Say cheese! While there may not be anything better than gooey calorie gold dripping off of a slice of pizza or a bite of nachos, is it recommended to share this delicacy with your dog?
Is cheese safe for dogs?
YES! In most cases, it’s perfectly safe to share cheese with your dog.
There are as many varieties of cheese as there are breeds of dogs, and all of them are safe to feed. Even the moldy varieties, like blue cheese. This is not to say that you can feed your dog whatever you forgot about at the back of the refrigerator; if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t feed it to your dog. Some of the molds that can grow on cheese are toxic, producing tremors (or worse) in those who eat it. So if your food is growing something it shouldn’t be, throw it away!
The 10 percent rule
The same 10% rule that I apply to all other snacks or treats applies to cheese. This means that no more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake should come from unbalanced sources (i.e. anything that isn’t your dog’s food). Cheese packs a pretty caloric punch—one serving (or one ounce) contains about 100 calories. Depending on your dog’s size, just a little bit could send her over her treat limit.
Read before you feed!
Cheese is high in fat, so if you have a breed that is prone to pancreatitis, you may want to think twice before using it as a treat. If your dog has suffered from pancreatitis, don’t chance it—find a snack that is lower in fat for him.
Giving cheese with a certain class of antibiotics called tetracyclines is not advisable as they can lower the bioavailability of these medications. Doxycycline is a commonly used tetracycline—it’s used in dogs with Lyme disease. If your dog is on a tetracycline drug, it doesn’t mean she has to skip cheese altogether. Just don’t give her meds with/in it.
Aged cheeses are high in tyramine, which may inhibit monoamine oxidase (MAO). MAO is an enzyme needed for the breakdown of many neurotransmitters (like serotonin and dopamine). If your pet is on a medication that also inhibits MAO (known as an MAOI), she may end up with too much of these neurotransmitters in her bloodstream because they aren’t being broken down. Check with your veterinarian or pharmacist if you’re not sure about your pet’s medication.
Some pets are less tolerant to lactose than others. If your dog has never had cheese before, start slow. Feed a small amount first to see how she does with it. If dairy doesn’t jive with her system, you’ll know within 24 hours.
I find that cheese makes a perfect tiny treat for rewarding desired behaviors during training sessions. It’s highly palatable and also very portable. Cut a block into small (pea-sized) cubes and toss them into a reusable container or grab a string cheese and you’re ready to go! Rewarding good behavior is the best way to train your pup, and a love of lactose makes it easy cheesy!
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