Protein is a key component of an adult dog’s nutritional needs. However, fish is often overlooked in favour of heavier meats like beef or chicken.
Fish possesses many properties that would benefit dogs, but not all species are suitable for consumption. In addition, it’s important that this protein is prepared and cooked properly.
In this article, we address the commonly asked question “can dogs eat fish?”. We also share the species that are safe for consumption and give you some healthy ways to include it in your dog’s diet.
Health Benefits of Feeding Fish to Dogs
Fish adds another dimension of nutrients that are easy to miss in a typical dog’s diet. These can have a preventative effect towards illnesses as well as improving their present health.
Fish contains a vast spread of nutritional benefits including magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, selenium, iron and zinc as well as amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids.
The minerals play crucial roles in fluid balance and healthy bone development. Omega-3 fatty acids aid in regulating inflammatory responses and also help give your dog a smooth, shiny coat of fur.
Health Risks of Feeding Fish to Dogs
Unlike meats such as beef and chicken, fish are comparatively more difficult to prepare as there are more risk factors to take note of.
Choking on Fish Bones
Fish bones are small, brittle, and potentially dangerous for your dog. They can lodge themselves in their mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines, sometimes even perforating the organ wall. Not only is this painful, it can also result in an expensive visit to the veterinarian.
Parasites from Raw Fish
Raw and undercooked fish may harbour harmful bacteria such as salmonella and listeria. Feeding them to your dog may risk transmission and potentially serious health trouble. This can be especially dangerous for young puppies or pregnant dogs.
Potential Allergic Reactions
Some dogs are allergic to fish or shellfish. Avoid giving your pet seafood if you know that they don’t respond well to it. If you spot signs of excessive scratching, drooling, or vomiting and diarrhoea in response to commercial food, your dog may be allergic to fish.
In such cases, it’s best to seek professional veterinary opinions to keep your dog healthy and happy.
What Fish Can Dogs Eat and Not Eat
While including fish in a dog’s diet typically has merits, not all species and cooking methods are suitable for consumption. Here’s a handy infographic to help you identify what’s safe for your dog to eat!
The ideal types of fish for a dog’s diet are those that have shorter lifespans as they run less risk of having heavy metals, such as mercury, in their bloodstream. On the other hand, larger fish with longer lifespans tend to contain higher levels of mercury which is harmful to your pet.
Here are some examples:
|Fish species that are safe for a dog’s consumption||Fish species that are NOT safe for a dog’s consumption|
Just as not all fish are suitable for dogs to eat, not all preparation methods are safe as well. Raw fish and fried fish are potentially the most harmful and should be avoided as much as possible.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s not advisable for you to feed raw fish to your dogs. They may carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella and listeria. Thus, consuming it can cause your dog to fall sick and infect your family through saliva contact.
However, commercial raw dog food brands may offer fish options that have been carefully prepared to reduce this risk.
Additionally, here are some tips to prevent foodborne infections when handling raw food:
- Store raw food separately from other food.
- Thaw frozen raw products in your fridge or microwave.
- If there’s leftover raw food that your pet didn’t finish, cover it and throw it away immediately.
- Clean and disinfect any contaminated objects and surfaces that came into contact with the raw food e.g. countertops, cutting boards, utensils.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds after handling raw food.
According to Dogs Naturally, there are 3 main parasites that exist in raw fish. These creatures will threaten your dog’s health if their immune system is already compromised. If you insist on feeding raw fish to your pet, ensure that you freeze the fish at least 1 week ahead to kill all parasites.
It’s advised to avoid feeding fried fish to your dog. Fish cooked in too much oil can upset the glycaemic index of dogs and result in serious illnesses such as pancreatitis.
Ways to Include Fish in Your Dog’s Diet
There are two ways pet parents can include fish in a dog’s diet. Firstly, commercial dog food is a viable option as most brands provide nutritionally balanced kibble that contain fish.
Another way would be to prepare fish for your dog yourself. There are ample resources to help you get started if this is a method you’re keen to try.
Do note that although fish provide added nutrition, they will still need a good variety of other ingredients to achieve a holistic diet.
Fish-based Commercial Dog Food
Professionally prepared fish-based kibble can reduce the hassle of preparing meals for your dog. Your dog’s health is in good hands with products formulated with nutritional balance in mind.
1. Fish4Dogs Finest Salmon Complete Small Bite 1.5kg
Suitable for all adult breeds, this salmon bite-sized dog food from Fish4Dogs is rich in omega-3. It’s perfect for achieving healthy skin and a shiny coat amongst other benefits of salmon for dogs.
2. Fish4Dogs Finest Fish Complete (Ocean Whitefish) Small Bite 1.5kg
This savoury ocean whitefish recipe is concocted to improve digestion, joint mobility and aid brain and eye development in dogs.
3. Orijen Six Fish for Dogs 11.4kg
Orijen boasts a whole prey recipe that includes the meat, organs and cartilage of 6 nutrient-dense fishes. Fishes include mackerel, herring, flounder, redfish, monkfish and silver hake.
4. Kiwi Kitchens Freeze Dried Fish Dinner 425g
This Kiwi Kitchens freeze-dried dog food features sustainably-farmed salmon from New Zealand and is jam packed with superfoods.
5. ANF Canine Holistic Fish and Potato 7.5kg
This fish and potato formula by ANF has been proven to offer a nutritionally balanced meal for dogs of all breeds and ages.
Home Cooked Dog Food With Fish
Cooking for your dog can give you a peace of mind knowing what goes into your dog’s meal. Here are some tips on how to safely prepare fish for your dog:
Tip 1: Avoid seasoning and oil
Ideally, serve your dog plain fish meat as too much seasoning and oil can negatively affect their health. For example, too much salt consumption can cause an electrolyte imbalance and may result in symptoms such as lethargy, weakness, ataxia, seizures and coma.
Tip 2: Remove the fish bones
Fish bones are a choking hazard and can seriously harm your dog if they puncture their internal organs. Hence, it may be good to break the fish into smaller pieces and check thoroughly for bones.
Tip 3: Steam or grill the fish
These cooking methods use little to no oil and therefore are the safest ways to prepare fish for your dog.
Tip 4: Keep portion sizes small
Especially when introducing fish into their diet, it’s important to give your dog only two to three small chunks of cooked fish at a time. Even when your dog is more accustomed to it, it’s better to give it as an occasional treat and not as an everyday indulgence.
Also, do remember to keep an eye on your dog for a few hours after feeding them fish so that you can catch any signs of an allergic reaction. If you see any concerning signs, call your vet immediately.
Easy Salmon and Vegetables Recipe Ingredients
- Salmon (skin removed)
- 1 head of broccoli (chopped)
- 2 potatoes (peeled and chopped)
- 1 carrot (peeled and chopped)
- Handful of parsley (chopped)
- Boil all the vegetables in unsalted water until soft.
- Add about ¼ of the parsley and mix with the vegetables.
- Steam the salmon until fully cooked.
- Serve together.
FAQs about Dogs Eating Fish
Can puppies or pregnant dogs eat fish?
Yes, pregnant females and weaned puppies can benefit from the extra protein found in fish, in addition to their regular prenatal or puppy diet.
Fresh fish is safe for pregnant females and puppies if it’s properly cleaned, deboned, cooked thoroughly, and offered in small amounts as a treat or as part of a balanced home-cooked diet.
Can dogs eat fish skin?
It’s best to keep the skin off the fish, but if you’re planning to serve it, do follow these guidelines:
- Ensure that the skin is cooked through
- Cut the skin into small pieces and limit intake
- Fish scales should be removed if they are sharp
- The fish shouldn’t come from polluted waters
Can dogs eat fish fingers or sticks?
Fish sticks don’t offer any nutritional benefits and their low-quality ingredients may cause long-term health problems. Therefore, they should be avoided altogether.
Food for humans tends to contain too much oil, salt and seasonings that have a high risk of causing serious illnesses in dogs. Hence, it’s important to prepare fish for your dog separately using steaming and grilling methods.