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September 03, 2020 7 min read

Here at Cooper's Treats, we've spent lots of time dabbling with a whole host of different ingredients for our treats. From dairy to eggs to fruits to meats, if it's out there and a dog might enjoy it, we've tried it.

That is, of course, as long as they're safe. We do extensive research on everything that we even consider putting into our treats. Since there's some confusion out there about what's okay for dogs to eat and what's not, we thought we might help out by sharing some of what we found.

We're going to do a series of posts on different foods over the course of the next few months, and the first up is yogurt. We hope they'll be helpful! If you have any questions about what to feed your dog, you're always welcome to drop us a line.

CAN DOGS EAT YOGURT?

We love yogurt, especially with some fresh berries sprinkled in it on a hot day. It's refreshing and has just the right amount of sweetness to hit the spot. Of course, any time our dogs see us eating anything, they want a taste, and yogurt is no exception. So let's take a look and see if dogs can have yogurt safely. 

As for the big question - can dogs eat yogurt - the answer is yes, though some kinds of yogurt are much better than others. Yogurt itself isn't toxic and indeed can have a number of health benefits. That said, many yogurts, such as those that are flavored with large amounts of sugar, aren't good for your pooch. Given the wide variety of not only flavors but also types of yogurt, it's important to really understand what's in yours before you decide whether it's okay for your dog to have a lick (or two, or three) of your spoon.

IS YOGURT GOOD FOR DOGS?

While it depends very much on the type, yogurt absolutely can be good for dogs. Yogurt has a lot of excellent nutritional qualities at its core, so whether it's good really depends on what's added to it. Let's take a moment to review all the valuable nutritional components of yogurt.

Yogurt has significant amounts of calcium and protein, both of which are great for dogs. Calcium is an essential mineral that supports both teeth and bone health. It also helps their blood clot properly and supports essential cellular processes. A lack of calcium can lead to bone and joint problems such as stress fractures, lethargy and issues with growth, particularly for young dogs.

Protein is key to your dog's health - the amino acids in protein help with everything from muscle development and tissue repair to immune responses and healthy skin and hair. For all of these reasons and more, we always try to pack as much protein into every one of our treats as possible!

Yogurt can also contain probiotics, which can help dogs with digestion. They also aid the immune system and slow the growth of potentially harmful bacteria in dogs.
Yogurt for dogs

HOW IS YOGURT MADE?

In order to understand why yogurt has such nutritional benefits, it helps to understand the process by which it is made. As you may guess from the presence of lactose, yogurt starts with milk. It is heated until its proteins are denatured, then it is cooled. The cooling is an important step, because it is critical not to make it so cold that microorganisms are unable to survive. After it is cooled, certain bacteria are added into the milk in order to turn it into yogurt, and then it is warmed again and kept at a warm temperature that is ideal for the bacteria to do their work for several hours. The longer this fermentation period goes on, the more acidic the yogurt will taste.

The milk selected is, for obvious reasons, very important in determining many qualities of the resulting yogurt. If the milk has a high concentration of solids relative to normal milk, it will produce a yogurt with a firmer and less runny texture. This effect can be achieved by adding dried milk to regular milk as well.

There are two main types of yogurt that can be sold today - pasteurized and probiotic. Pasteurization is a heat treatment that kills bacteria in order to make the yogurt safe to consume. Probiotic yogurt is also pasteurized, but after that step is taken, some additional bacteria (which are safe for human consumption) are added back in.

POTENTIAL NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF YOGURT IN DOGS

While yogurt contains a number of positive ingredients that can benefit your dog, it comes with some potential issues as well. The main one is that all yogurt has lactose in it, which adult dogs' bodies are not designed to digest. This is, of course, similar to humans - many of us are lactose intolerant (even those who drink milk and consume other products with lactose in them regularly may have a slight intolerance that they're unaware of). 

Because of this, consuming lactose, especially large amounts, can lead to digestive issues including gas (and we all know how bad dog gas can be), diarrhea and vomiting. That said, in small amounts, lactose can be totally fine, so there's no need to avoid it completely - just make sure you're keeping track of your dog's intake and watching for any signs of stomach problems or other gastrointestinal distress after she has any. If you do note any issues, it's a good idea to talk to your vet. While some dogs may just be a little bit lactose intolerant and get some gas if they eat a lot, others can be severely intolerant and suffer from painful stomach issues if they consume even relatively small amounts. Your vet can help you determine where on the scale your dog lies, so that you can tailor her diet accordingly. 

Additionally, many yogurts contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener, that should never be given to dogs as it is toxic. Always double check any food product you give your dog to make sure it is xylitol-free.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING YOGURT FOR YOUR DOG

It is always best to avoid flavored and sweetened yogurts. Some of these contain xylitol, which as mentioned above is toxic to dogs, but even those that don't typically contain sugar, which your dog definitely should not eat. You should also certainly avoid yogurts flavored with ingredients that dogs should not eat, such as grapes.

So if you're out there looking for yogurt, go for plain flavors. The fact is most dogs love plain yogurt and have absolutely no need for any kind of added sweetness, so all those sugars that make things better for you won't make your dog enjoy it any more than usual anyway. We also recommend Greek-style yogurt, as this tends to contain less lactose than regular yogurt.

GREEK VS. REGULAR YOGURT FOR DOGS

So what's the difference between Greek and regular yogurt? If you've tried both, you can probably give a partial answer to this question. The texture is certainly different - Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt. There is also a distinct difference in taste, with Greek yogurt having a more naturally tart flavor (though if you're comparing sweetness, remember to get plain flavors of both types of yogurt, as flavored varieties often have a whole lot of added sugar).

But why is this the case? It has to do with the different ways that the two types of yogurt are made. Greek yogurt has the whey removed from it (why is the liquid substance left over after milk has been curdled and strained), while regular yogurt retains its whey. The presence of whey affects both the taste and texture, which leads to the noticeable differences in the two styles.

While regular yogurt makes for a good source of protein, Greek yogurt is much better along these lines. It can have almost triple the amount of protein because of the removal of whey when it is made. 

On the other hand, if you are looking for calcium, plain, unstrained yogurt is your best bet for that.

At the end of the day, both are really good for you as long as you stay away from kinds with added sugar. Same goes for your pup - plain Greek yogurt and plain regular yogurt are both good, but if your dog isn't pick, we recommend going with Greek for its high protein content and lower amounts of lactose.

SO CAN DOGS EAT YOGURT?

In general, the answer is yes, but it definitely depends on what kind of yogurt. Can dogs eat Greek yogurt? If it's unflavored, absolutely. Can dogs eat vanilla yogurt? Can dogs eat strawberry yogurt? Unfortunately the answer to both of those is that they likely contain too much sugar (or unhealthy and potentially toxic artificial sweeteners) to be good. If your dog is extra sensitive to lactose, though, even plain yogurt may be best to avoid. 

If you do want to give your dog flavored yogurt, instead of buying it, make your own with fresh fruits! A couple of our favorite candidates are strawberries and blueberries, which are healthy snacks on their own and make perfect additions to a bit of plain yogurt. You can either dice them up and sprinkle them in or blend them with yogurt and a bit of ice for a refreshing doggy smoothie. You can also pop them into an ice cube tray and freeze them for a treaty that's as crunchy as it is delicious! As long as you don't add any sugar or other problematic ingredients, yogurt and fruit is an awesome combo for dogs, especially on a sunny summer day.

Either way, it's best to start with small amounts of yogurt and monitor your dog for digestive issues such as gas or diarrhea, to make sure that you're not causing your pup any discomfort.