“Will cheese make my dog sick” is not really a yes or no sort of question, as there are a lot of different elements to this and a lot of different types of cheese!
We all know immediately what “cheese” is, but this is also a huge catch-all name that encompasses a wide range of different headers; there’s cheese from cows (which is what most of us think of when we say cheese) and also goat and sheep cheese, as well as plant based cheeses and various other less common variants as well.
Even when we refer to cheese from cows, there are hundreds of different types of this, each being somewhat different from the others.
But for the purpose of this article, unless otherwise specified, when we say “cheese” we’ll be referring to dairy cheese of any form, as made from cow’s milk. Read on to find out if dogs can eat cheese, and whether or not it is safe or wise to give a dog cheese.
In terms of dairy cheese made from cows milk, cheese itself is not toxic to dogs. However, cheese that has other ingredients added to it could potentially be. Chives, onion, and other plants from this family are sometimes used in cheese (often but not exclusively soft cheese spread) and this makes them toxic to dogs.
Raisins might be in cheese of some types too; as well as a wide range of other things, each of which will potentially make a cheese that would otherwise not be toxic per se be a danger to your dog’s health.
Dairy cheese is not, on balance, really something that can be referred to as a healthy food for dogs. While there is a lot of protein, calcium, and other great stuff in cheese, it also contains a lot of fat too. Cheese is not a food that dogs would eat in the wild or in nature (as cheese is a processed food for starters) and it is not something that is good for them.
The amount of fat in cheese makes it unhealthy for dogs, and there is nothing in cheese that a dog needs that cannot be provided for them in another healthier form, without all of the added calories.
Another important thing to mention here is that dairy cheese contains lactose; and dogs are actually lactose intolerant. This applies to all dogs, and is because dogs simply did not evolve with cow’s milk and milk products in their diets, and so their bodies are not designed to process it.
Different dogs have different tolerances for lactose; some dogs might be given cubes of cheese as a regular treat (and some people use these as a training treat, being as they can be cut up small and are very tasty) and display little to no obvious problems.
For some other dogs though, only a small amount of cheese could have quite an scute effect on them, and make them rather regretful of what they ate!
Yes, cheese can potentially upset your dog’s stomach for the reasons mentioned above; a food that is high in fat can lead to diarrhoea in a dog, particularly if they’re not used to eating it, but the presence of lactose in the cheese is the greater threat.
Lactose intolerance in dogs can cause quite an acute stomach upset for some, which may include painful bloating as well as diarrhoea, and potentially vomiting.
This largely depends on what such cheese is made of, and this can be variable. Some of the most common dairy substitutes that vegan cheese is made from are common allergens for dogs, like soya; and non-dairy cheese (including vegetable cheeses and also other animal cheeses like those made from sheep or goat’s milk) are all still quite high fat and high in calories nonetheless.
While there are always exceptions, most dogs do enjoy cheese; it is often strongly scented and flavoured, and has the sort of taste profile and mouthfeel that dogs respond well too. A lot of dogs tend to like and be willing to eat most foods, but even so, cheese is something most dogs actively enjoy.
For this reason, as mentioned, it is something that some people use as a training treat, as it can be a high-value reward and so, a good motivator. However, because it contains lactose and is also very rich and high in fat, it should not really be used as such, as more appropriate, low-calorie treats are a better match.
As long as there’s not a specific toxic ingredient or allergen in the cheese in question, the worst thing that is likely to happen if your dog eats cheese is that they might get an upset stomach, and this isn’t something that will happen to all dogs.
However, it is not a great treat for dogs for all of the reasons mentioned, and giving your dog a lot of cheese on a regular basis will certainly lead to weight gain.
A small piece of cheese now and again, or if your dog ate a piece of cheese you accidentally dropped, should not cause a problem though!