Many dog owners love to share tasty human foods like cheese with their furry companions. However, some types of cheese can be dangerous for dogs to eat. One variety that often gets asked about is Parmesan cheese. Parmesan has a sharp, salty flavor that makes it a popular topping on pasta and pizzas. Dog owners often wonder, can dogs eat Parmesan cheese? The answer is not so straightforward. While Parmesan is not necessarily toxic to dogs, there are some potential risks with feeding dogs Parmesan cheese.
This article will discuss whether dogs can eat Parmesan cheese, the nutritional contents of Parmesan, and how much Parmesan cheese dogs can have safely. We’ll also provide tips on safer cheese alternatives you can share with your pup. The bottom line is that Parmesan cheese is best limited to occasional small amounts or avoided altogether for dogs.
An Overview of Parmesan Cheese
Before determining if parmesan suits canine diets, let’s quickly cover what defines parmesan cheese:
Origins and History
Parmesan emerged in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It has been produced for over 600 years, dating back to the Middle Ages. The term “Parmesan” refers to cheeses crafted using traditional methods in specific provinces.
True Parmesan is made from raw cow’s milk and aged 1-3 years. It involves cooking the curds in whey and hand-forming large wheels for aging. Extended aging concentrates the flavor.
Texture and Flavor
A good parmesan should be granular and crumble easily. It has a hard texture with a crystalline crunch. The taste is rich, nutty, and complex with slight hints of fruit.
Uses in Cooking
Its bold umami flavor makes it a popular topping for pasta, salads, soups, and pizzas. The cheese also gets used in recipes for risotto, grilled cheese, and au gratin dishes.
Now that we know what sets parmesan apart, let’s analyze its nutrition profile.
Nutritional Benefits of Parmesan for Dogs
When examining if parmesan suits canine diets, we need to break down its nutritional components. Here are some of the top nutrients this cheese offers:
High in Protein
Parmesan supplies a concentrated protein punch, with about 26 grams per ounce. Protein provides amino acids for muscle growth, repair, and maintenance.
Rich in Calcium
Parmesan delivers 1381 mg of calcium per ounce. Calcium supports bone health and muscle and nerve function.
Contains Zinc and Selenium
Parmesan is a good source of zinc and selenium. Zinc assists with skin, coat, thyroid, and immune health while selenium aids metabolism.
Source of B Vitamins
Parmesan offers several important B vitamins including riboflavin, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12. These support cellular energy and red blood cell production.
Parmesan contains 523 mg of phosphorus per ounce. This mineral works with calcium to mineralize bones and teeth.
So parmesan cheese offers a powerhouse of protein, calcium, and other micronutrients essential for dogs—if consumed in moderation. But some downsides exist too.
Can Dogs Eat Parmesan Cheese? – Potential Risks
Of course, the answer to “Can dogs eat parmesan cheese” comes with some cautions as well. Here are a few potential drawbacks to consider:
High in Fat
Parmesan contains about 10 grams of fat per ounce. Excessive fat can cause pancreatitis, obesity, and other problems in dogs.
Can Trigger Dairy Allergies
Dogs prone to dairy allergies may react to the milk proteins in parmesan with vomiting, diarrhea, and skin issues.
Some dogs struggle to digest lactose sugars. This can lead to gas, bloating, and other gastrointestinal upset.
High in Sodium
Parmesan has 680 mg of sodium per ounce. Excess salt poses risks of hypertension, kidney strain, and dehydration.
The parmesan’s dense, crumbly consistency makes it a potential choking hazard, especially for smaller dogs.
The artisanal production of quality Parmesan means it costs much more per ounce than other cheeses. Feeding too liberally carries a steep price tag.
So while parmesan isn’t strictly toxic or unsafe, responsible portioning matters. Next, let’s cover best practices for serving it.
Feeding Guidelines and Serving Tips for Parmesan
When offering parmesan cheese to your dog, follow these tips for safe, responsible feeding:
- Start with tiny amounts like a quarter teaspoon initially to test tolerance.
- Limit treats to about 2 ounces maximum per day broken into small servings.
- Grate and then melt the parmesan to reduce choking hazards from chunks before feeding.
- Mix with dog food instead of feeding straight for better digestion.
- Avoid feeding on an empty stomach which can lead to vomiting.
- Introduce gradually to check for signs of dairy/lactose intolerance.
- Brush the dog’s teeth after eating to prevent tartar buildup.
- Choose low-sodium varieties to minimize risks.
- Store opened parmesan cheese in an airtight container in the fridge.
Follow the suggested serving sizes on the package and adjust them based on your dog’s weight and tolerance. Monitor closely for any gastrointestinal issues.
Healthier Cheese Alternatives for Dogs
While the occasional small nibble of parmesan likely won’t harm your dog, some healthier cheese options provide safer choices for regular snacking. Try these lower-fat, lower-sodium alternatives:
The smaller curds pose less of a choking hazard. Opt for low or reduced fat.
Introduce softened in small dabs. Choose Neufchâtel for lower fat.
Look for low-sodium Swiss sliced into small pieces.
Part-skim, shredded mozzarella makes a tasty training treat.
The crumbles work well for mixing into dog food. Pick uncured, sheep milk feta.
For pups with lactose intolerance, stick to non-dairy cheese substitutes like Nutritional Yeast flakes. Consult your vet on suitable cheeses and portion sizes for your dog.
Can Puppies Eat Parmesan?
Puppies under 12 months need specialized nutrition to support their rapid growth and development. Here are a few factors to consider regarding parmesan for puppies:
- Puppies’ digestive systems are more sensitive to rich foods. Introduce parmesan slowly once over 12 weeks old.
- Limit overall fat intake which can contribute to developmental issues like hip dysplasia.
- The high sodium content poses risks for puppies. Opt for low-sodium parmesan in tiny amounts.
- Grate and then melt the cheese to reduce choking hazards for small puppy throats.
- Hold off on milk-based treats until after 12 weeks once weaning is completed.
- Consult your pup’s vet before introducing new foods like parmesan.
For growing puppies, parmesan should only be an occasional nibble, not a dietary staple. Prioritize a well-balanced commercial or homemade puppy diet instead.
Can Dogs Eat Parmesan Cheese? – Final Verdict
At the end of the day, healthy adult dogs can enjoy the occasional shaved and melted bite of parmesan in strict moderation. Its protein, calcium, and other nutrients offer benefits. But restrain portions to a teaspoon or two max just 2-3 times per week.
Monitor closely for choking and intolerance. Choose low-fat, low-sodium parmesan and introduce it slowly. For puppies, vet approval is advised. While not toxic, parmesan cheese should be reserved as an infrequent savory treat rather than regular feeding. With judicious enjoyment, it can provide a safe way to share a beloved flavor with your dog!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I give my dog Kraft parmesan from the shaker bottle?
No, the cellulose anti-caking agents and sodium levels make bottled “parmesan” unsafe. Stick to small amounts of genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Is it okay for dogs to lick leftover parmesan from dishes?
Avoid letting dogs lick cheese remnants from plates since you can’t control sodium and fat amounts. Very high amounts may cause pancreatitis.