Why can’t dogs have cheese?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

Dogs cannot have cheese because they lack the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. Without enough lactase, dogs are unable to properly digest lactose, leading to digestive upset such as diarrhea, gas, and bloating. This is why it is generally not recommended to give dogs cheese as part of their regular meal plan or as a frequent treat.

The lack of lactase in dogs is a natural adaptation that has developed over time. While puppies do produce lactase to digest their mother’s milk, this enzyme production decreases as they grow older. In fact, most mammals, including humans, experience a decrease in lactase production after weaning. This is because milk is essential for newborns, but as they mature and start consuming solid foods, their bodies no longer require lactase in high amounts.

It’s important to note that lactose intolerance is different from a milk allergy. While lactose intolerance is a digestive issue due to the inability to break down lactose, a milk allergy is an immune response to the proteins found in milk. Some dogs may be allergic to milk proteins, which can cause symptoms such as itching, hives, or even anaphylaxis. In such cases, it is best to avoid all dairy products, including cheese, to prevent allergic reactions.

While some dogs may tolerate small amounts of cheese without any noticeable symptoms, it is still not recommended to make it a regular part of their diet. The occasional small piece of cheese as a treat may be fine for some dogs, but it is important to be mindful of portion sizes and monitor for any signs of digestive upset.

Additionally, not all types of cheese are equal when it comes to lactose content. Hard and aged cheeses generally contain lower levels of lactose compared to soft and fresh cheeses. However, even in low-lactose options, there may still be enough lactose present to cause issues in lactose-intolerant dogs. It is always best to err on the side of caution and avoid giving cheese to dogs altogether.

Dogs should not have cheese due to their lack of lactase, which makes them unable to properly digest lactose. While some dogs may tolerate small amounts of cheese without any problems, it is not recommended to include it as a regular part of their diet. It is always important to consult with a veterinarian before introducing any new foods to your dog’s diet to ensure their health and well-being.