People have been eating fish for as long as humankind has had the tools and ingenuity to catch them – but it’s not as though we’re alone in the animal kingdom in finding flavor and nutrition from beneath the waves.
While cats are perhaps more famously fond of these aquatic appetizers, can dogs eat fish too? The answer is yes – but to understand how to safely serve fish up for your dog, take a look at this guide.
Is fish good for dogs?
Nutrition experts always point out the health benefits of human beings eating fish, and it certainly is true that dogs can get a lot of benefits from eating fish as well.
Fish is very good for dogs if prepared and served up the right way, thanks to its omega oils and protein content.
In fact, it’s entirely possible that your dog has been eating fish for quite some time already, as dog food manufacturers often use fish in their recipes for its superb nutritional value and to round out what their preprepared meals can offer your pet.
As such, if you’re thinking about introducing fish to your dog’s dinner, you have nothing to fear.
Furthermore, there are no specific kinds of fish that dogs are going to suffer from if they consume, so some haddock or cod is as welcome as a good bit of salmon.
Having said that, fish all have their flavors, and you might find that your dog is more keen on one kind of fish than the other.
The best way to find out if this is the case is to experiment, and as with any new addition to your dog’s diet – especially young dogs and puppies – it’s important to make these new flavors known in a gradual, controlled and supervised way.
Naturally, raw fish is not good for dogs any more than it would be for human beings, so dogs are not advised to eat it – and neither ought dogs eat fish bones.
Those are too tiny, brittle but sharp to be of any value to your pet, instead of giving them the risk of choking, cutting their gums while crunching on them or even risking internal wounds as they make their way through your pet’s digestive system.
Please also keep in mind that dogs do not benefit much from added flavors, sauces or preservatives – and you ought to especially avoid giving your dog any fish that has been dusted with or otherwise served alongside onions and garlic.
Both of those all too common flavor additives are very toxic to your animal, and definitely must be avoided.
Likewise, fish with too much salt or oil, liked tinned sardines for dogs, do not come recommended.
If dogs eat sardines or the like, the overall salt and sauce content can override the nutritional value of the fish itself.
Dogs don’t digest the fats, sugars and salt content of manmade sauces and oils very well at all – and while it won’t cause any immediate harm to your pup’s health, it will nevertheless contribute to weight gain, obesity and other health complications in his or her later years if it’s allowed to continue.
Some fresh, plain, well-cooked fish is all that’s needed to help your dog feel happy and healthy, and if you’ve removed the bones accordingly, there’s no danger whatsoever in letting your dog eat fish.
Health benefits of fish for dogs
The health benefits of eating fish are well documented – some even to this day stick by the old family tale of it being brain food, liable to make us smarter.
Whether you buy into that beloved myth or not, dogs definitely can see some pretty decent goodies come out of fish to enrich their bodies.
Perhaps chief among these is protein. Fish is a superb source of protein, and this can only work wonders in your pet, adding to their strength and vitality.
In young dogs and puppies with so much growing still to do, protein powers up their muscular development, and overall gives them plenty of lasting strength and energy.
And in older dogs who are starting to feel their age, protein can help well-worn muscles within your dog’s body to last, and reinvigorate some of their lost strength.
The omega content of fish is also very good for dogs, and many experts praise it for the anti-inflammatory value it has.
This works wonders on helping your dog get over afflictions, illness, and injuries quickly, as well as contributing to increased liveliness overall.
By and large, experts and vets often recommend certain fish species as being better for dogs than others, although there are no real risks to any one kind of fish.
The likes of salmon, flounder, and herring are therefore popular choices for dogs, while sardines and tuna – especially from the can – are a little more oily and difficult for dogs to feel the benefits of.
Having said that, certainly be patient in introducing fish to your dog’s diet for the first time.
Just like people, some pooches can suffer from seafood allergies that will, unfortunately, make feeding them fish an impossibility, despite the benefits.
If in doubt, contact your vet, especially if they have worked with your animal before and understand their biology.
How much fish can a dog eat daily?
Naturally, you likely already understand just how different dogs are to we human beings when it comes to how they digest their food.
Often, a little seems to go a long way with dogs, even for the largest and seemingly most endlessly hungry of breeds.
Only a few scraps of fish, the likes of which you’d likely find already mixed into premade dog food, are all your pet needs to benefit from eating fish.
While larger dogs especially can certainly enjoy a good steamed fish fillet – best served as plain as possible, with no salts or sauces – eating that amount of fish daily can add to the risk of weight gain far more than you might think.
Moderation is always the answer when adding anything new to your dog’s diet.
Our beloved animals have far more sensitivity to trying new things than we sometimes realize, and dogs can pack on the pounds even by eating things that human beings would find healthy and low in calories.
If in doubt, certainly seek your vet’s advice – but as a general rule of thumb, always portion your dishes appropriately to the size and age of your pet.
What to do if your dog eats fish
While we all love our dogs, we aren’t always on the same page as them when it comes to knowing how much of a certain tasty dinner we want to give them.
Even the most well behaved of animals is known to push their luck in sneaking something extra, and there might be times in which you find your dog has either sneaked some fish out of the kitchen somehow or swindled someone into giving them something extra from their plate.
Perhaps most crucially, if you are worried your dog has eaten raw fish, you’re strongly advised to get them to the vet as soon as possible.
Raw fish is home to bacteria and the risk of salmonella and overall poses far too many risks to your dog’s health to be left untreated.
You might well find that your pet’s body rejects the raw fish overall and that they vomit and get tummy upset. Keep some fresh water for your dog if that happens.
If your dog has eaten a meal with fish that has the risk of garlic and onion content, you are likewise immediately advised to seek your vet’s help.
Onions and garlic are toxic to dogs in even quite small doses, and although the immediate health risks are low, these are not substances you want to allow to build up in your pet.
Also, keep in mind if the fish your dog has eaten contained any bones. If so, definitely consider contacting your vet once again, or at least keep an eye on your dog.
The bones can be prickly and nasty and are no more safe for dogs to eat than they would be for a human being.
However, if it’s just some plain or even battered fish your dog has eaten – or even some spilled sardines or tuna – you have nothing to fear.
The health risks from a batter, salt, rich sauces and the like are long term ones, so a one-off act of misbehavior from your dog is more an issue of discipline than of veterinary involvement.
While you should never feed a dog raw fish and are not advised to feed a dog sardines, tuna or other tinned fish, freshly cooked plain fish is very good for dogs to eat.
The protein alone is reason enough for fish to be in countless brands of dog food, and you’re safe to introduce fish into your dog’s diet as long as you ensure that you remove the fish bones, which dogs mustn’t eat.
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.