Cheddar, Guda, Mozzarella, who doesn’t love cheese? It’s no secret that many dog foods and dog treats come flavoured with cheese. It’s a very palatable ingredient, rich in calcium and fats. But what if we told you that cheese may actually be beneficial to your dog’s intestinal tract and promote digestion? Well it’s not so much cheese itself but rather the probiotics that can be found or added into certain types of cheeses. A 2018 study conducted by scientists at the Chungbuk National University in Korea, investigated whether the administration of cheese containing probiotics improved intestinal microbiota and short chain fatty acids in the healthy companion dogs.
The small intestine is a major destination for digestion. Largely initiated by microorganisms in the intestine called microflora, nutrient breakdown and absorption is one of their main jobs. There are a mixture of good and bad bacteria in the microbiome and this balance can be greatly affected by factors such as diet, age, stress and antibiotics.
Probiotics are live bacteria that are sometimes added to food in order to promote a healthy microbiome. The most common probiotic species are called Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus and aside from promoting digestion, they can also have a beneficial immune effect where they sweep out any harmful pathogens from the intestines.
The composition and activity of gut bacteria also greatly affect intestinal short chain fatty acids (SCFA). SFCA are fatty acids which are an essential component of bowel health and also play a role in promoting intestinal motility, regulating the immune system and reducing plasma cholesterol.
Probiotics only naturally occur in raw, unpasteurized cheeses, which means that probiotics are usually added to cheeses in order to reap the intestinal benefits.
What they did
The scientists used Queso Blanco cheese due to its low processing and lack of color additives. To the Queso, the probiotic B. longum KACC 91563 was added. The cheese was fed to a group of 15 dogs at 10g/kg body weight for 8 weeks. Fresh fecal samples were collected before, during and after being fed the cheese. Results were then compared to a control group, which were not fed the cheese. After collection, the samples were analyzed for bacteria population and SFCA.
What they found
Results of the study showed that feeding cheese containing probiotics increased the beneficial intestinal bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and reduced harmful bacteria such as Enterobacteriaceae and Clostridium. Furthermore, feeding the cheese also increased SCFAs like acetic and propionic acid.
Take home message
Overall, feeding the probiotic Queso showed that probiotics in cheese may have positive effects on intestinal microbiota. Additionally, probiotic metabolites could be used as a functional food for companion animals.
However, caution should be exercised in the TYPE of cheese that you feed your dog. Probiotics aside, cheese can still contain high levels of salt, fat, preservatives and artificial colouring. More importantly, most grocery store cheeses do not contain added probiotics. If you are feeding your dog cheese, feed in moderation and choose a cheese that is less processed and contains added probiotics.