Can Dogs Eat Vanilla Yogurt?

Should you give your dog a spoonful of this? ¹

It is thought that yogurt dates back to around 10, 000 years ago and that it mistakenly came to be created when milk was left to sour in warm weather!

Yogurt was a well known food in both the Greek and Roman empires. 

It seems that Bulgaria was responsible for introducing yogurt to much of the Western world. 

Although Greek yogurt is a very popular type of yogurt now, one hundred years ago Bulgarian yogurt was en vogue. 

But enough of history. 

Let me provide you with a simple answer to your question. 

Can dogs eat vanilla yogurt?

Yes, generally speaking your dog will be fine to eat vanilla yogurt.

I’m talking the odd spoonful here and there- and not whole pots!

None of the ingredients used in any of the major brands of vanilla yogurt are toxic for dogs.

Well, none of the ingredients are used in the sort of volume that will make them toxic for dogs.

But I will go into much more depth on that later. 

As a product in which the main ingredient is milk, it won’t be suitable for any dogs that are lactose intolerant. 

Yogurt does have some strengths in that it is a good source of calcium and many of the brands contain live cultures or probiotics. 

And now for those of you who want a bit more detail, here goes. 

To start with, I want to make another comparison. 

Plain vs vanilla- two differences

I hope that I’m not patronising anyone here but these two terms are used by some people to mean the same thing. 

But even though vanilla is a mild flavour, it is a totally different type of yogurt to natural yogurt. 

Some people might call plain yogurt original yogurt. 

And in fact there are two important differences between natural and vanilla yogurts. 

Firstly, natural yogurt has no additional flavours in it. 

And secondly, plain yogurts have live cultures in them. 

Which are bacteria that are meant to help our digestive system. 

So having cleared up one possible misunderstanding, I want to find out what the main ingredients are in vanilla yogurt and how dog friendly they are. 

What are the ingredients in vanilla yogurt?

So having looked at four popular brands of vanilla yogurt on Walmart.com I can confidently say that there are six commonly used ingredients in these yogurts

And they are: reduced fat milk, sugar, water, cornstarch, natural flavours (which sometimes includes vanilla extract) and live cultures. 

Having looked at the basic ingredients I next want to work out what is good about them and what is bad about them. 

How is vanilla yogurt good for dogs?

I think that there are two things that can be considered beneficial or OK for your dogs when it comes to vanilla yogurt. 

  • Most of the yogurts are made with reduced fat milk
  • They contain live cultures
  • A good source of calcium

Reduced fat milk 

Reduced fat milk has less fat and calories than full fat milk. 

Which is good news for your dog’s waistline. 

Also reduced fat milk does contain extra minerals and vitamins that could boost your dog’s health. 

Milk has quite high concentrations of vitamin B12 and vitamin B2 as well as having some vitamin A. 

B vitamins will help to boost your dog’s metabolism as well as helping the tiny cells in their body stay as healthy as possible. 

One of the most fundamental ways that vitamin A helps dogs is by making their eyesight as good as possible. 

Milk does have a dark side for some dogs but I will tackle that in the next section. 

What other benefit does vanilla yogurt bring to the table? 

Are live cultures good for dogs? 

Live cultures or probiotics are the invisible bacteria that are added into many yogurts to help us to be gut healthy or to put it more eloquently, to help support our digestive system. 

And dogs will benefit from these probiotics as well. 

I will keep this short and sweet. 

Probiotics is a fascinating topic but this article isn’t the place to be going into any real detail on it. 

A healthy digestive system in a dog is one that is balanced between good bacteria and bad bacteria. 

Poor diet and stress will unbalance the digestive system. 

And probiotics put good bacteria back into the gut. 

Yogurt is a good source of calcium

Because yogurt is mainly milk, it is an excellent source of calcium.

And calcium plays an important role in maintaining strong bones and teeth within a dog.

But although it is easy to get carried away with the link between calcium and dairy, there are other dog friendly sources of calcium.

These include leafy green vegetables such as kale and surprising foods such as white beans. 

So having seen how vanilla yogurt might be good for your dog, it is now time to look at some of the ways it is unhealthy. 

How is vanilla yogurt bad for dogs?

I think that there are ways in which vanilla yogurt is less than ideal for dogs. 

  • Vanilla extract is poisonous to dogs
  • Some dogs are lactose intolerant
  • Vanilla yogurt contains lots of sugar

Vanilla extract is toxic

I’m trying to be a little sensationalist in order to grab your attention. 

Most of the yogurts I looked at used natural flavours, but some of them used vanilla extract. 

Vanilla extract can contain over 30‰ alcohol and so were your dog to steal a bottle of it from the kitchen counter then they would be in real trouble. 

Alcohol is poisonous to dogs because they cannot absorb it properly. 

However, the amount of vanilla extract used in these yogurts will be so small to not cause a danger to your dog. 

But that isn’t the only reason why vanilla yogurt isn’t healthy for your dog. 

Some dogs are lactose intolerant 

The “largest” ingredient in most yogurts is milk.

Now we have already spoken about how the fact that most of the milk used seems to be reduced fat.

However, we cannot escape from the simple fact that regardless of the fat content of milk, dogs that are lactose intolerant will still need to stay well clear of vanilla yogurt.

No one knows what percentage of the dog population are lactose intolerant and to be frank there is no real consensus on how many of the human population are either. 

Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. 

And dogs who are lactose intolerant will struggle to digest it and will suffer from a range of symptoms such as stomach ache and diarrhoea if they do eat any yogurt.

I now want to move onto the final drawback that eating yogurt will have for all dogs.

Vanilla yogurt is high in sugar

I have had a quick look at the nutritional values of the same pots of vanilla yogurt that I was looking at earlier.

And I have worked out that on average these pots of yogurt are 10% sugar. 

And it isn’t hard to see why.

In most of the vanilla yogurts, sugar is the second most used ingredient after milk. 

Now obviously a dog who has an occasional lick of the lid of a yogurt has nothing to worry about.

But for a dog who is eating vanilla yogurt everyday, the sugar content is something to keep an eye on.

Having looked at the pros and cons of vanilla yogurt, in the next couple of sections I want to look at different types of vanilla yogurt.

Can dogs eat Greek vanilla yogurt?

Dogs are fine to eat Greek vanilla yogurt.

Very often Greek yogurt of any flavour contains the same ingredients as regular yogurt.

In terms of texture a Greek yogurt is much thicker and its taste is slightly more sour than a regular yogurt.

Even though the same ingredients are used, the milk is processed in a slightly different way when making the yogurts. 

Regular yogurt contains milk whey- which is the liquid remains of milk after it has been strained.

Greek yogurt has the whey removed- meaning that with less liquid it is thicker.

But this different approach gives the two different types of yogurt a slightly different nutrition.

Greek yogurt has more protein and less calcium than regular yogurt. 

It is also lower in carbs and sugar.

So which one is better?

If you want to add more protein to your dog’s diet go with Greek.

If instead a calcium boost is what you are after, then regular yogurt is your man. 

Can my dog eat Activia or probiotic vanilla yogurt?

The good news is that, as we said earlier, there is no reason not to feed your dog Activia branded or other probiotic yogurts. 

They can help improve your dog’s gut health.

On another positive note, it will be almost impossible for your dog to overdose on probiotics.

The worst that will happen is that your dog will get a bad dose of diarrhea but there will be no long term harm.

But, if you are looking to add probiotics regularly into your dog’s diet then I’m not sure that using a probiotic yogurt is the best way to do this. 

If one small pot of Activia yogurt contains about one billion probiotics and a small dog needs 1 to 3 billion per day then that is a lot of yogurt to be feeding your dog!

Photo credits

¹ Photo by theimpulsivebuy on Flickr