Food Fact: Can my pet eat Cheese?
Cheese – the one thing we always say YES to. Pizzas would be meaningless if it weren’t for cheese. All extravagant delicacies, ranging from pasta to cheesecakes are only as mouth-watering as they are because of their cheesy interiors. Once you’ve got a hang of cheese, it stays around forever, making you want to include cheese in every meal you take. But should you be sharing cheese with your pet?
The answer is YES, but it comes with a lot of riders. It’s important to understand that a lot of pets are lactose intolerant and may develop allergies on consuming cheese. Not just that, cheese is high on fat and promotes obesity in dawgies. Some cheeses are known for their salt content, which can mess up your pet’s system. The most common fear, though, remains that your pet’s digestive system may not be able to take the wrath of cheese and cause gastrointestinal problems and severe bloating.
When it comes to cheese, you need to know what’s best for your pet. For that, you must understand your dawgie’s physiology and how he digests different food items. Further, you must see cheese, not as just another delicacy, but break it down to its constituents to have a better idea of how each of the ingredients affects your pet’s health.
How is cheese good for my pet?
Cheese is rich in vitamin C and B-complex vitamins. While Vitamin C is great for your pet’s immunity, skin, coat, and hair, the B-complex vitamins cater to the essential functions of your dog’s body. These include lowering the cholesterol levels, boosting the immune system, and monitoring the functioning & synthesis of hormones. It also contains vitamin A, which takes care of your pet’s eyes, strengthens the eye muscles and prevents the onset of progressive retinal atrophy and cataract in your pet. Apart from these vitamins, some of the essential micronutrients that cheese contains include calcium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Calcium helps maintain your pet’s bone health, heart, and his nerves. The phosphorus present in cheese is good for your dawgie’s digestion. It also helps reduce fatigue and helps eliminate toxins from his body. It aids brain growth and development, especially during the early years. Along with calcium and phosphorus, the zinc present in cheese helps your dawgie in keeping infections at bay.
OK. But if it has all these benefits, why do vets advise against cheese for dogs and cats?
Two words – Lactose Intolerance. Some dogs have absolutely no problem in digesting dairy products. But most dogs show symptoms of abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea or vomiting whenever they consume milk, butter, cheese or other dairy products.
This is because these dairy products contain lactose. Lactose is a complex sugar, consisting of two sugar molecules bound together by a covalent bond. The digestive system in dawgies and hoomans is capable of producing enzymes to break down complex sugar molecules into simpler ones. This releases energy which can further be used by the body’s cells to carry out the everyday functions. However, the synthesis of enzymes is a little different when it comes to hoomans vs pets. While in most cases the human body is capable of producing the lactase enzyme to break down lactose into simpler sugars; most pets are not equipped with sufficient quantities of lactase in their bodies. It is due to this deficiency of lactase enzyme that lactose remains undigested in dawgie bodies and causes severe gastrointestinal distress.
How can I find out if my pet is Lactose Intolerant?
Start by feeding a small quantity of milk or another dairy product to your pet. If you notice that he develops abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea or shows signs of vomiting, know that your dawgie is lactose intolerant. In most cases, it’s the protein present in these dairy products that your pet has a problem with. Talk to your vet to find out what you can and can’t give to your pet. Knowing the amount of lactose in different products may come in handy when it comes to deciding whether to share something with your pet.
My pet is Not lactose intolerant. How should I go about feeding cheese to him?
Even though you’ve realized by now that your pet has lactase superpowers, feeding dairy products that contain a large amount of lactose is still not a good idea. Here are a few pointers you can keep in mind while deciding the right cheese for your dawgie:
- The aged the cheese, the better it is for your pet: Aged cheeses like parmesan, swiss cheese and mozzarella are known for their low lactose content. They are safer to digest as compared to other varieties. These cheeses are also low in fat content. Even cottage cheese (paneer) is a safe option in moderation!
- Look for low sodium cheese varieties: Most cheeses contain sodium salts, which are known for expelling water out of our pet’s bodies. Pets find it hard to process sodium, and end up getting dehydrated and feeling nauseous. Compare different brands and varieties, pick the one with low sodium content.
- Say No to flavored and processed cheese: Cheeses mixed with garlic, oregano, tomato and all the yummiest things you can find on the planet, are very harmful to our pets. Processed cheese like the cubes, slices or cheese spread commonly available in India contain preservatives that may not be safe for your pooch. In almost all cases, these are known to cause bloating, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Avoid these for your furry best friend!
And what about Paneer (Cottage Cheese)?
Even though it’s a little easier for your pet to digest paneer over other cheeses, it should still be avoided. If you want to serve paneer to your pet, don’t add any kind of seasoning to it. Unsalted, unseasoned paneer chopped into really small pieces can be served if your pet is not lactose intolerant.
So what is the best way to feed cheese to my pet?
The first rule about feeding cheese to your dawgie is checking for his lactose intolerance. No cheese if your pet is lactose intolerant. If you’ve ascertained that your pet is good to go with cheese, make sure you restrict the portions to very small size. Ideally, cheese should only be used as a treat, or for concealing medicines inside. If your pet is fussy about his medicines, hide the pill (except antibiotics) in a piece of cheese, and serve it to your pet. Under all circumstances, remember that even though your dog or cat may be able to digest it, it’s not necessarily very good for your baby.
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