Can Dogs Eat Cheese?

Victoria Lynn Arnold

Victoria Lynn Arnold

. Reviewed by Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP
Updated Jun. 29, 2023
pug staring longingly at a piece of cheese

NOTE: Always check with your veterinarian before giving your dog any new foods, especially “people foods.” What might be okay for one dog might not be good for yours, depending on multiple factors such as their age, health history, health conditions, and diet. Dogs on prescription diets should not be fed any food or treats outside their diet.

Have you ever seen someone use cheese as a treat or training tool for a dog? Don’t worry—cheese is not toxic and is completely fine for most pups. However, some dogs can be lactose intolerant, meaning their body does not react well to dairy products. 

But even if your dog isn’t lactose intolerant, it’s still a good idea to keep their cheese consumption to a minimum. Here’s everything you need to know if you let your dog eat cheese. 

Is Cheese Bad for Dogs?

Again, cheese isn’t toxic to dogs, and for some pups it’s completely fine. But dogs can be lactose-intolerant, causing flatulence, discomfort, diarrhea, or vomiting. So if you’re giving cheese or any other dairy product, including milk, to your dog for the first time, give them a small amount to see how their body reacts.  

In addition to concerns with lactose intolerance, cheese has high amounts of saturated fats and salt. Eating a treat like this repeatedly over an extended time can cause health issues for your dog, such as obesity. Some dogs can even develop pancreatitis the first time they eat cheese if they’re sensitive to fat. 

Puppies generally have more sensitive stomachs than adult dogs. So even small amounts of cheese can trigger vomiting and diarrhea in younger dogs.

The type of cheese also plays a big role in whether cheese is OK for dogs. In general, pet parents should choose a cheese that’s low in fat, sodium, and calories, and always pay attention to any added ingredients that can be dangerous to Fido.

Better-for-Dogs Cheeses

  • Cottage cheese

  • Swiss 

  • Parmesan

  • Cheddar

  • Mozzarella

OK Cheeses

  • Ricotta

  • Gouda

  • American

Not-So-Great Cheeses

  • Feta

  • Brie

  • Provolone

  • Blue cheese

  • Goat cheese

  • Cream cheese

  • Any cheese with herbs or spices

Can Dogs Eat Cottage Cheese?

Cottage cheese is one of the better cheeses to feed your pup because of its low-fat content, its low calorie content, and a lactose content that’s lower than many other cheeses. It’s also a great source of calcium and protein. And if you buy a low-fat, no-added-sodium cottage cheese, it usually only has about 29 mg of sodium per cup—which is much lower than most other cheeses. 

Can Dogs Eat Cream Cheese? 

Cream cheese has a pretty low lactose content, which is helpful for dogs with lactose intolerances or sensitivities. It also has a lower sodium content than other cheeses. But it’s still high in fat and often contains certain additives that are toxic to dogs, like chocolate, nutmeg, xylitol, garlic, and onion. Overall, it’s best to avoid feeding your dog fatty cream cheese.

Can Dogs Eat Mac and Cheese?

In addition to the potential for lactose intolerance, feeding your dog mac and cheese isn’t a healthy choice because of the high fat content, very high sodium content, all the preservatives, and the fact that boxed mac and cheese is highly processed. And while plain pasta fed occasionally in small amounts is OK for your dog, too much may upset their stomach. 

Plus, whether you’re making it from a box or from scratch, there are often other toxic ingredients in mac and cheese—like garlic and onion.

Can Dogs Eat String Cheese?

String cheeses are typically lower in lactose and sodium than other forms of cheese—but this depends on the type of string cheese and brand that you purchase. In fact, skim mozzarella string cheese has one of the lowest amounts of lactose found in cheese. However, the stringiness of the string cheese can be difficult for your pup to swallow, and it can become a choking hazard or cause an intestinal blockage.

Can Dogs Eat Cheese Puffs or Cheese Balls?

Although eating just a couple of cheese puffs or cheese balls isn’t toxic for your dog, it’s not healthy either. These types of foods are filled with lactose, preservatives, fat, and lots of sodium.

How to Safely Feed Cheese to Your Dog 

It’s always a good idea to discuss your dog’s diet and nutrition with your veterinarian. Certain foods may be better or worse for your dog, depending on their individual health, weight, and whether they are lactose intolerant. 

If you choose to use cheese as a special treat for training purposes, or to hide your dog’s pills, keep the portions small and infrequent. Treats of any kind should only make up 10% of your dog’s diet. The other 90% should come from a well-balanced dog food. And remember: Always choose a low-fat, low-sodium, and preferably low-lactose cheese.

The amount of cheese a dog can typically handle is based on their size. Check out the general portion sizes for each breed size listed below. 

Featured Image: iStock/Maryviolet

Victoria Lynn Arnold


Victoria Lynn Arnold

Freelance Writer

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