We all love the joy our dogs show when they realize it’s time for a treat — or that there might be an opportunity for one.
The wagging tail, the tippy-taps of their feet, and those big puppy eyes are all part of our furry friends’ arsenal for appealing to our cuteness-sensors.
Those puppy eyes sometimes might even sway us to give them some of our human food. It’s easy and convenient to toss some leftovers from the table or let them have a lick of your spoon when you’re finished snacking, but doing so without understanding what foods are safe for dogs could be dangerous.
As pet parents, we have both a privilege and responsibility to watch out for our dogs’ safety in addition to their happiness. Even though your pup may desperately want some of your chocolate cake, that doesn’t mean it’s safe for them.
Here at Spot Pet Insurance, we’re committed to helping you better care for your pets every step of the way. Today, we’re doing a deep dive into a common human snack that many owners might wonder if they can feed their dog: Yogurt.
Most people know the dangers of chocolate, alcohol, and grapes, but yogurt is less often talked about and might seem like a confusing grey area at first.
For a guide to all things yogurt snacks for dogs, read on!
Is yogurt safe for dogs?
The question you’ve come here for is whether yogurt is safe for dogs. The answer isn’t quite as simple as the question.
The simplified, short answer is that yes, dogs can generally eat yogurt safely. However, it is imperative to carefully check the ingredients in any yogurt you might give your dog.
Some kinds of yogurt, particularly natural options, can be perfectly fine and even partially beneficial (though not quite as much as some popular myths may suggest). Others, such as those with additives or potentially toxic ingredients, can be unhealthy or extremely dangerous for dogs.
Unfortunately, since yogurt is made from milk and most dogs are lactose intolerant, yogurt is not always the best snack for your canine friend. Some dogs may not care, but as parents, we should look out for them.
The best way to approach this potential problem is by talking to your veterinarian to find out if your dog may be lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy.
What kinds of yogurt can dogs safely eat?
Yogurt has been around for thousands of years, originating in Bulgaria. Bulgarians eat yogurt with almost everything — breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
It is believed yogurt was discovered by accident. This is really no surprise since yogurt is a form of fermented milk. Once yogurt was discovered, it was used to preserve milk since it spoils so easily.
For humans, yogurt is used for savory, salty, or sweet snacks and many things in between. We often add fruits, honey, sugar, nuts, and oats to yogurt or slather it onto other foods (such as the falafel wraps).
For our purposes today, it’s useful to identify the main types of yogurt you might encounter.
- Traditional yogurt is thick and coagulated, but not completely. Compared to Greek yogurt, it is relatively runny. Traditional yogurt has higher calcium and lower calorie counts than Greek yogurt.
- Greek yogurt is specifically made by a process that strains liquid, leaving it much thicker than traditional yogurt. Greek yogurt has higher amounts of protein than traditional yogurt but more calories.
You might also hear about kefir, another fermented dairy product that is popular for its potential health benefits. However, it is important to note that kefir is technically not a type of yogurt because it has a different bacterial composition and creation process.
Is greek yogurt better for dogs than traditional yogurt?
Both traditional and Greek yogurt use the same core ingredients, despite having some differences in nutritional benefits.
In general, what can be said about the safety of traditional yogurt can also be said for greek yogurt. The differences in health benefits are minor, although your dog might prefer the taste of one over the other.
Traditional yogurt can be just as safe for your dog as greek yogurt. However, it is much more common to find traditional yogurt mixed with ingredients that are hazardous to dogs, such as added sugars, xylitol, or fruits with lots of preservatives and sugar.
Greek yogurt, on the other hand, is generally sold as a healthy snack and might not contain these problematic ingredients.
Though preferences can vary widely from dog to dog, your pooch may enjoy Greek yogurt more than traditional yogurt because it’s thicker and easier for them to eat.
Whether you choose Greek or traditional yogurt, look for live, active cultures that will deliver the best health benefits for your dog. Checking closely for harmful ingredients is also a must.
Can dogs safely eat almond, soy, coconut, or oat yogurt?
Since lactose intolerance is one of the most common reasons to keep yogurt away from your pup, dairy-free milk might be a better alternative.
Almond milk, soy milk, and oat milk are popular among humans not only for their taste and health benefits but also because they don’t contain lactose. Lactose intolerance appears in humans as well as dogs (though not quite at the same frequency in our own species), which means we can both also benefit from lactose-free milk products.
Most yogurt is made with dairy milk, but there are plenty of alternative options. If your dog is lactose intolerant, you could replace dairy yogurt with almond yogurt, soy yogurt, or oat yogurt. Talk to your veterinarian to get the best advice on whether this switch may be a good fit for your dog.
Although dairy-free yogurt could remove the issue of lactose intolerance from the equation, it typically has lower amounts of protein than dairy yogurt. However, unless your dog is a dedicated bodybuilder, the differences likely won’t make any tangible difference to your pup’s health and wellbeing.
Is yogurt with fruit safe for dogs?
Yes, with some caveats.
Most store-bought yogurt that already contains fruit also contains preservatives, added sugars, or artificial ingredients. This is especially true of yogurt that is flavored like a type of fruit in addition to containing fruit pieces.
These kinds of yogurt could easily pose a problem for your dog if for no other reason than the unhealthy downsides of added sugars.
The best way to incorporate fruit and yogurt for dogs is to add fresh fruit that you cut up yourself.
Remember that not all fruit is safe for dogs. You should remove seeds and cores from fruits such as apples and peaches since these may contain cyanide, a toxic substance.
Fruits you can safely add to your dog’s yogurt snacks include:
However, fruits such as avocado, cherries, and grapes (which are highly toxic to dogs) should be avoided.
Adding vegetables is even better since vegetables generally have fewer natural sugars than fruit. Try adding some carrots or peas to a yogurt mix. If your dog already enjoys their yogurt, this could be a great way to get some veggies in their system!
Can I give my dog yogurt with nuts and granola?
Yogurt parfaits containing granola and nuts for humans are a common snack or dessert that you might want to share with your dog! However, it’s crucial to be aware of certain common ingredients in granola that are hazardous for dogs.
The first is raisins. Like grapes, raisins contain tartaric acid, which has recently been shown to be the source of toxicity in these foods for dogs. Dogs that eat raisins may become poisoned, which can induce vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, or even acute renal failure.
Many granola mixes contain raisins, so you’ll need to carefully check what’s included before adding granola to the yogurt that you let your dog snack on. Other common toxic ingredients include macadamia nuts, pecans, and chocolate.
Beneficial qualities of yogurt for dogs
Some yogurts may be safe for your dog, but does that mean they are a healthy, beneficial snack?
Yogurt is often touted as a healthy food for humans. It has numerous nutritional benefits as well as benefits to our probiotic health and digestive systems. Is yogurt the same for dogs?
The answer depends on a few factors. Yogurt has some health benefits, but they may not be as significant as popular beliefs might suggest — certainly not enough to replace actual medications when it comes to your dog’s growth or digestive health.
Yogurt’s primary benefit for dogs is that it contains protein and calcium. It also contains probiotics, which may support digestive health.
Yogurt provides lots of calcium
Calcium is crucial for our canine friends, especially when they are young and growing. Calcium is a mineral found in many foods, including beans and green vegetables.
Dogs need calcium for growing their bodies, including strong bones, healthy teeth, plenty of muscle, and well-functioning hearts and nervous systems.
Yogurt is a good source of calcium, which makes it an ideal snack while your dog is growing. High-quality dog foods should also have plenty of calcium, but adding more with yogurt treats helps ensure your dog has plenty.
Yogurt is a great source of protein
Like calcium, protein is a fundamental part of any healthy doggy diet, especially when your dog is still growing.
Proteins can be produced by a dog’s body, but not enough to satisfy all their protein needs. Proteins are essential, and deficiency can be a serious problem.
Protein aids dogs in a number of ways, most importantly growth, especially of muscle and body tissue, but also for hair and skin. Protein is also helpful in maintaining proper hormone levels and staying energized.
Yogurt contains high amounts of protein. Greek yogurt is the most protein-packed kind of yogurt and typically the healthiest overall for most dogs. Dairy-free yogurt varieties are typically a bit lower in protein than dairy yogurts, but the differences are so slight that your dog’s health isn’t likely to depend on you feeding them one or the other as a snack.
Probiotic benefits for digestive system
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that aid digestive systems. Humans have probiotics, as do dogs. These bacteria are very important to gut health, but they can also be a bit fragile and easily upset.
Probiotics play a crucial role in the health of dogs, which is why many dog foods include probiotics in their recipe.
Ingredients in yogurt that can be problematic for dogs
All-natural, plain yogurt has plenty of health benefits for dogs, but some ingredients found in yogurt can be problematic.
Dairy & lactose intolerance
The most common reason yogurt might have adverse effects on dogs is that yogurt contains milk, and most dogs are lactose intolerant.
Many puppies drink milk, specifically their mother’s breast milk. At a young age, dogs produce plenty of lactase, a digestive enzyme that helps break down lactose (a natural sugar found in milk).
However, as dogs become older and wean off of milk, they typically don’t maintain the same lactase production. Thus, digesting lactose becomes more and more difficult for them — resulting in lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance may not be found in every dog. You should talk to your vet about your pooch before giving them milk or dairy-based yogurt.
Most human foods we buy from the store contain added sugars. However, excessive sugar can be quite harmful to dogs, and the line between appropriate levels of sugar and excess sugar might be slimmer than you might think.
In general, human foods with added sugar have far too much sugar to be healthy for your dog. Natural sugars generally are not toxic to dogs in small quantities. Still, you should always be wary of giving your dog food with added sugars and avoid it altogether if possible.
Sugar substitutes and xylitol
Sometimes natural sugars are substituted by other ingredients that can make yogurt taste sweet. Xylitol is one such ingredient, a natural sugar alcohol found in plants.
Although humans can consume xylitol safely, it is highly toxic to dogs. Consumption, even in small doses, can lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), liver failure, and seizures. These conditions may be fatal in some cases.
It is of the utmost importance to carefully vet any food you might give your dog to ensure it does not contain xylitol.
Best ways to give your dog yogurt
Despite these dangers, you can still share yogurt with your dog, resulting in a happy, healthy pup.
Stick to live culture, all-natural, plain yogurt — ideally greek yogurt or dairy-free, when possible. To keep your treats extra healthy, you can add fresh fruit or vegetables (such as blueberries or carrots).
Some owners have found success mixing yogurt with their dog’s kibble, mixing yogurt and peanut butter, or freezing yogurt in cubes as summer snacks.
Remember that dogs should only have small amounts of yogurt in any case, with larger dogs being a bit more tolerant than smaller ones. A popular rule of thumb is that 90% of your dog’s calories should come from high-quality dog food, while 10% can come from healthy treats.
Here at Spot Pet Insurance, we’re committed to helping you be the best pet parent possible for all your furry friends every step of the way. We hope today’s guide has helped you understand how yogurt and other human foods can affect your dog and how to safely share your snacks with them!
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