight gain in healthy adult dogs.
Safe types of cheese to feed your dog
The safe types of cheese to feed your dog are as follows below;
Cheddar Cheese contains negligible amounts of lactose. This is due to the aging process the cheese undergoes. Cheddar cheese has an off-white to yellow/orange color and is relatively hard. Its origins can be traced to the British village of Cheddar in Somerset. This particular type of cheese is the most popular type of cheese in England and other parts of Europe. Quite comical that your dog will love this type of cheese too, almost all of Europe does! Microorganisms in the cheese break down the lactose sugar leaving minimal amounts. This makes this type of cheese safe for your canine buddy to eat.
Unadulterated Feta, Parmesan, Swiss and Mozzarella cheese is regarded as generally safe for dog consumption. This is owing to the trace levels of lactose present. These types of cheeses are often eaten on their own by humans as a snack and have a grainy, dense crystalline texture. Made from unpasteurized cow’s milk, these cheeses are subjected to thermophilic lactic acid bacteria which do a great deal of breaking down lactose sugars.
Goat cheese: Made from goat milk, this type of cheese is safe for consumption by dogs including lactose intolerant dogs. Also known as Chevre, this type of cheese has a lower butterfat content compared to cow milk cheeses. Goat milk contains lower amounts of lactose compared to cow milk. The lactose forms a substrate upon which cultures used to make cheese act upon. Goat cheese is a favorite to senior citizens, children and persons with intolerance to cow milk.
Cheeses not recommended for your dog
In my quest to uncover the truth about what types of cheese I shouldn’t allow Charlie to eat, I discovered some popular types of cheese that are quite harmful to canines. The following types of cheese should not be fed to dogs;
Stilton cheese: For a cheese to qualify for the Stilton title, it needs to be made in the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire from locally sourced milk. Stilton cheese is rich in lactose and fat content. Described as a blue cheese, this cheese is characterized by blue venation emanating from the center of the roll. Stilton cheese contains persistent microbial strains used in its formation cultures. Consumption of this type of cheese by your dog may cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal distress.
Gorgonzola: The origins of this famous blue – veined cheese is the Northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Piedmont. It is made from unpasteurized cow milk. This type of cheese contains high levels of salt and contains nut flavorings that may not sit well with your dog’s tummy. To dogs with pre-existing heart or pancreatitic conditions, consumption of this type of cheese may be lethal.
Tofu Cheese: This type of cheese is made from coagulated soy milk. It is characterized by a strong pungent smell described as rotten. It is used in sweet and savory dishes as a marinade. There are several human foods and flavorings that don’t sit well with dogs. An example is almonds, hazelnuts and garlic. Different types of Tofu cheese contain either or all of the flavorings. It is not advised to allow your dog to eat this type of cheese.
Making your own cheese dog treats
A healthy diet translates to a healthy dog. For curious dog owners, it’s only right to question and endeavor to find out if dogs can eat cheese, what type of cheese and when not to. Animal nutritionists highly recommend that you make your own custom dog cheese treats. This allows you to safely incorporate the right amounts of cheese into convenient dog snacks. My dog Charlie absolutely loves cheese and the fact that I managed to incorporate it into a tasty treat especially for him makes it even better.
When putting together the perfect doggie treat at home, try to be as creative as you possibly can. Incorporate all the great foods you know your canine best friend loves. To create a simple yet tasty dog treat, you will need the following ingredients:
- Wheat Flour.
- Shredded Cheddar/Plain Swiss or Mozzarella.
- Vegetable oil.
- In a large bowl, mix the wheat flour and the milk then whip it using a stirring implement to produce a nice thick cream.
- Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil and whip some more. At this point, throw in the shredded Cheddar/Swiss or Mozzarella and briskly stir to ensure even spreading.
- Add some more flour and occasionally a pinch of salt and knead until the dough comes together.
- On a lightly flour-dusted surface, roll the dough and cut it using a cookie cutter.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes at which point the treats will turn golden-brown.
Allow the baked treats to cool before letting your dog try some. These ingredients perfectly blend together to form the ultimate treat for your dog. You might even consider going on overkill mode an incorporating even more ingredients like I did after throwing in ground beef and bacon bits.
Commercial dog food contains chemical preservatives and you really cannot afford to throw caution to the wind when it comes to such matters. Cheese based home-made dog treats are the perfect way to be sure of what your dog eats while at the same time saving you money. You too will enjoy putting together all manner of recipes that will surely impress your canine friend. I feel closer than ever before to Charlie ever since I made it a routine to make him his own little homemade meals.
Can dogs eat cheese? The answer is yes, with some exceptions of course. It is safe to feed cheese to your dog provided that it has no prior condition that would render eating the cheese harmful to it. Feed cheese to your dog in moderation too. A lot of cheese fed at once to your dog can be harmful. Be mindful of any additives present in the cheese you feed your dog. Not all human foods are dog approved. Pay keen attention to the amount and type of cheese you feed to your dog, this will ensure that your canine buddy benefits from the nutrients carried by cheese while at the same time averting serious stomach disorders.
I hope you found this article enlightening and fun to read. Feel free to leave a comment, suggestion or thought in the section provided below. Share with a fellow dog enthusiast and help keep a canine healthy.