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Is Yogurt Safe and Healthy for Dogs?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

Yogurt is tasty and an excellent source of nutrients, including calcium and protein. It also contains probiotics, gut-friendly bacteria that are beneficial for gut health. It's a tasty snack for humans and you might wonder whether you can share a container of yogurt with your dog.

Most dogs are food motivated enough to enjoy snacking on yogurt, but is it a good food for them? Let's look at whether yogurt is a healthy treat for your furry friend.

Dogs and Yogurt: Is It a Safe Food for Dogs?

Yogurt is a cultured dairy product made from milk that has a thick and creamy texture. Most dogs can eat yogurt in moderation. However, some dogs have a problem digesting lactose, a milk sugar in yogurt.

If a dog can't break down lactose, they could experience bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, or digestive upset after eating yogurt, as well as other dairy products. If you're not sure whether your dogs can digest lactose, give them only a spoonful or two at first and see if it causes diarrhea or tummy upset.

If they can digest the lactose in yogurt, dogs can benefit from the protein, vitamins, and minerals in this creamy treat. The probiotics are a bonus, as they help keep their digestive tract healthy. However, the amount of probiotics in a serving of yogurt varies.

Some Veterinarians Recommend Probiotics for Dogs

Your dog may not get an ample dose of probiotics by simply eating yogurt. Some veterinarians now recommend that dogs with digestive issues take a high-quality probiotic made for dogs.

Gut health also plays a key role in a dog's immune health, as 70% of a dog's immune system is in their gut. Keeping their gut ecosystem healthy could have benefits for a dog's long-term health.

What Type of Yogurt is Best for Dogs?

Humans are more likely to gravitate toward flavored yogurt, but the best type of yogurt for your dog is unflavored and low in sugar. Read the label carefully before giving it to your furry friends. Some low-sugar yogurt contains a sweetener called xylitol that's toxic to dogs.

When a dog consumes xylitol, even in small amounts, it triggers a massive release of insulin that causes a rapid drop in blood sugar. This drop in blood sugar can be life-threatening to a dog.

Every year, dogs die from eating products sweetened with xylitol, including sugar-free gum and mints. Keep all products that contain xylitol in a special cabinet that dogs can't access. Even better, keep it out of your home.

Also popular is Greek yogurt, a type of strained yogurt. The straining process removes much of the liquid, along with the whey. Therefore, Greek yogurt is thicker and has a bolder taste. It's also higher in protein, but lower in calcium.

An added benefit is Greek yogurt is lower in sugar, which is a benefit for dogs, who don't need the sweet stuff.

What About Non-Dairy Yogurt?

When you shop for yogurt, you can find yogurt made from non-dairy milk, including coconut milk, oat, and almond milk. Unless they're sweetened with xylitol, these are safe for dogs too. Some dogs may tolerate non-dairy yogurt even better if they have a problem digesting lactose. Again, look for a version that's low in sugar.

When Your Dog Might Benefit from Yogurt

There are certain times your dog might benefit from yogurt. If they're taking antibiotics, the probiotics in yogurt will help preserve the healthy gut bacteria that the antibiotics destroy.

If your dog will be on antibiotics for a substantial time, your veterinarian may recommend a probiotic supplement for dogs instead. Ask your veterinarian whether it's appropriate for your dog. A probiotic supplement will offer a more concentrated source of probiotics.

Yogurt Is Safe for Most Dogs in Moderation

As long as your dog digests the lactose in yogurt and experiences no digestive upset when they eat it, they can enjoy the nutritional benefits of yogurt in moderation. If they enjoy it, so much the better!

References

  • "Yogurt for Dogs | Benefits of Yogurt for Dogs | PetMD." 15 Apr. 2017, petmd.com/dog/nutrition/healthy-foods-checklist-yogurt-dogs.
  • "Can Dogs Eat Yogurt? Is Yogurt Good For Dogs? Can Dogs Eat ...." 11 May. 2015, akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-yogurt/.
  • "Yogurt | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School ...." hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/yogurt/.
  • "Greek Yogurt: Health Benefits, Nutrients per Serving ...." webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-greek-yogurt.
  • Ziese AL, Suchodolski JS, Hartmann K, Busch K, Anderson A, Sarwar F, Sindern N, Unterer S. Effect of probiotic treatment on the clinical course, intestinal microbiome, and toxigenic Clostridium perfringens in dogs with acute hemorrhagic diarrhea. PLoS One. 2018 Sep 27;13(9):e0204691. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204691. PMID: 30261077; PMCID: PMC6160196.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.