Can dogs eat yogurt? Yes and no. Keep reading to find out why yogurt may not benefit canine companions in the same way that it will for pet owners.
Can dogs eat yogurt? Yes, your pet can eat a spoonful of yogurt; most yogurts are safe for dogs. However, while offering your pet staples in your fridge may seem convenient, some care always needs to be taken before sharing our human foods with our furbabies.
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein. This rich and creamy dairy product is also known to be full of probiotics that promote healthy gut bacteria growth. So, of course, you want that good for your dog too.
But is yogurt the best food for your pet? Please keep reading to find out why yogurt may not benefit our canine companions in the same way that it will for pet owners.
Is Yogurt Good for Dogs?
According to the Food and Drug Administration, yogurt is defined as a food produced by culturing a dairy ingredient "with a characterizing bacterial culture that contains lactic acid-producing bacteria."
Plain yogurts contain live cultures like Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus, and Bifidobacteria. These "friendly" bacteria help our bodies to break down food, absorb nutrients, and combat harmful bacteria that may cause adverse reactions such as diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.
Probiotics and prebiotics are beneficial to our gut health, and pets also need them for a healthy gastrointestinal tract. But as we've already mentioned, human foods aren't always suitable for dogs.
Here are some benefits, but also the risks, to offering your doggo a spoonful of your breakfast:
Benefits of Feeding Your Dog Yogurt
You can offer a plain, unflavored and unsweetened yogurt to your dog. Probiotics in yogurt provide the following health benefits:
They strengthen the immune system
Ease stomach upset
Reduce stress levels
Fight off allergies
Prevent weight gain and disease
Can prevent infections in the urinary tract
Acts as a barrier against environmental pollutants, viruses, yeast, and bacteria.
Balances microbial bacteria that are destroyed due to drugs like antibiotics or steroids.
Improves bad breath
It helps the body absorb calcium, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients.
Risks of Feeding Your Dog Yogurt
There are several reasons yogurt may not be the best choice for your dog. Other sources of probiotics may be better suited for the canine digestive system. Here is why you should keep yogurt all to yourself and instead offer your pet a different snack or probiotic supplement:
Dairy products may not agree with your pet. Just like humans, some dogs may be lactose intolerant. Milk contains lactose, a sugar that needs an enzyme called lactase to break it down.
If the body does not produce enough lactase, then allergic reactions occur. Puppies have higher lactase levels, but these levels decrease as they wean off their mother's milk. After that, dairy is not the best addition to a dog's menu.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance in dogs may include:
Give your pet a small amount of yogurt, and if any of these symptoms occur, it may be best to avoid dairy products altogether. Speak to your veterinarian if you suspect that your dog has a food allergy.
Dairy products go through pasteurization, sterilizing a product to make it safe for human consumption. With dairy, the product will be heated at a high, controlled temperature. Ideally, the heat kills off harmful bacteria and pathogens and also "allows the proteins to form a more stable gel, which prevents separation of the water during storage."
Yogurt should be pasteurized before starter cultures are added so that minor damage is done to the probiotics. The problem is that you cannot be confident of the process that various brands have executed.
Temperatures that are too high or cultures added too soon may also be destroyed in the pasteurization process. Low temperatures also present a danger of not killing off enough of the harmful bacteria.
While human digestive systems can handle this inconsistency, canine systems cannot. Giving your dog dairy that has not been correctly pasteurized may do more harm than good.
Sweeteners and Additives
Sugar is not toxic for dogs, but unhealthy amounts can cause diabetes, obesity, and dental issues. Many fruity and flavored yogurts contain starchy sugar that can be problematic for your pup.
What about yogurts that manufacturers label as "sugar-free?" Unfortunately, these can be even more harmful to your dog or cat.
An artificial sweetener is excellent for dog owners who want to consume fewer calories. Xylitol won't cause a hike in human blood sugar levels, but for dogs, xylitol causes a rapid release of insulin, leading to hypoglycemia and liver failure.
Xylitol is toxic for dogs and should be avoided. It is also commonly found in peanut butter, sugar-free ice cream, and toothpaste. Choosing products that are tailored for pets is preferable.
Contact your veterinarian if your dog displays poisoning symptoms, such as vomiting, decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse, and seizures.
Choosing Yogurt for Dogs
If your dog loves to eat yogurt, and he is not lactose intolerant, then you may wonder, "what kind of yogurt can dogs eat?" Maybe you love to make your pet frozen yogurt bites for summer.
In that case, go ahead and give them a moderate amount of yogurt. Just be sure to look out for the brands that tick the following list for safely:
Free of artificial sweeteners
No mix-ins or flavorants
Greek or plain yogurts
A greek or plain yogurt that is low fat, free of sweeteners and flavorings is the best choice for your dairy-loving pet. Look for a yogurt that is full of live cultures. If you're considering a vegan yogurt for your pet, the same rule applies: look for non-sweetened vegan yogurts that have a safe list of ingredients.
How Much Yogurt Should a Dog Get?
Pets shouldn't get more than 10% of their daily calorie intake from treats. Whether you're giving your pet extra kibble as an incentive, tasty peanut butter in their Kong toy, crunchy dog cookies, or a frozen yogurt snack, always controls the portion amount.
Spoiling your pet is a great joy, but it's not worth the sacrifice of health. Always give treats in moderation. Rather, spoil your dog with quality time or a toy that will encourage activity. That way you're stimulating them mentally and physically without adding pounds over time.
Why is Calorie Intake Important?
Dog or cat obesity is a serious concern and can lead to unwanted health problems like arthritis, joint pain, respiratory issues, Hypothyroidism, and more.
You can easily avoid these problems in your dog with an active lifestyle and a controlled diet. Speak to your vet about the correct calorie intake for your dog, considering their age, weight, activity levels, and underlying health concerns.
When you know your dog's nutritional needs, then you can measure their treat intake per day. If you feed your dog yogurt, then review the calorie amount on the label, calculate how much your dog can have, and then offer it to them according to the ten percent treat rule. It may only be a teaspoon or two per day.
Probiotic Alternatives to Yogurt for Dogs
Yogurt has many health benefits, but if you're choosing to give your dog yogurt for probiotic benefits, then their daily amount may not be sufficient for gut health support. Speak to your family vet for suggestions of a pet-friendly probiotic that will serve your pet's unique needs.
Probiotics are an essential part of your and your dog's health. Yogurt may not be the best source of probiotics for your dog, considering the restrictions of dosage, harmful artificial sweeteners, and pasteurization risks. Instead, many probiotic supplements on the market can offer a richer and safer source of probiotic cultures.
Dog food with a specially formulated probiotic supplement takes the guesswork out of dosing your pet as it becomes part of their daily calorie intake. Alternatively, a good probiotic supplement, high in "colony forming units" (CFU), is easy to feed your dog or cat.
The benefit of having a probiotic supplement measured out for daily dosing, making it easier for busy pet owners. Probiotics can come in powder, tablet, or treat forms. There are many options on the market. Speak to your vet and do your research to find the best choice for your pet.
Holistic Care For Your Dog
When it comes to caring for your pet, a holistic approach will have the most desirable outcome. Simply adding probiotics to their daily routine won't fix all their potential issues.
Talk to your vet, take your pet for annual wellness exams, get them neutered and vaccinated, consider their diet, and consider any underlying concerns or genetic predisposition. Exercise and hygiene are also essential to make sure your pet continues on a path of optimal wellness.
Offering your lactose-tolerant pet a lick of yogurt now and then is fine if it's for enjoyment. But it's unlikely to be helpful to their digestive system or promise the same benefits that it will work for humans. Sharing with your furbaby may bring you joy, but it is not always the best way to take care of them.
Quit offering your pet yogurt for the "health benefits" and instead reach for a supplement that can provide probiotics and nutrients that will make a real impact on their overall health.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much yogurt can I give my dog?
Pets shouldn't get more than 10% of their daily calorie intake from treats. When you know your dog's nutritional needs, then you can measure their treat intake per day.
Can yogurt kill a dog?
Yogurt that contains xylitol is toxic for dogs and should be avoided. Xylitol poisoning can lead to death.
Is Greek yogurt safe for dogs?
Yes, greek yogurts are usually free of flavorings and sweeteners that are harmful to pets. If your dog loves to eat yogurt, then greek yogurt is your best choice.
Can I give my dog plain yogurt?
Plain low-fat yogurt that is unsweetened is okay for your dog if they can tolerate lactose products.