Having a dog in your family is like having a live-in therapist without the consultation fees, and that too round the clock!! However, it does come with its own set of challenges. Taking care of their dietary needs can probably be placed in the top slots of the list.
This is partly because, as any veterinary doctor will advise you, the intake of human food in the dog diet should be confined to 10 percent maximum. And that 10 percent slot again cannot be randomly filled with whatever you might be happening to serve on the dinner table on a particular night.
This is primarily because the physiology of our canine friends is slightly different from ours. And what you may assume to be healthy may actually turn out to be toxic to their system.
Take, for example, cheese. We, as humans, have been witness to many tales about the bountiful nutrition present in cheese.
However, the more pertinent question will be whether dogs should eat cheese? This has to be followed up by curiosity on the kind of cheese that should be offered as well as the quantity of the treat.
Find out if your dog can tolerate cheese
Sorry to break the bad news to you, but dogs have even higher chances of being lactose intolerant than us humans. Why you may ask? It is because they naturally produce less lactase in their bodies, an enzyme that breaks down lactose sugar that they may consume in their diet.
So the odds are against your dog being lactose tolerant. And if that is the case, it is best that you box up the cheese and send it back to the supermarket you got it from…or have it yourself.
Puppies still have a shot at the cheese
However, even this cloud has a silver lining. The thing is, puppies produce lactase during their weaning stage to digest the milk they receive from their mothers.
However, as they age, the lactase level decreases. But till then, puppies have a relative tolerance to lactose and by extension to cheese, which is a dietary product.
Nutritional Value of cheese
Cheese in the diet can provide your canine friend with adequate amount of calcium and proteins, not to mention Vitamin K and B complexes
However, on the flip side, it does contain a lot of fat and can lead to weight gain among dogs.
In dogs, it is also known to cause pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreas is the organ that helps regulate sugar as well as release enzymes which help in digestion. It has proved to be life-threatening for dogs in multiple cases.
Healthier options and alternatives in cheese
Mozzarella and cottage cheese are healthier options among cheese. Cottage cheese is especially recommended because it is low in sodium and fat. It is also low in lactose, which decreases the chances of any gastrointestinal distress.
Moderation is the golden rule
The golden rule of dog feeding is that everything should be given in moderation.
Cottage cheese specifically should be confined to 2 teaspoons for adult dogs and half a teaspoon for puppies.
It should not be ideally included in the diet of aged dogs. However if your dog friend has developed a weakness for it over the years, it can be given as a treat once or twice a week. Each treat should not exceed more than half a teaspoon of cottage cheese.
While introducing your dog to cottage cheese, it is also important to start with a very moderate level. This will help you find out whether your dog has tolerance towards dairy products and cheese. You should also be on the lookout for possible symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Indications of Intolerance
The possible signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance in your dog are abdominal pain, weakness, weight loss, diarrhea, and bloating.
If you notice any of the symptoms, you should consult your vet immediately.
Candidates for cottage cheese consumption
Cottage Cheese is especially recommended for pregnant dogs as it is rich in calcium.
Dogs with kidney and liver diseases are also allowed cottage cheese as it is low in potassium and phosphorous and does not produce ammonia in a significant quantity.
Things to remember when buying cottage cheese
It is best to opt for low fat and low sodium cottage cheese to avoid any obesity issues in your dog. In fact, vets often recommend low-fat cottage cheese for weight loss.
Organically made cottage cheese gets a few extra points. You can also look for cottage cheese with probiotics, which in fact are great for the dog’s digestion and is an extra step in avoiding any gastrointestinal distress issues.
Probiotics are living organisms that live in the intestine and help in digestion. They can also help in controlling allergies, skin problems, and even bad breath.
It is also important to take note of the extra ingredients and avoid any unnecessary extra spices in the cheese like garlic or onion. This is because they cause anemia in dogs by destroying their red blood cells. This results in weakness in our furry friends as well as causes dullness of skin.
Other benefits of cottage cheese
Since cottage cheese is soft and creamy, it is often used by dog trainers as a treat for their dogs to reinforce and reward positive behavior.
It is also used to hide pills in the diet of dogs that require medication and are not cooperative in taking them.
Cottage cheese can also act as a frosting on your dog’s birthday cake or even baked into their favorite biscuits. Thus, it can be taken in both cooked and raw form.
If your dog is not lactose intolerant, it is often advised by vets to feed him cottage cheese with white rice in case of a tummy upset. This is because it has a bland taste and hence is good for recovery.
You can also smear the cottage cheese on your dog’s favorite chew toys and let them enjoy a glorious few hours licking it clean.
Alternatives to cottage cheese
Relax, it is not the end of the world if your dog is lactose intolerant.
You can enhance their nutrition by adding sliced apples or green beans to their diet. Also be sure to remove the seeds from apple slices, as it can cause irritation in their throat or worse choking.
You also discuss other dietary supplements with your vet.
In fact, it is recommended that you should discuss and smooth out your confusion with either a certified or experienced person, before taking the responsibility of a dog.
To illustrate with an example, while you may consider it a sweet gesture to feed your chewed bones to your dog, they might end up hurting their throat with the splinters of the half-chewed bone pieces. A dog, thus, should always be given un-chewed and fresh bones.
These little nuggets of wisdom can only be gathered by reaching out to others who have dog pets or who provide medical care to them.
It is, after all, not a responsibility to be taken lightly, for a dog is not just a pet. It is a therapist with fur and four legs, a man’s best friend, and the only one who will probably end up loving you more than he loves himself.