Can Dogs Have Cream Cheese? Depends on the Kind

Published October 28, 2021
Teen girl eating bagel with cream cheese and dog staring at it

If you've ever wondered, "can dogs have cream cheese?" the answer is yes. This creamy spread is safe for dogs, but it's not an ideal treat. Certain varieties -- such as those that contain onions or other unwanted ingredients -- can have adverse effects, and if your dog eats too much of it, they can suffer from obesity and other health issues. Even if you only use it occasionally to help give your dog a pill, it's important to understand which kinds of cream cheese to avoid in order to keep your pup safe.

Can dogs eat cream cheese infographic

Cream Cheese Is Not Toxic for Dogs

Although cream cheese is safe for dogs to have in moderation, it does not offer much nutritional value. Experts state that it contains some protein, vitamins A and B, probiotics, and calcium, though the amounts are fairly nominal. More importantly, it's very high in saturated fat and calories. Other foods can offer dogs these same benefits without the risks.

Given its high dairy and fat content, excessive cream cheese can be harmful. If your pup gets ahold of too much, you can likely expect to see them develop gastrointestinal issues, including vomiting or diarrhea. Fatty foods can even cause inflammation of a dog's pancreas -- a painful and potentially fatal condition called pancreatitis. Weight gain, obesity, and diabetes are other long-term adverse effects to be aware of.

How Much Cream Cheese Can Your Dog Have?

Most experts advise that pet owners limit cream cheese for dogs. This shouldn't serve as a frequent or even daily treat. Instead, save this spread for special occasions.

Additions to a dog's diet should stay under 10 percent of their daily calorie requirements. Cream cheese contains about 50 calories per tablespoon, meaning a 50-pound dog should not exceed a single tablespoon each day, while a small 20-pound dog can have no more than 1 teaspoon. Even these volumes of the rich spread can upset a dog's stomach.

Types of Cream Cheese to Avoid

Cream cheese spreads come in a plethora of flavors. Unfortunately, many of them contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Avoid the following popular cream cheese flavors.

Homemade cream cheese Bagel
  • Chive
  • Onion
  • Jalapeno
  • Garden vegetable
  • Garlic and herb
  • Sugar-free cream cheese spreads sweetened with Xylitol

If you discover that your dog has eaten cream cheese with any of these toxic additives, contact your veterinarian or an animal poison service.

Cream Cheese to Administer Pills

Many dog owners find success using plain cream cheese for medication administration. The creamy spread easily coats the pill, masks any bitter flavor from the medication, and helps it glide down in a single gulp. If this is something you'd like to try, be sure to use only a small amount -- less than ½ teaspoon is recommended to avoid stomach upset.

However, some medications should not be given with cream cheese. The efficacy of prescriptions, including some antibiotics, can be compromised by the calcium in dairy-based foods. So, skip the cheese if your dog is on an antibiotic, and always consult with your veterinarian to see if it's safe with any other medicines.

Alternative Treat Options

If you want to give your dog a creamy and healthy treat, consider offering them one of these safe alternatives instead.

  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Banana
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Canned pumpkin
  • Pureed squash

Limit Cream Cheese for Dogs

While a smear of plain cream cheese on a pill or inside a Kong toy won't hurt your dog, there are several human foods that are more nutritious. Consider swapping this treat out with something lower in fat. Should your dog eat a significant amount of cream cheese, or cream cheese with added ingredients, contact your veterinarian right away to avoid any negative health effects.

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Can Dogs Have Cream Cheese? Depends on the Kind