It can be hard to know what Labrador’s can and can’t eat. Can Labradors eat cheese? Is cheese bad for Labradors?
If you asked them they would tell you they could eat everything! Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Many foods that are perfectly safe for humans to eat can be harmful, or even toxic for Labradors.
But what about cheese? In this article, I’m going to give a detailed overview of whether cheese has any health benefits for Labradors and whether it can be bad for Labradors.
I’ll also go into detail on a number of different cheese types, and the effects they can have on your pooch.
Yes, Labradors will usually be able to eat cheese in small quantities. However, many Labradors are lactose intolerant and most cheese is high in fat and salt which can be bad for Labradors in excessive amounts.
Is cheese good for Labradors?
Cheese does contain lots of nutrients which can be beneficial to your Labrador’s health.
Let’s take a look at exactly what it is about cheese that can be good for Labradors and why.
This is a great vitamin for your Labrador (it’s the one in carrots your parents told you would let you see in the dark).
It’s a fat-soluble vitamin which is particularly important during a puppy’s growth stage.
It also helps to maintain a strong immune system and proper cell function as well as supporting cognitive ability.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B12)
This vitamin helps to support a strong nervous system and cognitive function.
It’s also vital for the formation and growth of blood cells and helps your pooch have a healthy digestive system.
Cheese is packed with calcium. It’s an essential mineral that helps to support strong teeth and bones as well as a good thick coat with that nice shiny look.
As well as that calcium helps your Labrador’s cells to function properly and supports muscle strength.
Protein is a huge part of your Labrador natural diet, especially for active Labradors. It is a vital part of supporting strong and healthy muscles, skin and hair and aid in muscle repair.
This is an essential mineral in your Labradors diet. It works with calcium to help promote strong bones and teeth.
Phosphorus also helps your Labrador maintain good kidney health.
Zinc plays a wide range of important roles in Labrador health. It is used in enzymes, proteins and hormones and also helps to maintain a healthy immune system and thyroid function.
Clearly, cheese has lots of properties that can be beneficial to a Labrador’s health.
But as long as your Labrador is getting a balanced diet from their regular meals, they should already be getting the required amounts of everything I’ve listed above anyway.
That’s not to say a little more will hurt though, and sometimes if a Labrador is particularly active over a weekend more of these nutrients will be a good thing.
But now let’s look at the dangers of cheese for Labradors. Can too much cheese be bad for Labradors?
Can cheese be bad for Labradors?
Cheese can be bad for Labradors.
Either because they have had too much and so the issues I’ll list below begin to develop, or because they are lactose intolerant.
First, let’s look at the non-lactose related issues cheese can have on Labradors, then we’ll look at lactose intolerance last.
Fat in small amounts is fine for your Labrador, in fact, they need some level of fat and it helps to break down fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A which is found in cheese.
But Labradors will already get the majority of the fat they need from their normal balanced diet so you need to be careful when giving fatty foods as a treat.
Keep the quantities low and make sure you only feed your labrador fatty treats on days where their activity levels are above normal, such as after a long weekend walk.
Excessive fat consumption can quickly lead to obesity in Labradors, which in turn can bring on a whole host of health issues including; high blood pressure, tumors, skin diseases and the potential of cardiac arrest, just to name a few.
So make sure you don’t treat that pooch too much!
Excess salt can have a really negative effect on your Labrador health and cheese is usually packed with it.
Labradors do need a certain amount of salt for a healthy diet, but just like fat they probably already get all they need from their daily meals.
Increased salt intake can quickly lead to dehydration in the short term. If their salt levels stay consistently high your Labrador may develop issues such as high blood pressure which can put additional strain on their other organs.
Combined with the similar effects of excessive fat that I described above these long term effects may reduce the lifespan of your Labrador significantly.
It’s always good to remember that no matter the health benefits, your Labrador probably gets all they need from their normal meals, so you should keep any fatty or salty treats to a minimum. Only feed your Labrador small cubes of cheese on a very infrequent basis.
The final danger for Labradors is that they are almost all lactose intolerant to some level.
It’s actually a lot more common for humans to be lactose intolerant than you might think, with tolerance first really developing in Northern Europe over the last thousand years.
In many parts of Asian and Southern Africa intolerance in humans still represents 70% – 80% of the population.
Even if your Labrador is a little intolerant to lactose, a small amount of cheese probably won’t do them much harm. There is far less lactose in cheese than in milk so small amounts will be fine for most Labradors.
However, it’s really important to only feed a tiny piece of cheese to your Labrador the first time they try it because you might find that they are extremely intolerant to lactose, in which case they shouldn’t have any at all.
Lactose intolerance can cause a digestive upset in your Labrador’s system and may lead to vomiting or diarrhea, this, in turn, can lead to further complications as the body is not able to absorb the required nutrients from its food effectively.
That covers cheese in general, but what about certain types of cheese. I’ll run through a list of commonly asked about cheese types below.
Can my Labrador eat American cheese (processed)
I’m talking about the flat, processed cheese known as American cheese here. Not just any cheese from America.
I would recommend that you don’t feed this type of cheese to your Labrador.
They tend to have a whole host of added ingredients and preservatives, so while the actual fat and salt content is no higher than many more ‘natural’ cheeses, it is pretty hard to totally understand exactly what you are feeding your pooch.
As an example, Kraft’s American ‘cheese’ doesn’t even contain 51% cheese, so you have to ask, what’s the other 50% I’m feeding to my Labrador!
Can my Labrador eat blue cheese
My personal favorite, unfortunately, blue cheese is quite bad for Labradors.
The lactose content isn’t too high (of course this changes between blue cheese varieties) but blue cheese is near the top of the chart for both fat and salt content.
That’s probably why I find it so tasty but it is quite bad for your Labrador in large quantities. You can feed your Labrador blue cheese, but keep the quantities very small.
Can my Labrador eat cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is often recommended as a healthy cheese type for humans.
But is it ok for Labradors?
It can be in some respects, but it does contain a lot of lactose which is bad news for lactose intolerant dogs.
Cottage cheese contains way less salt and fat than most other cheeses, which is why it’s often recommended as a healthy cheese. But less lactose has been removed during the fermentation process.
That means that if your labrador is lactose intolerant (and the chances are they will be to some degree) then cottage cheese is likely to upset their stomach. It’s also going to be particularly messy if it causes vomiting or diarrhea.
I would be cautious with this one. If your vet has verified your Labrador is not intolerant to lactose then it’s a good choice of cheese, otherwise, stay clear of it.
Can my Labrador eat cheddar cheese
Your labrador will generally be ok eating small amounts of cheddar cheese.
Cheddar is very high in fat so you should keep those quantities small, but both the salt and lactose content is lower than many other kinds of cheese so it’s not a bad option.
Can my Labrador eat cheese rind
It depends on the rind. Rinds from softer cheeses should be ok in small quantities.
Rinds from hard cheeses like parmesan could be difficult for a labrador to digest. As a general rule, if you wouldn’t eat the rind then don’t feed it to your labrador.
As with the rest of the cheese, only feed your labrador small amounts of the rind.
Can my Labrador eat cream cheese
I would not recommend giving your Labrador cream cheese.
Cream cheese contains the highest fat of most cheeses, the salt content isn’t too bad but it will affect lactose intolerant Labradors more due to the higher lactose content from the cream.
Can my Labrador eat goat’s cheese
Labradors can eat small amounts of goats cheese.
Goats cheese contains a medium amount of salt and fat compared to other cheeses, of course in comparison to other foods it’s still a lot but as cheeses go it’s not at the top of the chart.
Goats milk, from which the cheese is made also contains slightly less lactose than cow’s milk so your labrador should be ok to eat a small quantity of goat’s cheese
Can my Labrador eat hard cheese
Labradors can eat small amounts of hard cheese.
Hard cheeses generally contain quite a bit of salt. Have you ever seen a cooking show when they don’t add salt to a dish but instead finish with grated parmesan? That’s why.
They are also reasonably high in fat but the lactose level is generally quite low.
You should only feed small cubes of hard cheeses to your Labrador.
Can my Labrador eat lactose-free cheese
I would be very cautious feeding lactose-free cheese to a labrador.
It sounds like a great idea, but lactose-free cheeses aren’t really cheese. They aren’t made with dairy, that’s how they are lactose-free.
That leaves the question, what are they made from?
The ingredients will differ from brand to brand so if you are really determined to feed your lab a lactose-free treat I would recommend you research the ingredients list and ask your vet for advice.
Can my Labrador eat string cheese
String cheese is generally made from mozzarella or a similar cheese which is ok for labradors to eat.
It’s not overly high in salt, fat or lactose so it should be ok for your labrador to have small quantities.
Some string cheeses are more processed than others though so always have a quick look at the ingredients to check there isn’t anything strange in there if in doubt don’t feed it to them.
Can my Labrador eat swiss cheese
Labradors can eat small quantities of swiss cheese.
The fat content is quite high in swiss cheese but it does have low salt and lactose content (not compared with other cheeses anyway).
Like all cheeses your labrador can eat, you should still only feed them small quantities of swiss cheese.
Just a few small cubes very infrequently would be enough.
How much cheese should I feed my Labrador
To begin with, you should feed your labrador a tiny amount of cheese, something with a lower lactose level and that’s easy to digest like cheddar.
Monitor them for the next day or so checking for any signs of unusual bowel movements or discomfort.
If they seem ok then next time you want to treat them to some cheese I would recommend no more than 2 to 3 small cubes per week.
You shouldn’t monitor them again after this higher amount is fed, or after any new type of cheese is fed to them.
My Labrador ate cheese and is sick, will they be ok?
The most likely reason for your labrador being sick after eating cheese is lactose intolerance.
It’s very common for labradors to be lactose intolerant, and although cheese has less lactose than products like milk, large amounts can still cause a reaction.
Symptoms might be digestive issues, diarrhea, constipation or vomiting. These should generally pass over a day or so and most labradors will recover quickly.
If the symptoms persist, or more worrying ones appear such as confusion or they stop drinking water you should contact your vet.
A final note – All Labradors are different
This article is meant as a general guide for the benefits and harms of cheese and different cheese types.
Whilst most labradors will be able to eat a small amount of cheese, all labradors have different levels of tolerance and allergies.
Some labradors will react badly to even small amounts of cheese. My own labrador (George) was highly allergic to all kinds of foods which are considered perfectly safe for most labradors, so I know well the importance of treating each lab as an individual.
Only ever feed small amounts of any new food to a labrador initially. Monitor them for the next day or so looking for signs of unusual bowel movements such as diarrhea, constipation or vomiting. If you have concerns or symptoms persist then you should stop feeding them any cheese and consult with your vet.