One of the most common questions asked of veterinary professionals and canine nutritionists is “can my dog eat…” with a variety of different options filling the gap! Cheese is one of the foodstuffs that come up time and again as part of this question, and the answer is never as simple as just yes or no! Cheese is not in itself toxic to dogs, however, some dogs are sensitive to lactose-based products and so for them, cheese can potentially lead to stomach upsets; added to this, cheese is also high in fat, and so, can contribute to your dog gaining weight.
This can, in some cases, be helpful if you are trying to put a few extra pounds on your dog, but before you break out the brie, there are a few factors that you should take into account when it comes to giving cheese to your dog. Read on to learn more.
Some high-profile dog trainers advocate using cubes of cheese as a high-value reward as part of training, and gain a significant amount of success from using cheese as a treat in this way.
A high-value reward when it comes to training is something that your dog is very keen to get and will work hard for, and that should be given sparingly in order to retain the value of the reward; if your dog is given cheese often, or in high quantities, it will lose its inherent value to your dog, as it becomes too commonplace!
If your dog is very keen on cheese-and some dogs are, particularly dogs that can and will eat most things, like the food-motivated Labrador retriever-you might want to use small cubes of cheese as a high-value reward when it comes to getting your dog’s attention, or teaching them new skills.
Not all dogs are hugely enthusiastic about cheese, but a lot of them are! If your dog responds well to cheese as a reward, this can be helpful as it gives you an extra option in terms of desirable treats that you can offer, which can be particularly handy when working on challenging skills like recall, if few other things will gain your dog’s attention!
Cheese is high in both fat and protein, and so if your dog needs extra protein in their diet or needs to put on a little weight, factoring a small amount of cheese into their diet can help with these things. Cheese is quite an easy product to work with when it comes to fitting it into a set diet, because it comes in blocks that can easily be cut up and that you can calculate the calorie count for accordingly.
For dogs that need to gain a little weight, decide on a daily portion of cheese and then cut this into cubes to give as treats, or grate it to sprinkle over your dog’s food.
It is important that you do not use cheese in place of your dog’s main meals or as a large portion of them; it should be considered as an added garnish or bonus that can boost their calorie intake, but not as an integral part of a complete diet.
Cheese can also be helpful for older dogs who may lose interest in their normal meals, as both the smell and taste of cheese is strong and distinctive, and can help to encourage e reluctant dog to eat. Also, cheese is high in calcium, which can help to keep your dog’s bones strong.
If your dog is already overweight or is prone to putting on weight quickly, cheese is possibly not the best choice of treat. Cheese has a high fat content, which adds to your dog’s calorie intake, and this is of course not appropriate for all dogs. You can choose lower fat cheeses in the place of full fat offerings, but generally, dogs that are overweight should not be given cheese.
Also, some dogs are lactose intolerant, which means that they are sensitive to dairy products, and cheese may make them ill. If your dog gets sickness or diarrhoea after eating cheese, they may have some level of lactose intolerance, or are being given too much cheese.
If you know or suspect that this is the case for your dog, steer clear!
Cheddar is a good, safe bet for giving to dogs as a treat, and cheddar of course comes in many forms, from mild to very strong. Some dogs will be much keener on the stronger cheddar variants, but remember that these tend to be the fattiest ones, which contain the most calories too.
Never feed a cheese that has added ingredients, such as garlic or onion-both of these products are toxic to dogs, so check carefully before you give any sort of cheese to your dog.
Soft, high fat cheeses like brie and camembert should also be avoided, as they tend to be very rich, and may upset your dog’s stomach.
If you do wish to integrate cheese into your dog’s diet, either as a treat or to help them to gain weight, you should factor this into their daily food intake and monitor how much they are fed, rather than free-feeding and giving your dog as much cheese as they want!
Assuming that your dog is not sensitive to dairy products, cheese can be an excellent high value reward or added source of calories, but it should never take the place of part of your dog’s proper meals, nor be fed to excess.