Updated September 24, 2019
Yogurt has been around for thousands of years and has always been thought of as a healthy food. But is it safe for pets? Yes! Yogurt is usually safe—and most likely healthy—for cats and dogs to eat. To learn why, follow along as Dr. Ernie Ward recounts a "true tail" from the veterinary clinic....
“Please tell me my kitty is not going to VOMIT OR SEIZURE OR…SOMETHING REALLY BAD!”
The voice on the phone couldn’t sound any more distraught.
“I think she only licked a little, but she’s SO TINY! Is she going to LIVE?”
By now you’re probably thinking the caller’s cat had drunk cyanide, gasoline or nerve gas. You’d be wrong.
“What flavor was the yogurt?” I calmly inquired.
Strange as it may sound, some pet parents take the whole “people food is bad for pets” thing a little too far. This was one of those times.
The benefits of yogurt for pets
Yogurt has been around for thousands of years and has always been thought of as a healthy food. The name originates from the Turkish term “yog” meaning “condense” or “intensify.” The Greeks and Romans correctly called it “oxygala” or “acid milk,” an important fact to remember when it comes to digestibility.
It’s no secret adult cats (and dogs) are largely lactose intolerant. This is why veterinarians don’t recommend offering your cat a bowl of milk unless you also want to clean the litterbox (or bedding) more frequently.
Yogurt is a product of the acidic fermentation of milk. The creation of yogurt begins with the breakdown of milk lactose into the sugars glucose and galactose. This acidic fermentation of milk leaves little lactose remaining in the finished product. That means cats, dogs, and even lactose-intolerant humans can digest yogurt without messy side effects.
The benefits of yogurt relatively high protein content (about 9 grams per 6-ounce serving), calcium, vitamins B2 and B12, and minerals potassium and magnesium. It’s yogurt’s friendly bacteria, or probiotics, that we typically associate with helping our digestion.
Probiotics and pets
The key to supplementing your diet with probiotics is dosage. In other words, you want to supply as many bacteria as possible in a single serving.
In general, a full 4.5 to 6-oz serving of yogurt provides at or around 1 billion CFUs (colony forming units). If you offer your cat one to two tablespoons, you’re offering a clinically-small dosage of friendly bacteria.
This is one of the reasons I encourage pet owners to investigate taking a recommended and reliable probiotic oral supplement; all of the bacteria without the additional calories.
If you’re looking for the maximum number of probiotics, I recommend supplementing with a concentrated oral form. Look for a veterinary formulation containing at least one billion CFU’s.
I advise nearly all adult dogs and cats I see to take a daily probiotic. They can help boost the immune system, reduce diarrhea (especially in conjunction with stress and antibiotics), and other potential health benefits.
Yogurt is usually safe and healthy for cats and dogs to eat - just check the nutrition label to make sure it doesn't contain a dangerous ingredient like xylitol. I share my morning yogurt-infused veggie smoothie with my feline and canine companions. They love it!
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