You love that grilled salmon or the occasional sushi night. With its myriad health benefits, fish has become a staple in many diets. And as you savour that piece of tuna or mackerel, you might catch those pleading puppy eyes gazing up at you.
They seem to be asking, “Can I have some too?” Let’s dive in and discover if sharing this underwater delicacy with your furry friend is a good idea.
Is it safe for dogs to eat fish?
👉 Absolutely, but with a few caveats. Just as fish can be a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids for humans, it can also benefit dogs. However, how you serve it and the type of fish matter.
Table of Contents
The Health Benefits of Fish for Dogs
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These are great for your dog’s skin and coat. Omega-3 can also help reduce inflammation1, benefiting dogs with joint issues or allergies.
- High-Quality Protein: Fish provides dogs with a lean source of protein that’s easy on the digestive system.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Fish contains essential nutrients like vitamin D, B-complex vitamins, and minerals like zinc and iron.
Risks of Feeding Fish to Dogs:
- Bones: Fish bones, especially in larger fish, can pose a choking hazard or puncture your dog’s digestive tract. Always ensure that any fish you feed your dog is boneless.
- Raw Fish: While sushi might be a delicacy for us, raw fish can contain parasites harmful2 to dogs. If you’re offering fish, make sure it’s thoroughly cooked.
- Fish High in Mercury: Fish such as sharks, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish can have high levels of mercury, which isn’t suitable for dogs. Please stick to the safer options listed in our table above.
- Spices and Seasonings: What garlic, onion, and herbs might you use to season your fish? They can be toxic to dogs. Always serve them plain fish without the extras.
So, next time you’re indulging in a seafood dinner and those puppy eyes turn your way, you can share a bite – but make sure it’s a safe and dog-friendly morsel!
Fish isn’t just a single category; there’s a vast ocean of choices.
Some are amazing for your furry friend, while others might need more caution. Let’s dive deeper into some of these options:
Can dogs eat tuna?
Yes, but in moderation. Tuna can provide dogs with beneficial nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and protein. However, there are concerns about mercury levels, especially in larger varieties of tuna. Opt for light canned tuna (in water, not oil) and avoid giving it too frequently.
Can dogs eat salmon?
Absolutely! Salmon is a fantastic source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. However, always ensure that the salmon is fully cooked. Raw or undercooked salmon can contain a parasite that’s harmful to dogs. Also, make sure to remove all bones.
Can dogs eat sardines?
Yes! Sardines are small, nutrient-packed, and usually safe for dogs. Their tiny bones are generally soft enough not to pose a choking hazard, making them easy to consume. Buy sardines packed in water rather than oil or sauce.
Can dogs eat mackerel?
Mackerel is another fish rich in essential nutrients, especially omega-3. As with other fish, ensure it’s cooked and boneless before serving to your dog.
Can dogs eat catfish?
Yes, they can. Catfish offer a decent amount of protein and other nutrients. Just ensure you cook it properly and remove all the bones.
Are there any fish that are toxic to dogs?
👉 While no fish are inherently “toxic” to dogs in the same way chocolate or grapes might be, some fish can be more problematic than others:
- Fish High in Mercury: Fish like sharks, swordfish, king mackerel (not to be confused with the safer mackerel), and tilefish have high mercury levels and should be avoided.
- Fish Used in Fugu (Pufferfish): This fish, known for its use in the Japanese dish “fugu,” contains a potent toxin. It should NEVER be given to dogs, as even a tiny amount can be deadly.
- Raw Fish: Always be cautious with raw fish. It can contain harmful parasites. Always opt for cooked fish for your pup’s safety.
|Fish Type||Reasons to Avoid|
|Shark||High levels of mercury|
|Swordfish||High levels of mercury|
|King Mackerel||High levels of mercury|
|Tilefish||High levels of mercury|
|Raw Fish||Risk of parasites and bacterial infections|
Preparing Methods: Raw vs. Cooked Fish for Dogs?
Ahoy, dog-loving chef! If you’re considering preparing a fishy treat for your furry friend, there are some things to remember. Preparing fish for dogs is simple, but safety should always be a priority.
Should I cook the fish before feeding It to my dog? Absolutely. Cooking the fish kills parasites and bacteria and makes it easier for your dog to digest.
Raw Fish for Dogs:
It might seem natural, especially considering diets like BARF3 (biologically appropriate raw foods), but raw fish can carry harmful parasites and bacteria. While some argue raw fish is delicate occasionally, the risks generally outweigh the benefits.
While some advocates promote a raw diet for dogs, raw fish carries specific concerns:
- Parasites: Fish can host harmful parasites, which cooking would kill. These parasites can lead to diseases like salmon poisoning in dogs, which can be fatal if untreated.
- Bacteria: Raw fish, if not handled or stored correctly, can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, leading to food poisoning.
- Thiaminase: Some raw fish contains an enzyme called thiaminase, which breaks down thiamine, a B vitamin. A lack of thiamine can cause loss of appetite, seizures, and even death.
Cooked Fish for Dogs:
This is the safer option. Cooking eliminates potential hazards associated with raw fish. Always cook the fish without any added oils, sauces, or seasonings.
Can Dogs Eat Fish Skin? Fish skin is safe for dogs if it’s scale-free and unseasoned with spices, onions or garlic. Cooked fish skin can be a healthy treat in moderation.
Preparing Fish for Dog Consumption:
- Choose the Right Fish: Opt for fish lower in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Clean and Descale: Ensure the fish is clean and scales-free.
- Cooking Method: Steaming or boiling fish is ideal. These methods don’t require any added fats or flavours.
- No Additives: While herbs and spices may elevate a dish for us, they can harm dogs. Skip the salt, onion, garlic, and other seasonings.
- Check for Bones: Flake the fish open and double-check for any bones after cooking. Even small ones can be a hazard.
💡 Bonus Tips: Can Dogs Eat Fish Bones? No, it’s not advisable. While smaller bones, like those in sardines, can sometimes be safely consumed, larger fish bones can cause choking, internal injuries, or blockages. Always ensure that the fish is boneless before feeding it to your dog.
Can I Feed My Dog Fish Every Day?
In all its omega-rich glory, fish seems like a great addition to your dog’s diet. But how much is too much? Let’s discuss the optimal frequency and quantity.
👉 How Often Can I Feed My Dog Fish? Fish can be a healthy part of your dog’s diet but shouldn’t be their only food. Feeding your dog fish once or twice weekly is generally considered a reasonable frequency.
While fish is nutritious, a varied diet ensures your dog gets all the essential nutrients. If you want to include fish as a regular part of their diet, it should only replace their standard meals partially.
Consider serving fish as a smaller portion of their overall food intake. If you’re thinking of making significant changes to your dog’s diet or want to include fish as a regular staple, it’s an excellent idea to consult your vet.
What is the Right Fish Portion Size For Dogs?
- Size of the Dog: A Chihuahua will eat much less fish than a Great Dane. Generally, fish can make up to 10% of your dog’s total daily intake. So, for a dog that eats 2 cups of food daily, a fish serving of about 0.2 cups (or a similar weight proportion) is reasonable.
- Type of Fish: Some fish are fattier than others. For example, salmon is higher in fat than cod. Adjust portion sizes depending on the fish’s fat content.
- Preparation: Remember, when measuring portion sizes, you’re measuring the cooked, boneless fish.
- Other Foods: If you’re giving fish, you should reduce the different protein sources for that meal to ensure a balanced diet.
👉 While fish is a fabulous, nutrient-rich food for your dog, moderation is key. By considering your dog’s size, the type of fish, and the balance of their overall diet, you can ensure they reel in the benefits without going overboard.
Are There Any Special Fish Products and Recipes for Dogs?
With the rising popularity of fish as a nutrient powerhouse, it’s no surprise that plenty of fish-based products and recipes are available for our four-legged friends. Let’s explore the ocean of options.
Fish Recipes for Dogs:
|Simple Steamed Fish||Boneless fish fillet (like salmon or cod), water||Place the fish fillet in a steamer over boiling water. Cover and steam until cooked. Flake and serve.|
|Fish & Veggie Mash||Boneless fish fillet, peas, carrots, small amount of olive oil||Boil veggies until soft. Steam fish separately. Mash everything together with a bit of olive oil.|
|Fishy Dog Biscuits||2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup rolled oats, 1/3 cup dry milk, 1/3 cup cornmeal, 1/2 cup fish flakes, one egg, 1 1/2 cups water||Mix dry ingredients. Add fish flakes, egg, and water. Form a dough, roll out, cut shapes, and bake at 375°F (190°C) for 20-25 mins. Cool before serving.|
Fish-based Dog Food Brands:
Several reputable dog food brands offer fish-based options:
- Orijen: Known for its high-quality ingredients, Orijen offers a Six Fish formula packed with various fish protein sources.
- Blue Buffalo: Their Wilderness Salmon formula is famous among many dog owners.
- Acana: Their Pacifica dog food features regional fish as its primary protein source.
Organic Fish Treats for Dogs:
For the eco-conscious pup parent, there are organic fish treats available. Some popular options include:
- Honest Kitchen’s Wishes: Dehydrated white fish filets suitable for both cats and dogs.
- Polka Dog’s Cod Skins: Crunchy sticks made from wild-caught cod.
Benefits of Fish Oil for Dogs:
Fish oil is often hailed as a supplement superstar for humans and pets.
- Skin and Coat Health: Omega-3 fatty acids can lead to a shinier coat and healthier skin.
- Joint Health: Fish oil can help reduce inflammation4 and benefit dogs with arthritis.
- Heart Health: Omega-3s are known to support heart health.
- Brain Development: For puppies, DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, aids in brain and eye development.
🚫 When introducing fish oil, it’s essential to ensure the dosage is appropriate for your dog’s size and weight. Consulting your vet for recommendations is always a good step.
From recipes to store-bought goodies, there’s no shortage of ways to let your dog dive into the benefits of fish. Whether it’s a homemade fish dish or a dash of fish oil, your dog will thank you for the oceanic treat!
Potential Fish Allergies and Side Effects in Dogs
While fish can offer various benefits for dogs, like all foods, there are potential side effects and concerns. It’s always crucial to approach any dietary changes with awareness.
Fish Allergies in Dogs: Yes, even dogs can be allergic to fish. Although it’s less common than allergies to beef or chicken, some dogs might show allergic reactions to fish. Symptoms can include:
- Itchy skin or hives
- Ear infections
- Digestive problems like diarrhoea or vomiting
- Chronic foot or ear infections If you notice any of these signs after feeding fish to your dog, consult with your vet immediately.
Side Effects of Fish in Dog Diets:
- Digestive Issues: New foods can sometimes cause upset stomachs. If your dog hasn’t eaten fish, it might experience temporary diarrhoea or vomiting. It’s always best to introduce any new food slowly.
- Fish Bones: As previously mentioned, these can cause choking hazards, internal obstructions, or injuries.
- Richness: Some fish, especially fattier varieties, might be too rich for some dogs, leading to pancreatitis in extreme cases.
🚫 Mercury Levels in Fish for Dogs: Just as humans need to be wary of mercury levels in fish, the same goes for dogs. Long-term exposure to high levels of mercury can lead to mercury poisoning, which affects the nervous system.
Special Considerations: Canned Fish and Benefits of Omega-3 for Dogs
Can Dogs Eat Canned Fish? Yes, dogs can eat canned fish, but with caveats:
- Salt Content: Canned fish often contains added salt, which could be better for dogs. Opt for low-sodium options or those canned in water.
- Bones: Some canned fish, like sardines, might contain soft bones. These are generally safe for dogs to consume, but always check the texture.
- Additives and Preservatives: Read the label. Avoid canned fish with added spices, sauces, or preservatives.
Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fish, are vital for dogs. They:
- Boost Skin and Coat Health: Say goodbye to dry, flaky skin and hello to a lustrous coat!
- Support Joint Health: Particularly beneficial for older dogs or breeds prone to joint issues.
- Promote Heart Health: Omega-3s can support a healthier heart by improving blood flow and reducing inflammation.
- Enhance Brain Function: This is especially crucial for puppies in their developmental phase but beneficial for dogs of all ages.
Diving into the world of fish for our furry friends reveals a vast ocean of possibilities.
However, like any deep sea exploration, there are potential hazards to be aware of. From fish allergies to the lurking dangers of raw fish, it’s essential to be well-informed and observant. Mercury levels, certain preservatives in fish meal, and the risks to bones are vital considerations that can’t be overlooked.
But don’t let these waves deter you! You can set sail smoothly with careful navigation – choosing suitable fish varieties, ensuring proper preparation, and monitoring portion sizes. Remember to introduce any new food gradually, be mindful of your dog’s reactions, and anchor down with a trusted vet’s advice when in doubt.
By balancing the rich benefits against the potential risks and armed with knowledge, you can make fish a delightful and nutritious treasure in your dog’s mealtime adventures. So, dear dog owner, chart your course, steer safely, and let your dog enjoy the sea’s bounty!
- Mori, T.A., Beilin, L.J. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammation. Curr Atheroscler Rep 6, 461–467 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11883-004-0087-5 ↩︎
- Daschner, A. (2016). Risks and Possible Health Effects of Raw Fish Intake. Fish and Fish Oil in Health and Disease Prevention, 341-353. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-802844-5.00031-2 ↩︎
- BROZIĆ, D. (2020). RAW MEAT-BASED DIET (BARF) IN DOGS AND CATS NUTRITION. Енглески. https://doi.org/10.7251/VETJEN1902314B ↩︎
- Nigam A, Talajic M, Roy D, et al. Fish Oil for the Reduction of Atrial Fibrillation Recurrence, Inflammation, and Oxidative Stress. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Oct, 64 (14) 1441–1448. ↩︎