A mainstay in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, yogurt is one of the planet’s healthiest dairy products. While it is nutritionally-equivalent to milk, the addition of live cultures of strains of Lactobacilli as well as other probiotic organisms makes yogurt far healthier than conventional whole milk. It is not surprising, therefore, that pet parents also ask if they can give yogurt to their dogs.
Should You Give Yogurt to Your Dog?
Generally speaking, you can safely give yogurt to your dog. However, yogurt should always be treated as a doggie treat and not a significant part of its diet. As such, it should only be given sparingly and in relatively smaller amounts.
This is especially true for dogs that may have lactose intolerance. Yogurt, after all, comes from the fermentation of milk. Depending on the source of the milk, then your dog may not have the ability to digest the lactose found in yogurt. This can lead to diarrhea, stomach upset, and other signs and symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.
However, on the good side, if you’re able to choose the right kind of yogurt, then you should be able to ensure good digestibility of lactose. This can only be achieved if you give your dog “live yogurt” or yogurt that contains a certain prescribed number of Lactobacillus species or other appropriate probiotic microorganisms. These probiotic microorganisms can easily digest the lactose present in yogurt so your dog will be able to utilize the different nutrients found in the product without necessarily getting lactose intolerance.
It is equally critical to choose yogurt that doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners, especially those that use xylitol. This substance can cause a substantial reduction in blood sugar levels in the dog, leading to weakness and collapse. Within hours, the dog may experience seizures and the liver may start to undergo irreversible damage. It is for this reason that homemade yogurt is best for dogs as you get to use only safe ingredients in its production.
There’s also the question of yogurt having too high fat content. This can be best avoided by limiting your dog’s intake of this food item.
A Look at the Nutrient Profile of Yogurt
Nutritionally, yogurt is almost the same as whole milk. It contains proteins, fats, and carbs usually in the form of lactose. After all, it is fermented milk. On a calorie basis, yogurt has slightly more calories owing to slightly more proteins and fats. Let’s take a look at what nutrients your dog is getting.
Three and a half ounces of plain, unsweetened yogurt provides about 9 grams of proteins compared to just 7.9 grams in whole milk. This says a lot since the calories provided by the extra proteins are taken from the carbs that are seen in milk. Yogurt contains less than 4 grams of carbs while milk contains about 6 grams.
The fat content of yogurt is slightly higher than that of milk, 8.5 grams versus 7.9 grams for equal cups of yogurt and whole milk, respectively. The good news is that majority of the fat composition of yogurt is monounsaturated fats which have been described as largely beneficial in lowering the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood.
Compared to whole milk, yogurt has higher levels of folate, vitamin C, and choline. Folate is crucial in the formation and maintenance of red blood cells while also involved in the more efficient repair of both RNA and DNA. Choline, on the other hand, is important in the production of neurotransmitters especially acetylcholine and is also involved in the signaling capabilities of cell membranes and the more efficient transport of fatty acids. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties in addition to the synthesis of collagen and wound healing.
Yogurt contains more calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium than whole milk. These are in addition to magnesium, zinc, and selenium, among others. These minerals can have a number of health benefits for your dog ranging from stronger bones, better nerve conduction, and enhanced immune system functioning, just to name a few.
While they are not generally considered as nutrients, probiotics are now an important part of canine health. These organisms maintain the optimum health of the digestive and immune systems.
Benefits of Yogurt for Dogs
As you may have already guessed, there are numerous benefits of yogurt for dogs that mostly stem from the addition of live Lactobacillus strains or any other species of gut-friendly bacteria. These microorganisms reestablish the balance of microbial flora in the dog’s gut that may be upset by the introduction of certain medications, stress, and poor feeding habits.
Probiotics allow for better digestion, making sure that the enzymes will be able to function optimally. This guarantees that all the food molecules are broken down into their smallest units, releasing health-giving nutrients in the process.
These substances can also help prevent or at least minimize the incidence of diarrhea among dogs that are currently receiving antibiotics. The sad thing about antibiotics is that they don’t necessarily kill only those microorganisms that they are supposed to neutralize; even the good ones are eventually harmed. As such, giving yogurt to dogs can help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
How to Give Yogurt to Your DOG
Provided your pet doesn’t have any lactose intolerance or is not necessarily prone to obesity (remember that yogurt is still a high-calorie, high-fat food item), then you can give your dog a teaspoon of yogurt mixed into its dog food no more than once every 1 to 2 weeks.
If you are after the probiotics in yogurt, there are supplements that can give you what you want for your pet. Alternatively, there is now a number of high-quality dog food products that already come enriched with live strains of probiotic microorganisms. These not only offer good numbers of probiotics, but are also specially formulated to give your pet well-balanced and complete nutrition.
Yes, dogs can eat yogurt. But for the same reasons that you cannot give milk or any other dairy product to a dog because of the possibility of lactose intolerance, you will have to give yogurt sparingly.