So here you are at the kitchen counter with your four legged sous chef stuck to you like glue.
Well, he doesn’t really want to help prepare the meal, he would much rather help eat it.
And tonight, the theme is Italian and you have decided on a pizza.
The counter is a complete mess because you have used so many ingredients.
And perhaps a shortcut might be to feed your dog that last piece of ricotta.
It is much easier than wrapping it back up and leaving it in the fridge to go mouldy, isn’t it?
But should you? Can dogs eat ricotta cheese?
Well before I baffle you with a bit of science and nutrition, I want to do a bit of ricotta cheese 101.
And first a little introduction.
What is ricotta cheese?
Ricotta cheese is an Italian Cheese that dates back to the Bronze age.
This is a period in history that spans 3200 BC and 1200 BC.
Or in simple terms, five thousand years ago.
It is a whey cheese or a type of cheese that is made from the leftovers from other cheeses.
Whey is the liquid that is leftover at the end of cheese making.
It can be made with the whey from a variety of different milks- cow, goat, sheep or even water buffalo.
How much Ricotta is eaten?
Cheese is an incredibly popular food in America and America’s appetite for it is growing.
In the late 1970s the average American ate 16 pounds of cheese per year.
In 2020 that had increased to a whopping 40 pounds of cheese per American, per year.
It is hard to come by any ricotta specific figures.
We do know that the most popular Italian cheese in the US is mozzarella.
Every year, the average American eats about 12 pounds of mozzarella and just over three pounds of other Italian cheeses, including Ricotta.
Having provided a few “fun facts” about this cheese, let’s get down to business and begin to figure out how good this cheese might be for your dog?
Don’t feed ricotta cheese to lactose intolerant dogs
I’m sorry to start off with a short and stark warning but by doing it first helps to get it out of the way.
Ricotta cheese, like most other cheeses and milk based products contains lactose.
And so if your dog is lactose intolerant then cheese isn’t something that you should be adding to their diet.
For those of you who might be reading this with alarm bells going off in their head, then the most common symptoms of lactose intolerance in dogs include diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
If this sounds like your dog, take them to the vet to be checked out and diagnosed.
I will continue with the bad news in the next section as I talk about all the ways in which ricotta cheese is bad for your dog.
How is ricotta cheese unhealthy for dogs?
Below, I will provide you with some basic nutritional data for ricotta cheese.
Like most foods, it has things in it that are good for a dog and things in it which are bad for a dog.
Importantly, any nutrition in ricotta should just be viewed as a booster because your dog should be on a complete diet.
Which means that strictly speaking they don’t need anything else added to their diet.
Ricotta cheese, like all cheeses, really can be considered unhealthy for dogs mainly because of its high fat content.
In every 100g of ricotta cheese, nearly 10g is fat.
Although dogs do need fat in their diet, most of them probably don’t need any more than they are already given.
And a dog that is fed ricotta cheese on a regular basis will be more at risk of obesity and diseases such as pancreatitis.
Other unhealthy aspects of ricotta cheese include the fact that it contains high levels of sodium (salt) and cholesterol.
But before you get too down hearted, eating ricotta cheese does have some upsides as far as your dog is concerned.
Does ricotta cheese contain any healthy nutrients?
Any saving graces that ricotta cheese has, lies in the vitamins and minerals that it contains.
Vitamin wise this cheese is high in vitamin B2 and B12- vitamins that will help your dog with their metabolism and with their production of red blood cells.
Unsurprisingly, ricotta is also high in calcium which will help maintain strong teeth and bones.
And finally there is lots of Phosphorus and selenium in ricotta.
Phosphorus again is most important when it comes to bones.
Selenium helps to boost immune function and metabolism amongst other things.
In the next section, I want to move on and compare ricotta with other cheeses.
Is ricotta a healthy cheese?
I have created a table below.
The table shows figures for three types of cheeses- ricotta, mozzarella and cheddar.
|Fat||9.5 g||20 g||34 g|
|Cholesterol||40 mg||83 mg||100 mg|
|Sodium||102 mg||486 mg||654 mg|
|Carbohydrate||6 g||3.3 g||2.4 g|
|Protein||9.6 g||20 g||23 g|
|Vitamins||B2 and B12||None||A, B2, B12|
|Minerals||Calcium, Phosphorus and Selenium||Calcium||Calcium, Phosphorus, Selenium, Zinc|
If you should feed your dog any cheese. Make it ricotta.
Look at those numbers!
Across most of the important stats, it shows “healthier” numbers.
Mozzarella has a much lower fat, cholesterol and sodium content than either mozzarella or cheddar.
Although ricotta is higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein (which isn’t so good.)
Vitamin wise ricotta is much better than mozzarella but a little worse than cheddar.
And when it comes to minerals ricotta again runs a close second to cheddar.
Ricotta doesn’t contain the same levels of zinc that cheddar does.
How much ricotta cheese should I feed my dog?
The honest answer to this is “as little as possible”.
It is fine as an occasional treat when you have some spare left over from the pizza or lasagne that you are making but don’t feed it to your dogs on a regular basis.
Fortunately, its rubbery and wet texture make it a very poor choice to cut into cubes and use as a training treat.
Your dog’s waist line will thank you for that!
What types of cheese should never be fed to dogs?
In an earlier section we discovered that relative to other popular cheeses, ricotta could almost be considered a healthy option.
But in this section I briefly want to chat about a type of cheese that you should never share with your dog.
And that is any type of blue cheese.
Which is great news for the vast army of blue cheese lovers because that means that there is more for you!
The danger with blue cheese is that it is made by adding a fungus into the mix- that is how those beautiful blue veins are created!
Unfortunately, the fungus that is used produces a substance called roquefortine C that is potentially fatal to dogs.
Which is where one of the most famous types of blue cheese (Roquefort) gets its name from.
As well as being found in blue cheeses this substance is also found in mouldy foods.