Can My Puppy Eat Cheese?

There’s no denying that one of your main responsibilities as a puppy parent is to provide your puppy with healthy, nutritious food, snacks, and treats. Just like a human baby, puppies grow quickly and need a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to do that and become healthy adult dogs.

The good news is that, at your local big-box pet store, you’ll find a huge variety of puppy foods, as well as snacks and treats, to choose from. The not-so-good news is there are so many brands of puppy food it might be hard to determine which is truly the best. (If you’re worried or frustrated by all the choices, please see my other blog on what to look for in puppy food.)

When it comes to snacks and treats for your puppy, many people skip the pet store and simply give their puppy something right out of their fridge. Depending on what that food happens to be, it might be a great choice. Conversely, it could not be so good for your growing puppy.  For example, carrots are a healthy snack, but carrots cooked in butter and loaded with salt are not.

There is one snack that many people like to give to their puppies, and most puppies will gladly chow down in an instant, and that’s cheese. I was thinking about this the other day as I gave one of my dogs a piece of Swiss cheese, her favorite. It reminded me of a question I regularly get from readers like yourself: Can my puppy eat cheese?

The answer is that, yes, your puppy can eat cheese, and, in fact, it’s a healthy, nutritious snack in moderation. Indeed, millions of people have used tiny chunks of cheese when training their puppies as puppies love the taste. 

All of that being said, the fact is that puppies and dogs don’t have the enzymes necessary to break down dairy products like cheese, cow milk, butter, and so forth. That’s why it’s imperative you limit the amount of cheese you feed your puppy.  Too much cheese can cause them gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, and intestinal blockages in severe cases of overfeeding with cheese.

Now that you know that, yes, in moderation, you can give your puppy cheese, I’m sure you have other questions about this delicious dairy product (and puppy training treat). For example, when can you start giving your puppy cheese, what kind of cheese can your puppy eat, and how much of it can they eat? 

I have the answers to all of those questions, and several more, below. Read on if you’re curious about when, where, and how to feed your puppy cheese.

When Can I Start Giving my Puppy Cheese? 

Puppy experts and veterinarians agree that, for most pups, you can start giving them cheese at about eight weeks of age. However, keep in mind that all puppies are different, and some will be able to handle cheese better at eight weeks than others. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t give your puppy cheese until after being weaned off of their mother’s milk. If you‘ve adopted them and brought them home by themself, that has (hopefully) already happened. 

What Kinds of Cheese Can Puppies Eat? 

If dogs and cheese have anything in common, it’s that there is a wide variety of both. In fact, there might be more different kinds of cheese than different breeds of dogs. 

Whatever the numbers might be, certain cheeses are definitely better for your puppy than others. That’s because different cheeses have different levels of fat and lactose, which are both problematic for puppies to digest. Below is a list of different cheeses that should and shouldn’t be given to your puppy.

The Good Types of Cheese to Give a Puppy

  • Swiss cheese. This type of cheese is low in lactose, making it easier for your puppy to digest (and producing less gas). Swiss cheese is also very easy to cut into tiny chunks so that you can use it as a training treat.
  • Mozzarella. This cheese, like Swiss, is lower in lactose and fat and can also be cut into tiny chunks for training.
  • Cottage, Ricotta, and Cream cheese. While it’s incredibly difficult to cut these cheeses into chunks, you can certainly give them to your puppy in a teaspoon. They’re all low in fat, also.
  • Cheddar cheese has lower salt levels and is also easy to cut into tiny pieces when you’re training your puppy.

The Bad Types of Cheese you Shouldn’t Give to a Puppy

  • Goat cheese, Brie cheese, and Feta cheese. All three of these cheeses have very high levels of saturated fat, which can be incredibly unhealthy for your puppy and lead to a life-threatening condition called pancreatitis.
  • All types of blue cheese, including Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and basic blue. The problem with these types of cheese is that they produce a toxin called roquefortine which, unfortunately, can be lethal to your puppy in high enough doses.
  • Any cheese with flavors or other ingredients. For example, garlic cheese, herb cheese, or cheese with raisins.  The problem with these types of cheese is that, for starters, garlic and raisins are incredibly toxic for puppies and dogs.  Also, most flavored cheese is extremely high in salt and fat.

Can Dogs Eat Processed Cheese?

Here’s the thing; you can give your puppy any cheese you like, and nobody’s going to stop you. However, if you care about your puppy, as most puppy parents do, giving them the right types of cheese is critical.

One of the types of cheese that is not right is processed cheese or “cheese food,” as it’s called in the food industry. Yellow and white American cheese, for example, is probably the worst thing you can give a growing puppy. They’re loaded with chemical additives, coloring, and enough sodium to kill a horse, let alone a small puppy.

Most dog experts and veterinarians agree that, unless it’s a completely natural cheese made the natural way, you shouldn’t give it to your puppy. (And if you give your puppy Velveeta, I will personally come to your home and browbeat you into submission.)

How Much Cheese can a Puppy Eat? 

I talked about different types of puppy snacks in some of my other blogs, and, like those, you should give them cheese in moderation. Those blogs also discuss the 90 / 10 rule, which says that 90% of your puppy’s food should come from their high-quality puppy chow. 

That leaves 10% that can come from cheese and other snacks. Keep in mind that if you give your dog other treats, all of them together should equal 10%.

What are the Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Puppies? 

I mentioned earlier that dogs have less of the enzyme necessary to digest lactose. That’s why it’s best only to give them cheese in moderation so that you don’t upset their tummy or cause other, more serious health problems.  If you decide to give your puppy cheese, one thing to look for is signs of lactose intolerance and milk allergies. The most serious symptoms of both include:

  • Much higher amounts of gas than normal.
  • A loss or lack of appetite.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Abdominal bloating.
  • Excessive scratching around their ears and licking of their paws.
  • Swelling of your puppy’s face and breathing difficulties.
  • Redness on their skin, especially their belly. 

Final Thoughts 

There’s no denying that cheese is an incredibly popular snack for humans and dogs. Can your puppy eat cheese? Yes, they certainly can, but certain cheeses are much better for them than others. Remember that, just like in humans, too much cheese can cause a host of health problems for your puppy. 

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog about puppies and cheese and that it answered all of your most pressing questions. If you have more or would like to learn more about how to raise a healthy and happy puppy, please see my other blogs on the subject. They’re loaded with real-world information to help you be a better puppy parent.