Can Cats and Dogs Eat Cheese?

Written by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
safe for pets
Dog with Cheese

Story at-a-glance -

  • It is okay to give dogs small amounts of cheese, as it contains nutrients like protein and calcium
  • If you plan on feeding cheese to dogs, stay away from varieties with onions or chives because these foods aren’t suitable for pets
  • Cats should be given very minimal amounts of cheese, because they don’t tolerate lactose found in this popular food item very well
  • Dogs and cats with a severe lactose intolerance or dairy allergy may experience adverse reactions despite being fed very small amounts of cheese

You may have wondered if cheese is OK for dogs or cats to eat. The good news is that cheese is generally well-received by most pets — as long as you stick to the healthy options, and that they are given in the right proportions. This article will show you how to feed cheese to your pets, the ideal cheese varieties that do not trigger side effects and why moderation is key when providing this type of food.

Are dogs allowed to eat cheese?

It is OK to give dogs minimal quantities of cheese as treats, as it contains nutrients like protein and calcium, essential fatty acids, and vitamin A and B complex vitamins. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), trainers typically use cheese as treats, while some people use cheese to hide pills or medicines so dogs can take them without issues.1

When feeding cheese to dogs, be aware that some varieties aren’t suitable for them, particularly those made with onions or chives.2 It’s highly ideal to talk to your veterinarian to learn if your dog can eat cheese and, if you’re given the go-signal, the ideal amount suitable for their health status.

Always buy grass fed cheese from a farmer in your area or a farmers’ market or co-op because it contains more nutrients than processed cheese sold at groceries or supermarkets. Highly processed cheese (shelf-stable varieties) aren’t healthy for pets.

Is cheese bad for dogs?

You can give dogs small amounts of cheese that contain little amounts of fat.3 Cheese should be viewed as a treat and not a way to provide balanced nutrition to your pets. As mentioned, opt for plain cheeses, since some products may have added ingredients like onions and chives that can be very toxic to dogs.4

Other types of cheeses are high in fat, and dogs who eat them excessively or frequently may experience vomiting,5 weight gain and obesity, especially if they’re already overweight. It’s also possible that they may develop an increased risk for pancreatitis,6 or an inflamed pancreas.7

It would also be best to completely avoid giving your dogs cheese if they have a severe lactose intolerance or dairy allergy, or are struggling with the following health issues:8

  • Kidney problems — Most cheese contains high amounts of salt that may be detrimental for dogs with progressed kidney disease.
  • Gastrointestinal problems — Too much cheese may cause sickness, constipation or diarrhea.

Can dogs eat cottage cheese?

Dogs can have plain organic cottage cheese as a treat because it contains few amounts of fat and sodium. If this treat is fed regularly, lower fat options may help lessen your dog’s risk for obesity.

However, don’t forget to ask your veterinarian about the ideal amount of cottage cheese you should be giving to your dogs, since excessive intake may put your pets at risk of side effects. Generally speaking, ALL treats should constitute less than 10% of your pet’s overall calorie intake.

Can I give my dog other types of cheese?

Dogs can have plain organic cottage cheese as a treat because it contains few amounts of fat and sodium. If this treat is fed regularly, lower fat options may help lessen your dog’s risk for obesity.

However, don’t forget to ask your veterinarian about the ideal amount of cottage cheese you should be giving to your dogs, since excessive intake may put your pets at risk of side effects. Generally speaking, ALL treats should constitute less than 10% of your pet’s overall calorie intake.

  • Mozzarella cheese and soft goat cheese — Dogs may eat mozzarella or soft goat cheese because of their low fat content.9
  • Cream cheese — Cream cheese is safe for dogs, but because it contains some lactose, pets who are lactose intolerant may experience digestive problems.10 There are cheese varieties high in fat too that may cause weight gain in dogs over time.11
  • Shelf Stable American cheese — This cheese isn’t healthy for consumption at all since it’s pasteurized and heavily processed.12 American cheese is also likely to contain artificial ingredients like sodium citrate, calcium phosphate and natamycin13 that your dog shouldn’t ingest.
  • Cheddar cheese — This is usually made with very large amounts of cow’s milk,14 so it may not be a good choice for lactose-intolerant dogs.15 Cheddar cheese tends to be heavily processed too, and is often made with artificial ingredients that can negatively impact your pet’s well-being.16
  • Blue cheese — Dogs cannot eat any type of blue cheese. If you have blue cheese at home, keep it in an area your dog cannot reach. According to U.K.-based charity Blue Cross, a substance called roquefortine C is produced by a fungus utilized during blue cheese production.

Dogs may be sensitive to roquefortine C and may experience high temperatures, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures if they’re exposed to it. Once your dog experiences these side effects, seek medical attention immediately.17

No matter what type of cheese you add to your dog’s diet, be on the lookout for side effects, which may cause other health problems. Once you notice indicators of adverse reactions in your dogs, stop giving them cheese and consult your veterinarian immediately to address the problem.

Can cats eat cheese?

If you have cheese made from grass fed cow’s milk, veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber suggests giving your cats very small portions of it either as a treat or as a way to hide their medicine. Just make sure to discuss these cheese-feeding techniques with your veterinarian before giving some to your cats.18

Ideally, cats shouldn’t eat cheese excessively, since it’s not an essential part of their nutritionally dense and species-appropriate diet. Many cats have a sensitivity to lactose found in cow’s milk. Cats find it difficult to digest lactose, and when they eat high amounts of lactose-containing cheese, they can experience gas, diarrhea or vomiting.19

Practice moderation when feeding pets cheese

While feeding cheese in small amounts may deliver nutrients or help hide medicines your pets don't like, excessive consumption can cause side effects and reduce quality of life. Most cheeses sold in stores nowadays are loaded with high amounts of lactose, artificial ingredients and additives that can be a precursor for health problems.

If you wish to learn how you can feed your pets cheese without increasing their risk for side effects and know more about other foods that can increase their well-being, check out my e-book “Homemade Treats for Healthy Pets.” You can also consult your veterinarian to know more about the most ideal foods you should be giving your pets to ensure they get the adequate amounts of nutrients needed for them to grow and thrive.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about feeding dogs and cats cheese

Q: Should dogs eat cheese?

A: Cheese can be a safe treat, but in small quantities.20 Some types of cheese you can give dogs are cottage cheese, mozzarella or soft goat cheese and low-fat cream cheese, all of which contain little amounts of fat.21

Q: What happens when a dog eats cheese excessively?

A: Dogs that eat large amounts of cheese may experience vomiting, weight gain, increased obesity and pancreatitis risk, and allergic reactions.22

Q: Can dogs eat macaroni and cheese?

A: No. Macaroni and cheese is a carbohydrate-rich food, and dogs don’t have a carb requirement.23 If you feed macaroni and cheese to your dogs frequently, you may be providing them with a food item that lacks nutrients and at the same time increases their risk for health problems like obesity, arthritis and Type 2 diabetes. The cheese used to make this dish may also be high in fat, and cause side effects and other adverse reactions.

Q: Is cheese OK for cats?

A: Cheese is generally safe for cats, but only when it’s made from grass fed milk and given in small amounts as a treat or as a way to conceal medicines. However, avoid feeding your cats high amounts of cheese, since this may put them at risk of side effects like gas and diarrhea because of the quantities of lactose in this popular food item.24

Q: Can cats eat cream cheese?

A: Err on the side of caution and avoid giving your cats cream cheese. This popular cheese is usually made with cream, or a combination of milk and cream,25 and contains some amounts of lactose26 that may trigger gas, diarrhea and other related side effects in your cats.27