Chances are if you asked your pooch “can dogs eat cheese?” you would be answered by a resounding “yes”. Even without words, your pup’s waggy-tailed response makes it fairly clear that they think they can eat as much cheese as they please. Our dogs and puppies seem to enjoy the tasty treat as much as we do!
But while they may insist that they can eat all the cheese their heart’s desire, and puppy-eyes demand, it’s not a simple yes or no question on whether they should eat it, or how much they can have.
We answer whether dogs can eat cheese and if there are any varieties of cheese to avoid feeding your furry friend.
Yes, generally, dogs can eat cheese.
Most cheese isn’t toxic to dogs, and shouldn’t do them any harm as long as they are fed it in moderation. So a few pieces as a treat will be perfectly fine.
There are some cheeses to avoid though, as they can cause illness. These are blue cheese (or any mouldy variety), and some flavoured cheeses.
When fed in moderation as a special treat, cheese can be quite good for your furry friend. It’s packed full of protein and calcium for a start, as well as essential fatty acids, vitamin A and some B vitamins.
Cheese can also make a great treat when training your dog. Our dogs all seem to love cheese and are willing to do almost anything to earn a morsel. This makes it a fantastic high value treat for them and should encourage them to work for it.
Cheese can also be really useful as a distraction from any medication your pup has to take. It is really easy to hide a pill in a small chunk of cheese, or even shape softer cheese around the tablet. Your dog will be so distracted by the tasty treat, they won’t even notice that you’ve snuck their medicine inside.
As with many treats, moderation is key.
If your dog starts displaying these symptoms, even if they have only eaten a small amount of cheese, don’t feed them any more and contact your vet as soon as possible.
As we mentioned previously, it’s not a universal rule that all dogs can eat cheese. This is because although a little cheese as a treat, or a small piece snuffled off the floor, likely won’t harm your dog, it’s not guaranteed.
Some varieties of cheese, and the amount that is eaten, can cause digestive upset even in a dog that normally can eat cheese. Additionally, some dogs can’t eat cheese due to individual sensitivities.
Whether your dog is okay to eat cheese will depend on these factors. That is the amount of cheese they eat, the type of cheese they eat, and most importantly, your dog’s individual dietary needs.
There are a few dogs who shouldn’t eat cheese. Primarily, any pooch with a dairy allergy should not eat cheese as it will cause an allergic reaction.
If your dog has any of the following, you should avoid feeding them cheese or exercise caution when feeding them.
Just like humans, a lot of dogs suffer from lactose intolerance. It is the most common food intolerance in canines. If your dog has lactose intolerance, it means that their body can’t properly digest dairy products. However, also quite like humans, the level of intolerance can vary. For example, some dogs won’t be able to have milk, but might be okay to eat some hard cheese that is naturally lower in lactose.
Meanwhile, an allergy is more serious. In this case, it affects the immune system which will cause an unwanted overreaction. The dog’s immune system mistakenly treats the dairy as a threatening substance and attacks it.
Meanwhile, specific conditions such as pancreatitis and obesity will affect what your dog can eat, and how much. This is particularly the case with cheese with a high-fat content, which we will discuss below.
Most cheeses are fine for dogs to eat, provided it is in moderation. However, there are some types to avoid feeding your pup.
One kind of cheese to avoid giving your dog is any variety of blue cheese. Regardless of whether your dog can digest cheese or not, or how much puppy-eyes you get, you shouldn’t feed them blue or mouldy types of cheese.
This is because the mould in blue cheeses produces a substance called Roquefortine C.
Roquefortine is a naturally occurring chemical and isn’t usually toxic in small amounts. So if your pup manages to steal a scrap off the floor, they should be okay.
However, dogs are known to be sensitive to this chemical. So if your dog eats a large chunk or is particularly sensitive, they could suffer bouts of fever, vomiting, and diarrhoea. In some extreme cases, or when eaten in large quantities, it can even prove toxic and cause seizures.
Therefore, it’s best to avoid blue cheese to avoid the associated risks and prevent any mishaps.
These sorts of cheese include cheddar, brie, and goat’s cheese. Blue cheese is also high in fat, but you shouldn’t be letting your dog eat that anyway!
In small pieces, this kind of cheese doesn’t pose a huge problem. However, the key here is that it be fed in moderation.
Generally, all cheese is quite high in fat. Increased fat content in a dog’s diet increases the risk of them developing pancreatitis. Cheese, especially these fatty varieties, are also not a good treat for dogs who are prone to weight gain.
If your dog ingests a lot of sodium (salt) in a short period of time, it can seriously dehydrate them. In the worst-case scenario, it can lead to sodium poisoning. That’s why it is important to make sure your pup only eats cheese in small amounts and always has access to fresh water.
That being said, some salt is vital in your dog’s diet to keep them healthy. Sodium is needed to balance electrolytes and helps to maintain their nerves and cells and ensure that they function correctly.
Other than blue cheese, these varieties pose the most risk for your dog. Some common ingredients meant to make the cheese tastier for humans can prove toxic for dogs. Common ingredients in cheese that are toxic to dogs are garlic, onions, chives, and other members of the onion family.
If you want to give your pup a cheesy reward, make sure to check the ingredients for any additives that may be harmful to your dog.
Just as there are some kinds of cheese that your pup shouldn’t eat, there are some kinds that are a better choice for your pooch to enjoy.
Most common cheese you will have in your house will be safe for your dog to eat. Mild, plain cheeses like cheddar and red Leicester, even a cheestring, are pup-ular with humans and dogs. They do have quite high-fat contents, so just be sure you aren’t overfeeding them. Otherwise, you can always opt for a low-fat variety.
Another great cheese for dogs to enjoy is cottage cheese, provided it is low in salt. It’s lower in fat than most cheese and is packed full of nutrients both people and pups require like protein, calcium, and B vitamins. Cottage cheese also has some probiotics, the good gut bacteria. This will help to balance your dogs gut flora and can help calm an unsettled stomach.
Many varieties of cheese you will have at home will be fine for your pup, such as mozzarella, plain cream cheese, and goat’s cheese. But as they are all high in fat, be sure you are only giving them to your dog infrequently and in small amounts.
Yes, dogs can eat cheese provided it is in moderation and doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients, like chives.
You can feed your dog most common household cheeses, such as:
Plain cream cheese
Low-fat cottage cheese
Just do NOT feed your dog:
Flavoured cheese (EG: Boursin)
As these cheeses contain ingredients that can cause illness in dogs.
And remember, if you’re eating your cheese as part of a cheeseboard, never feed your pooch the grapes, as they are toxic to dogs.
Although cheese is really tasty, it's not the healthiest. Instead, feed your dog a tasty meal that's complete and nutritionally balanced, such as Pure. Pure is bursting with both flavour and nutrition, keeping your dog fuller for longer, so it should hopefully stop your dog from trying to snaffle your cheese sandwich from the side!
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.