Yogurt: Four Reasons (besides taste) Your Dog Wants It

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I know your dog loves most human food, but indiscriminate taste aside, your dog needs yogurt specifically for its health kick as well. Yogurt provides a huge nutritional bang for your buck. I’m referring to real yogurt: The kind with active cultures, not the overly sweetened, heavily modified forms with lots of hard-to-pronounce words. (Though, admittedly, the names of the live bacteria in the yogurt may be hard to get your mouth around as well!)

Reason #1: A Treasure Trove Of Nutrients

For both you and your mutt, good quality yogurt provides a wealth of essential micronutrients. These include vitamins A, B2, B5 and B12; zinc; phosphorus; calcium; magnesium and potassium. Many brands are also fortified with vitamin D. These micronutrients provided by yogurt participate in many bodily processes, impacting:

Eyesight Growth
Development Metabolism
Immune System function Musculoskeletal health
Nervous system function Reproductive health
Cardiovascular function Acid-base balance
Endocrine function  

Is that enough for you to consider yogurt a great addition to your dog’s diet?  If not, consider that along with the micronutrients noted above, yogurt is rich in protein, fatty acids and carbohydrates, providing the three main building blocks of the body. The proteins are of high nutritional quality (1), and for most mutts, are easily digested.  The proteins and fats in yogurt provide a sense of fullness (“satiety”) after a meal for those pooches who never seem satisfied.  Yogurt proteins and fatty acids also promote healthy blood sugar and insulin regulation. Remember that dogs get diabetes, too, and the incidence is on the rise (2). Moreover, research points to a benefit in working with obesity through blood sugar regulation, satiety and improved gut health (3); something to keep in mind if you have a paunchy pooch. 

Reason #2: Good For Geriatric Hounds And Growing Puppies

Studies suggest that yogurt may improve the health of older folks (4), which is one reason I supplement the diet of my old-but-active Chihuahua, Ratticus Finch, with yogurt.  For the young dogs, active-culture yogurt seems to benefit growth and development, along with proper immune system function (1). While this work was done in people, I would expect some benefit for our 4-legged friends as well. 

Reason #3: Active Cultures For Gut Health

Beyond the micro- and macronutrients, the live microbes such as lactobacillus that yogurt contains support health in multiple ways. First, before the yogurt even hits your pooch’s stomach, fermentation by the active cultures break down macronutrients into bioactive metabolites that benefit the body (1).  Also, some microbes found in yogurt may act as probiotics. Indeed, you might consider feeding Fido a bit of yogurt daily if he’s on antibiotics. This may help prevent overgrowth of opportunistic microbes that cause problems when their neighbors are wiped out by antibiotic treatment.  Finally, some bacterial strains found in yogurt may be able to modulate immune system function, even if no live bacteria from the yogurt actually make it to the gut intact (5). 

Reason #4: Dogs Love It

You might consider a good quality  yogurt-containing dog treat for bribery as a training aid. All of my dogs like yogurt. In particular, the late, great Zoe loved it. Her job was to clean out the yogurt containers in preparation for recycling.   Remember only to feed your dog yogurt that is good quality, plain and with active cultures. Avoid flavored or otherwise sweetened yogurt. 

References

  1. Marette, A and E Picard-Deland (2014) Yogurt consumption and impact on health: focus on children and cardiometabolic risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 99(5):1243S-1247S.
  2. Hoening, M, et al. (2014) Carbohydrate metabolism and pathogenesis of diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 121:377-412.
  3. Pei, R, et al (2015) Evidence for the effects of yogurt on gut health and obesity. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 15:0. [Epub ahead of print]
  4. El-Abbadi, NH, et al (2014) Yogurt: role in healthy and active aging. Am J Clin Nutr.99(5 Suppl):1263S-70S.
  5. Morelli, L (2014) Yogurt, living cultures, and gut health. Am J Clin Nutr. 99(5):1248S-1250S.

Anna-Marija Helt, PhD, is a research scientist-turned herbalist who practices and teaches at Osadha Herbal Wellness in Durango, Colorado. She is also Milo, Zeke, D, and Ratticus Finch's human.