Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Dairy Products - Cheese, Kefir, Yogurt are Good for Dogs and Cats

In this article
  • History
  • Lactose Tolerance in Dogs and Cats v.s Lactose Intolerance
  • Worried About Your Dog or Cat Gaining Weight
  • Plain Natural Yogurt and Kefir
    • Health Benefits
    • How to Choose a Good Product
  • Cheese
    • Health Benefits
    • How to Choose a Good Product
  •  DIY Treats
  • FAQ
Some organizations and companion pet owners/ guardians are quite adamant that dairy can never be anything but detrimental to a dog’s and cat’s health. But is the outright condemnation of dairy as part of a dog’s or cat’s diet right or wrong? In my opinion they are wrong.


A Glimpse Back in Time

Dairy products have been fed to dogs and cats for many centuries, a good example: kefir.

2000 years ago, the shepherds of the Caucasian Mountains developed Kefir, a fermented dairy product made from the milk of cows or goats. The dogs that accompanied the shepherds of the Caucasus Mountains where fed fresh kefir as part of their daily diet.

Prior to the mass popularization of commercially manufactured grain-based dog and cat food (during and prior to the 1950’s), people fed their companion animals real food, ‘people food’, including dairy products. At that time dogs lived twice the life-span that they do today.

Lactose Tolerance, Lactose Intolerance

Dairy products are not tolerated well by all pets as some dogs and cats are lactose intolerant;

However the majority of dogs and cats do not have an adverse reaction to all dairy products.

My ten dogs eat grass fed sourced Keifr or raw unpasteurized Goat's milk daily. You can also include the following in your dog's diet as a treat, or meal topper...
  • Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Yogurt
My two cats don't like goat's milk, but they do like kefir and grass fed pastured sourced milk kefir and cheese.

Best Dairy Foods for Lactose Tolerant Dogs and Cats
For those dogs and cats that are not lactose intolerant, plain all natural Yogurt,
Kefir, raw unpasteurized goat's milk and certain types of real cheese (as opposed to cheese food, i.e. processed cheese slices, cheese whiz, etc.) can offer many health benefits when provided in proper amounts on a daily basis.

The Best Dairy Foods for Lactose Intolerant Dogs, Cats
Many dogs and cats that are lactose intolerant can eat cheese as most of the lactose is removed during the process of making cheese.

Worried About Weight Gain?

Including reasonable daily amounts of cheese in your dog’s or cat’s daily diet will not cause weight gain nor heart problems.Daily serving suggestions are provided in this article.

Studies have confirmed that good saturated fat is not associated with obesity and heart disease and is instead associated with improved heart health.  A species appropriate diet for dogs should include about 30% good quality fat in a ratio of 2 parts Omega-3 fatty acids to 1 part Omega-6 fatty acids.

The beneficial qualities of dairy products exponentially increases if the dairy is from organic pasture fed animals. Pasture fed dairy provides:
  • Omega-3 fatty acids in a balanced ratio, and;
  • Does not contain the toxins (i.e. antibiotics and steroids, pesticide residue from eating GMO corn, etc,) found in dairy obtained from concentrated animal feeding operations – CAFO raised animals.

Plain, Natural Yogurt, Kefir, Raw Goat's Milk…

Health Benefits
  • A very good source of probiotics
  • An excellent source of calcium, iodine and vitamin D
  • An aid infighting periodontal disease
  • Can help protect your dog from illness when your dog or cat is on a course of antibiotics
    • Antibiotics kill both the good and bad bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract (GI Tract), leaving the immune system suppressed.  Probiotics re-populate the god bacteria
  • Researchers at UCLA confirmed that the presence of good bacteria in the GI Tract are important for proper brain function. UCLA decided to test this theory on humans as previous research on non-human animals had shown linked changes in gut flora to changes in affective behaviours. You can read about the study here
  • Good source heart healthy omega fatty-acids
  • Helps prevent parasite infestation and related diseases
  • Typically one tablespoon of kefir contains 5 billion beneficial bacteria. As a rich and concentrated source of beneficial bacteria the probiotics found in Kefir contribute to health in a wide variety of ways:
    • Contains a substantial amount of B Complex vitamins, Calcium, vitamin A, Vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus
    • Contains tryptophan, and essential amino acid
    • Helps prevents illness
    • Is easily digestible
    • Is excellent for the immune system
    • Natural antibiotic and anti-fungal properties
    • Promotes anti-cancer and anti-tumor activity in the body
    • Promotes the faster healing of wounds
    • You can read more about kefir here

How to Choose a Good Yogurt or Kefir Product
  • What you do want in the yogurt:
    • Bacterial cultures i.e. 
      • Bifdobacterium lactis;
      • Lactobacillus acidophilus
      • Lactobaciullis casei
      • By the way, you may notice that some dry dog food contains these and other bacteria. Unfortunately probiotic organisms (good bacteria) found in commercial dry dog food is not viable (live and active). These organisms cannot survive the processing and heat that is used to cook and then form the kibble. The inclusion of probiotics in dry dog food is just a sales gimmick which does not deliver any actual value to your dog’s diet.
    • Cream, and/or
    • Milk or partially skimmed milk
    • Milk protein concentrate
  • That’s it! Nothing more. Don’t bother paying more for yogurt that has ‘added probiotics’, as this is another gimmick and scam. A good quality yogurt and kefir (like the one in the picture) naturally generally have more probiotics than those that advertise  ‘added probiotics’

What you don’t want in yogurt, kefir or cottage cheese…
  • Agar-Agar
  • Artificial food colors
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Carageenan
  • Corn Starch
  • Gallan Gum
  • Gelatine
  • Tapioca
  • Lecithin
  • Modified Corn Starch
  • Modified Rice Starch
  • Potassium Sorbate
  • Salt - see "salt" under cheese further below and here
  • Sugar
  • Etc.
    Recommended Daily Intake of Kefir, Yogurt, Raw Goat's Milk
    • Yogurt
      • 1x to 2x per day:
      • X-Small size dogs and cats - 1 tsp to 1 tbs 
      • Small dogs - 1 tbs to 2 tbs
      • Medium size dogs - 1/8 cup
      • Large dogs - 1/3 cup
      • Extra large dogs - 1/2 cup
    • Kefir
      • 1x to 2x per day:
      • X-Small size dogs and cats - 1 tsp to 1 tbs 
      • Small dogs - 1 tbs to 2 tbs
      • Medium size dogs -1/4 cup
      • Large dogs - 1/3 cup to 3/8 cup
      • Extra large dogs - 1/2 cup

    As with any new foodstuff that you introduce to your dog’s diet you should go slow. The probiotics in kefir are highly concentrated so give your dog’s system time to adjust. For the first few days to a week cut the recommended dosage in half. This will avoid stomach upset as your dog’s system adjusts to the increased quantity of good flora in their GI tract. You can bring the daily dosage up to the recommended amount over the space of a few days to a week or two.



    Natural Cheese
    • Natural cheese, like Kefir is a fermented dairy product
    • Natural cheese requires very few ingredients:
      • Milk
      • Full Spectrum Salt - i.e. sea salt, Himalayan salt, NOT common table salt or iodized salt - read more about salt here. Salt is used as a ripening and preservation aid, also for taste
      • Rennet (an enzyme)
      • A starter culture (the making of yogurt and kefir also require a starter culture)
    Processed cheese food (cheese slices, cheese spray, squeeze cheese from a tube/bottle):
    • Is not good for your dog
    • Processed Cheese Food is an-over processed ‘food’ that is made from pasteurized dairy and non-dairy ingredients it does not have the same health benefits of real cheese and includes additives that are not good for your dog – i.e. artificial food colour.

    Health Benefits

    Built-in Synergy
    • Cheese contains Calcium, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K2 – in order for these vitamins to provide the maximum benefit to the body all three need to be consumed together for efficacy.
    pH Balance for Oral Health
    • Eating cheese in an aid in fighting periodontal disease;
      • Eating cheese drops the pH level in the mouth
      • Lower pH levels help fight plaque, protects tooth enamel and erosion of teeth
      • Cheddar cheese  contains the highest levels of alkali making it the best cheese for attaining better pH levels in the oral cavity
    Vitamin K2
    • Cheese is a very good source of vitamin K2
    • Vitamin K2 is important for heart, brain, bones and more
    • Calcium is beneficial for bones and blood but it is not beneficial when deposited in the arteries and muscles – vitamin K2 controls where calcium goes or does not go in the body
    • Fights cancer
    • Protects nerve cells from oxidative stress
    • Slows progression of conditions such as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome – CDS (also known as Senile or Old Dog Syndrome – the canine version of Alzheimer’s disease)
    • Promotes the maintenance of healthy bone density
    • To ensure the best bioavailability (absorption rate) K2 is best combined with fat – a combination that naturally occurs in cheese
    • Cheese is an excellent source of calcium
    • The calcium in cheese helps to support oral health in dogs, along with bone and blood health
    • Cheese is a good source of high quality protein and important amino acids
    • Cheese is a source of good fats
    • Dogs need high quality saturated fats (Omega-6 fatty acids) and Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Required to support skin, coat, ligaments, heart, optimal brain function, and more, you can read more about good fats here and about the negative impacts of insufficient levels of omega-3 fatty acids here
    Essential Minerals 
    • Such as phosphorus and zinc
    Essential vitamins (in addition to calcium)
    • Such as A, B2 (riboflavin), B12, and D
    Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
    • CLA is a metabolism booster – helps to prevent weight gain and treat obesity
    • A powerful cancer inhibitor/fighter
    • Helps to limit allergic reactions to foods
    • Promotes health of the circulatory system

    Choosing a Good Cheese For Your Dog or Cat

    The following cheeses are good choices:
    • Soft Cheese:
      • Cottage Cheese
    • Harder Cheese:
      • Cheddar cheese
      • Colby cheese 
      • Edam cheese
      • Gouda cheese
      • Hard goat cheese
      • Mozzarella cheese
      • Swiss cheese
    Cheese made from the milk of pastured grass-fed cows (goats, etc.) v.s. grain-feed animals:
    • Has about five (5) times the CLA found in cheese made from grain-fed animals;
    • Contains much higher amounts of calcium, beta-carotene, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D and E.
    Raw cheese made from the milk of pasture-fed animals:
    • Retains natural enzymes that increase the nutritional value of the cheese.

    Recommended Daily Intake of Cottage Cheese
    • Small size dogs and cats - 1 tsp to 1 tbs 
    • Medium size dogs - 1 tbs to 2 tbs
    • Large dogs - 2 tbs to 3 tbs 
    • Extra large dogs - 4 tbs to 6 tbs

    Recommended Minimum Daily Intake of Harder Cheese
    • Small size dogs and cats - 1 ounce
    • Medium size dogs - 1 1/2 ounce
    • Large dogs -2 ounces
    • Extra large dogs - 2 1/2 ounces
    • What about the maximum daily dose of harder cheese? 
      • Cheese is beneficial when it remains a portion of your dog's daily food intake, but it should not make up the 'lion's share' of your dog's diet
      • Maximum amount of cheese provided on a daily basis should remain around double the minimum intake (minimum intake - dose as noted above)

    DIY Nutritious Treats Made with Yogurt and Cheese
    • DIY Smoothies & Frozen Treats for Dogs – Nutrient Rich Refreshing Relief During Hot Weather - recipes and health benefits here.
    • Homemade DIY Natural, Healthy Cheese-included Dog Treats - Recipes and Health Benefits here.

    FAQ – is the ASPCA’s stance on Feeding Pets Dairy Food Right or Wrong?

    The ASPCA’s list ‘People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet’, the ASPCA says that...

    “Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.”

    In my opinion as evidenced by the information I have provided further above:
    The ASPCA’s statement is:
    • Misleading, and; 
    • Too broad in its context.
    On the ASPCA’s list ‘(poison control, ask the expert) People Food’, the ASPCA says that “dairy products may cause stomach upset in some dogs”. Read the ASPCA’s full comment here.

    In my opinion this is a more reasonable statement – although in the absence of additional information it really can discourage people from taking advantage of the many benefits that can be gained from including some dairy products in your companion animal’s diet – as evidenced by the information that I have provided further above.

    Holistic Wellness Services and Holistic Behaviorist Services 

    Holistic Wellness and Behaviorist Services

    Do you need holistic advice to support your companion animal's health and well being? Become a client. Book your consultation. My professional holistic nutrition, wellness and behavioral services are available to you:
    🌿 Holistic Wellness Services for Dogs and Cats πŸ• 🐈
    🌿 Holistic Behaviorist Services for Dogs πŸ•

    My Holistic Client Services are Available Worldwide:
    πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ USA
    πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ Canada
    πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ UK and other European countries
    πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί Australia and other Oceania countries
    πŸ‡­πŸ‡° Hong Kong and other Asian countries
    πŸ‡¨πŸ‡· Costa Rica and other Central American countries 
    πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Ί European countries
    πŸ‡ΉπŸ‡Ή Trinidad and Tobago and other South America countries
    πŸ‡ΏπŸ‡¦ South Africa and other African countries
    πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ͺ Sweden and other Nordic countries
    πŸ‡¦πŸ‡ͺ United Arab Emirates

    Available Holistic Consultations and Sessions:
    πŸ“± FaceTime
    πŸ“± Facebook video or voice calling
    πŸ’» Skype
    πŸ“± WhatsApp
    πŸ“ž Phone
    πŸ“§ Email 
    🚢🏻‍♀️ In-Person

    Menu of Holistic Wellness Services for Dogs and Cats πŸ•πŸˆ
    For more information go here. 
    ✅  Maintain Health, and;
    ✅  Address Health Issues and Conditions:
    ✓ Treatment and Remedy 
     Pre-Surgery holistic support protocols
     Post-Surgery holistic healing protocols
     Pre-Vaccine holistic support protocols 
     Post-Vaccine holistic support protocols
     Natural Insect and Parasite Prevention
     Natural Treatment for Insect, Parasite Infestation, Co-Infection, Disease
    ✅  Custom Designed Whole Food Diets - raw or gently cooked, and;
    ✅  Advice and Recommendation: 
    ✓ Premade Diets - raw, dehydrated, freeze dried 
    ✓ Supplemental Fresh Foods - raw, gently cooked
    ✓ Super foods
    ✓ Treats - raw, dehydrated, freeze dried, gently cooked
    ✓ Herbs 
    ✓ Alternative Medicines

    Menu of Holistic Behaviorist Services for Dogs πŸ•
    For more information go here
    In-person Sessions - available locally
    Voice and Video Sessions - available worldwide 
    ✓   Obedience Training
    ✓   Behavior Modification
    ✓   Psychological Rehabilitation

    Affiliations to Companies
    ✓ None.
    ✓ I don't sell food or supplements.
    ✓ I'm not aligned with any companies.
    ✓ I choose to maintain my objectivity in selecting best-solutions for my individual client's needs.

    Contact me

    Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld 


    1. Hello,
      I'm really interested in feeding kefir to my dogs. Should the kefir be low fat?

      1. Not don't use low fat - the fat - do need good source fat in their diet, so use kefir that is at minimum 2% milk fat. Cheers, Karen

    2. Excuse me, You said dog and cat can eat Mozzarella cheese, both low-moisture mozzarella and Fresh mozzarella kept in brine or whey can feed?
      Should i feed young age or old age cheese?

      1. Cheese is fine for puppies, teenage, adult and senior dogs. Brine can be very high in salt - if the brine that your fresh mozzarella is in is very salty - use low-moisture instead.

    3. Both aged cheese and young cheese can feed?

    4. Is Swiss cheese and Emmental cheese the same? all kind of Swiss cheese can feed dog and cat? ex:Emmental cheese and Gruyere cheese.
      Can i feed Colby-Jack cheese to substitute Colby cheese?

    5. Is Goat Milk Kefir okay for dogs? I'm assuming it is since I've heard goats milk is usually okay for dogs, but I'm just learning about Kefir.

      1. Hi Angelique goat milk Kefir, goat milk cheese, goat milk yogurt etc. are all excellent for dogs, Cheers, Karen

    6. What do you recommend for overactive yeast problems in dogs? I understand the benefits of the probiotics described above but how do I rid my dog of chronic yeast in her body. Switched to six fish origen a month a go - low glycymic food that I divide and feed at two daily intervals. Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

      1. I do a lot of Diet, Nutrition, and Topical Treatment Wellness Plans for people whose dogs have chronic yeast issues - including dogs with extreme full body yeast infections...ears, skin, paws.

        Simply switching to a different dry dog food will not remedy the yeast infection.

        I would be happy to assist you - however to do so requires several hours of my time. You are very welcome to do as other people in your situation do and engage me to properly address this for you.

    7. Thank you for your extensive coverage of this topic and info based on CURRENT science about probiotics and their importance in the overall health of any animal - two or four-legged.

    8. Hi, what about the salt in cheeses. Cheddar especially has a very high salt content.
      What is your opinion on that?


      1. The salt content in the cheeses are not an issue as per:
        The types of cheeses recommended;
        The portions recommended;
        As part of a healthy daily diet.

    9. Hi Karen...Taking your suggestions on yogurt, kefir and cheese. I tried the yogurt, but my little girl did not like it and she threw it up. I had mixed a tiny bit with her food, but I guess she just didn't go for it. So I went and got some kefir. The only one I could find was "Organic Nancy's lowfat cultured mile Kefir". It's blueberry. The ingredients are: Pasturized organic milk, organic blueberriers, organic agave nectar, organic nonfat dry milk, organic inulin and live cultures, probiotics: Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12, L. acidophilus LA-5, L. casei, L. rhamnosus LB3. USDA Organic. IS THIS THE RIGHT KIND? ALSO, I bought some organix raw mild cheddar cheese,made with milk from pasture-raised cows....ingredients are: Organi cultured unpasteurized milk, salt, vegetarian enzymes. IS THIS THE RIGHT KIND? I so want to do this right!!! Also, it has 6% Vit A and 20% Calcium. Your input means a great deal to me. If NOT the right ones, I will continue on my search. Thank you for your time and great information for all us dog and cat lovers. You are a blessing!!

    10. Hello Karen! I'm a newcomer to your web and loved reading it! I was wondering if you could broach the subject of cushing's disease in dogs as I am being faced with this challenge right now - the vet wants to start Lysodren but I am against it. Any advice you have on this subject would be greatly appreciated. My dog is on a raw diet sprinkled with Nupro and Norwegian kelp.

      1. Recommended course of action for you in order to naturally and truly holistically support the health of your dog with Cushing's disease is http://ottawavalleydogwhisperer.ca/diet-wellness/ You can email me if you are serious about engaging my services

    11. Hi, wondering if I can give my dog plain Greek yogurt; is it just as beneficial as plain? The yogurt section in my stores mostly carry the Greek kind and it's the kind I eat too! Thanks so much! -Caroline

    12. Hi Karen, is homemade organic farmers cheese good for dogs/puppies?

    13. I'm lucky to have access to raw dairy (from cow) and I learned to make my own kefir. I noticed my dog would bark and bark when I drank it so I finally gave her some. I was concerned at first, but no bad effects came from it. She loves it, so I always share.

    14. Hi Karen, thanks for the great information on kefir. May I know, can I substitute milk with water (using kefier starter meant for milk)? Thanks in advance.

    15. Hi karen...i add eggshell powder to my dogs homemade cooked food. If I add cheese or yogurt will that exceed the calcium intake? I know dogs can only have so much calcium and since I already give it once a day not sure if I can add cheese or yogurt....should I omit the eggshell powder if I want to add cheese or yogurt or just add both? Both dogs are around 50lbs so I give about 1/2tsp eggshell
      Thanks so much and love all the information on your site

      1. Melanie see my article attached below for proper use of eggshell powder. Adding a proper serving of yogurt, kefir etc. is not an issue unless you dog has a specific health condition that contradicts.

      2. http://ottawavalleydogwhisperer.blogspot.com/2019/03/eggshell-powder-recipe-natural-calcium_22.html


    Important Note

    1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

    Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

    Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

    Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

    If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

    2.0 Definition of Holistic…

    Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

    If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

    Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

    Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


    "relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

    "Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

    Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

    3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

    A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

    Remedy requires a comprehensive approach. It is necessary to identify root cause. Remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues. Holistic approach includes design, implementation to treat, remedy and maintain long-term health.

    4.0 Leave a Comment

    I review all comments and publish those deemed appropriate for this site.

    I answer questions deemed appropriate when I have time to do so.

    Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

    Karen Rosenfeld
    Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Practitioner – Dogs and Cats
    Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
    Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer