Can Dogs Have Parmesan Cheese? (with nutritional analysis)
by Tudor Nikolas on Aug 05, 2023.
Yes, dogs can have parmesan cheese as this is safe for dogs to eat. However, due to its high salt and fat content, dogs should only have parmesan cheese in moderate amounts.
Parmesan cheese, with its rich aroma and sharp taste, is a culinary favourite across many cuisines.
Whether sprinkled on pizza, pasta or savored in small bites, it's adored by many of us humans.
Although the TLDR (Too long didn't read) answer is yes, let's take a more comprehensive look at this question on whether dogs can safely eat parmesan cheese.
Let's talk a bit about the history of parmesan cheese, its nutritive benefits and why having too much can be bad for your dog.
What is Parmesan Cheese?
Originating from the Parma region in Italy, Parmesan cheese, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, has been a main staple in Italian cuisine for centuries.
Made primarily from cow's milk, it undergoes a rigorous aging process, resulting in its hard texture and distinctive flavour. We all know that you can smell a good parmesan cheese from a mile away.
But what you may not have known is that typically all Parmesan cheese has to actually come from the Parma region in Italy.
If it doesn't, then technically it cannot be called Parmesan.
This is a bit like Champagne and the Champagne region in France; unless it's made in this area, it has to be called sparkling wine!
Nutritional Content of Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan is nutritionally dense and very rich in protein and calcium.
This is what a typical 100g serving of parmesan cheese contains:
|Nutrient||Amount (per 100g)|
The high amount of protein is beneficial for your dog's development. However, the serving sizes have to be balanced because of the high amount of total fat as well.
There is also a significant amount of salt/ sodium, which cannot be ignored. We explained a bit more why salt is bad for dogs in our article showing you why crisps are bad for dogs to eat.
Parmesan Cheese made in the traditional way also has a number of vitamins and minerals, albeit in quite small quantities:
|Vitamin/Mineral||Amount (per 100g)|
|Vitamin A||260 IU|
|Vitamin B12||0.9 µg|
|Riboflavin (B2)||0.3 mg|
Now that we know the nutritional content of parmesan cheese, let's take a look at how it can benefit dogs.
What are the benefits of parmesan cheese in dogs?
Like humans, dogs can benefit from the nutrients in parmesan.
Calcium can aid in strengthening their bones, especially in growing puppies or older dogs with potential osteoporosis (bone thinning).
The protein can help build and strengthen muscle, and can also help with bulking up in dogs who may need it. For example, rescue dogs or those who have been previously malnourished.
Given in moderation, it can also serve as a delightful, high-value treat during training sessions due to its strong aroma and taste.
It does also have small traces of Zinc, Selenium, Phosphorous and vitamin A and vitamin B2 and B12. These are however in rather small amounts so their benefits are questionable in my opinion.
What are the risks of giving parmesan cheese to dogs?
As touched on above, the high sodium content can be harmful to dogs, leading to increased thirst or even sodium ion poisoning in excessive amounts.
You should also avoid parmesan cheese, or rather any type of cheese in dogs who are lactose intolerant. This means they cannot digest lactose efficiently and it can lead to symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea or tummy pains.
The high fat in parmesan can contribute to obesity if given frequently and in large quantities.
The last thing to look out for is something that applies to all foods nowadays. Additives and preservatives, including artificial colours or flavour enhancers.
These are likely to not be dog friendly and can cause all sorts of problems. I would always advise to specifically pick parmesan cheese that has no added preservatives or other artificial ingredients.
The way parmesan cheese is made, should be enough to preserve it adequately, without it requiring synthetic preservatives. It's always best to spend slightly more $$ if it means you're getting higher quality food.
After all, we are what we eat, and the same applies to dogs.
What are the signs of Lactose Intolerance in Dogs?
As a side note, I wanted to briefly approach some other signs of lactose intolerance in dogs.
If after giving your dog cheese, you notice diarrhea, excessive gas, bloating, or any signs of discomfort, it might indicate lactose intolerance.
Some dogs may take some time to manifest symptoms, so it's crucial to monitor them for a few hours. This applies especially if they have not had dairy before, or even if they haven't had a specific type of cheese before.
If in doubt, always check with a veterinarian.
How Much Parmesan Cheese Can a Dog Have?
The golden rule is moderation.
For a small dog, a pinch or two might suffice, while for larger breeds, a small chunk can be an occasional treat.
I wouldn't recommend feeding your dog parmesan regularly, due to the high fat and salt content. However, it's ok to have as a topping to their food on occasion.
It's also fine to have if you give your dog some leftovers that you've already put a small amount of parmesan on.
Remember, moderation is key and no size fits all.
Tips for Feeding Parmesan Cheese to Dogs
If you decide to treat your dog, always:
- Opt for fresh and high-quality cheese without additives.
- Start with tiny amounts and monitor to see how your dog reacts. This is especially important if they have not had cheese before.
- Remember that your vet is always available for you to consult with them if unsure about anything. This includes any worries, signs, symptoms or changes in behaviour
Hopefully I have answered your question "Can dogs eat parmesan cheese?" in this article. Just like other cheeses, it's all about having this in moderation. It's especially important not to leave big chunks of parmesan within easy reach of your dog. Having too much cheese at once can have detrimental effects. To find out about other safe and unsafe foods for your dog, explore the rest of our dog health blog or use our search function for specific food names.