Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
Are you considering offering cheese as a treat for your dog, but are unsure if it is the best choice for their health?
In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of feeding cheese and other dairy products to your furry friend, and provide you with additional information to help you make an informed decision about what to feed your pet dog.
Are Puppies Lactose Intolerant?
The main reason that vets will NOT advise you to feed your pup cheese or other dairy products regularly (such as cream or milk) is because they become lactose intolerant once weaned.
According to a recent article published in JSAP, the lactase activity in puppies naturally decreases after weaning, and this is the cause of them becoming lactose intolerant. As a result, these pups can suffer from diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, and bloating if fed too much dairy after being weaned from their mother at eight weeks of age.
Despite this, it is thought that dogs can tolerate up to about 2g/kg of lactose. However, the “trigger amount” will vary from pup to pup, and some dogs may develop a stomach upset at smaller amounts than this.
Although most puppies will tolerate cheese, veterinarians often advise against giving it to them. As puppies are weaned off their mother’s milk, their bodies become less tolerant of lactose.
What Happens If My Puppy Eats Cheese?
Cheese contains lactose and can cause a stomach upset if given in large enough amounts. While a small square is unlikely to bother a German Shepherd, it could be a different story for a Chihuahua.
Some cheeses are more tolerated than others. Cottage cheese, for example, tends to be more accepted than a melted brie or strong cheddar. This is because cottage cheese is much lower in fat and sodium than other cheeses. Indeed, some vets will advise feeding cottage cheese as part of a low protein diet, for example, for those dogs suffering from liver disease.
If your dog has munched on some cheese and becomes poorly, signs can develop the same day or the next day and may last for several days.
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Symptoms That Might Happen After a Puppy Eats Cheese
Signs that may develop can occur due to the Cheese’s lactose content and the high fat and sodium content. Fatty foods can trigger significant reactions like pancreatitis. In addition, certain breeds are more prone to pancreatitis, including the Miniature Schnauzer and Miniature Poodle.
Symptoms that can occur after eating Cheese can include:
- Flatulence (farting)
- A bloated abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- A reduced appetite
- Acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas, which can be life-threatening in the most severe cases)
Though it is true some dogs will remain symptom-free, your pup may be one of the unluckier few who feels under the weather after going to town on the Stilton.
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What To Do If Your Puppy Has Eaten Cheese
First of all, don’t panic. Cheese is not a toxin. Therefore, we don’t need to rush our puppy to the emergency room to induce vomiting or have their stomach pumped. However, if they have eaten Cheese, it is important to watch them closely for a day or two. Keep an eye out in case they develop any signs of a gastrointestinal upset. They are more likely to become unwell if they are small and/or have eaten a large amount of Cheese.
Monitor their energy levels and appetite, and contact your vet if they become unwell.
It is sensible to offer bland food for 24 hours to rest their gut. This may mean a prescription diet such as Hills I/D wet food, or perhaps a day of feeding chicken and rice little and often. Be sure they also have access to fresh water at all times. Hold back on giving any treats, chews, or dental sticks which may prove a little rich for them to tolerate.
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Should You Seek Help From a Vet?
If your puppy has eaten Cheese and is unwell, the vet will be able to help them. First, they will examine them, assessing their hydration levels and checking their abdomen for any discomfort. Then, they may run some basic tests such as a blood test and abdominal scan to determine if the pancreas is inflamed.
Puppies who are vomiting and dehydrated may require hospitalization and therapy such as intravenous fluids, antacids, and anti-nausea medicine. In addition, your vet will advise a low-fat diet, and your dog will need to rest as they recover.
If your dog seems to be sensitive to Cheese, it is essential to keep it out of their diet going forward.
Are There Alternatives To Cheese?
This is a great question! Most owners give their pups Cheese because they want to reward them or give them something special. However, Cheese is usually not the best choice, so having a backup option that your puppy appreciates just as much is a good idea.
Tasty alternatives that will be just as appreciated include:
- Boiled chicken or turkey meat
- A carrot stick (pups love the crunch, and its good for their teeth)
- A lean piece of beef
- Apple slices
- Peanut butter smeared on a lick mat or put inside a Kong.
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Can Puppies Eat Cheese Once They Are Older?
Even older dogs should stay away from Cheese. Lactose intolerance sets in from about 8 weeks and is a lifelong condition. This means that we shouldn’t really be feeding our dogs dairy (including Cheese) for the duration of their lives.
If your dog tolerates a small amount of Cheese and they really enjoy it, it may be offered in moderation. It is useful as a high-value reward when training or as a helpful place to hide tablets such as wormers or antibiotics!
Other Foods Your Puppy Should Avoid
Unfortunately, the answer to this is: Yes! Puppies are more sensitive than many realize, and certain foods can make them quite unwell. Most do best when kept to a bland diet of puppy food and a few treats like lean meat, vegetables, and fruits.
Stay away from the following toxic foods, which may make your puppy very ill:
- Grapes, raisins, and sultanas are highly toxic and can cause acute kidney disease, even in small amounts.
- Chocolate is a definite no-no. The theobromine within the chocolate can lead to symptoms including vomiting, irregular heartbeats, and even seizures. Dark chocolate is the most toxic as it contains the most theobromine.
- Any foods containing ‘Xylitol.’ Xylitol is a sweetener present in some confectionery and chewing gum and is poisonous to dogs.
- Onions and garlic. Any food in the ‘allium’ category is dangerous and can cause complications, including anemia.
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To Cheese or Not To Cheese?
While it is tempting to offer our pups a bite of our mozzarella pizza or to reward them with a cheese stick, it is best to stay away from dairy where possible. Some pups won’t suffer any repercussions, but others may become quite unwell. Due to this, we advise sticking to safer food alternatives or rewarding your pup with a fun game or toy.