Did you catch your dog red-handed when he was trying to catch the fish from the aquarium? And now you think that this is all fun and games unless the dog eats one. To break that bubble, let’s explore “Can dogs eat fish?”
In short- yes! But that does not mean they should eat it from the aquarium. So, in this article, we covered everything you need to know about unsafe and safe fish for dogs.
So, let’s dive right into it!
Are There Any Benefits?
If you want to add a protein-rich element to your dog’s diet while keeping it flavorful and fun- fish is the one! (wait, did we just rhyme?). If fed in moderation, fish is one of the human foods that can bring many benefits to your dog.
1. Shiny coat
Starting with something your dog will also agree on- Everyone wants a shiny, lustrous coat. Fish has natural oils that lubricate and make the dog’s skin healthy. Especially if your dog suffers from skin allergies, fish can be suitable for them as it contains Omega-3 (article). There are very rare cases of dogs being allergic to fish.
2. Anti-inflammatory properties
Another benefit of serving your dog fish is its anti-inflammatory properties. These magical properties reduce swelling and promote bone health. If there are any allergies, internal inflammation, or joint pains, the omega-3 helps to cure them (article). It will not happen overnight, but if fish are a consistent part of your dog’s diet, you can observe their health change.
Moreover, the protein content of this seafood is also one of the reasons why we love fish for dogs. Fish helps to strengthen dog’s immune systems and give them a shield to fight diseases.
Health Risks to Keep in Mind When Serving Fish to Dogs
Fishes are great for dogs! From taste to health, they are just perfect for dogs. However, at the end of the day, they are marine creatures that can put your dog in risky situations.
1. Fish bones
The worst thing about fish is their bones. It would be best if you never fed your dog bones. They can cause choking hazards in dogs. Especially if you have a small dog, please double-check for any broken pieces of spikes.
Fish bones are very sharp and can lead to internal bleeding. You can expect your dog to gag and vomit. However, please do not take the matter into your own hands and try to induce vomiting. You must consult your veterinarian immediately.
2. Seasoning causes allergies
Dogs cannot stand spices or herbs. If you and your friends have spicy fried fish, ensure your dog’s paws are not near it. Seasonings can cause allergies in dogs. The allergic reactions include – itchiness, sneezing, drooling, or abdominal pain. When serving your dog fish, do not sprinkle any salts or contaminants.
3. Parasites from the raw fish
Apart from having high sodium levels, raw fish also include parasites and bacteria. The sea worms include tapeworms, listeria, vibrio, etc. These bacteria can lead to digestive problems in dogs. It would be best if you never fed your dog raw fish. They can also cause loss of appetite and lethargy in dogs.
4. Fish by-products
Knowing the kind of fish a brand uses in their dog food is essential. Sometimes, the least favorite fish parts (for humans) are used in dog and cat foods. This can be very harmful as there is false nutritional information. Hence, bringing organic fish home and preparing them for your furry friend is best.
Lastly, when we say fish are safe for dogs, we do not mean all fish. Your dog may want to have their paws on all thousands of fish species, but that should not be the case! To make it easier for you, here are the types of fish that dogs can and cannot eat.
What Fish Can Dogs Not Eat?
It is essential to prioritize your dog’s health. So many fish are on the market, and not all are safe for dogs. So here is a list of fish that you should NEVER feed your dog:
1. Puffer fish
One of the worst kinds of fish to serve your dog is Puffer fish. It contains deadly toxins that are fatal to both humans and dogs. No cooking or moderation can help or make this fish good for dogs. Even a single lick can toxicate the dogs.
The symptoms start to hit once it comes in contact with the mouth. It can lead to paralysis, excessive drooling, or loss of breath. You should keep your dog far, far away from the Puffer fish (article).
Dogs cannot eat swordfish! It is because they have a long lifespan of 9 years. This means these fishes have massive amounts of mercury in their systems. This makes swordfish toxic for dogs.
It also has a toxin called scombroid, which can lead to allergic reactions if ingested in high amounts (study). We do not recommend serving this fish, even as an occasional treat.
Similar to Swordfish, Tilefish also has a long lifespan of 46 years. They carry humongous amounts of metals, mercury, and sea pollutants hazardous to dogs.
Even if you prepare and cook it, the mercury can be fatal to humans and dogs. If your dog accidentally ate Tilefish, you must get in touch with your veterinarian immediately.
4. Canned tuna
We do not recommend serving dogs canned fish or food. Canned products are soaked in vinegar, spices, and harmful chemicals. Similarly, canned tuna is also preserved with chemicals that can cause allergic reactions in dogs. Also, there are far better alternatives to canned tuna that are healthy and tasty.
5. Shark meat
There is simply no way that dogs can safely consume shark meat. Large fish like these contain mercury, similar to the tilefish, which can prove to be fatal for dogs. Additionally, they also contain another fatal marine toxin – ciguatoxin.
Escolar, also known as the white tuna, can also lead to mercury accumulating in a dog’s system, making them hard to digest. Indigestion can make dogs irritable and lead to tummy problems such as irritated bowels or diarrhea.
Mackerel of any form should not be fed to dogs – be it smoked or cured. As a sea fish, Mackerels have high sodium content and contain additional additives which can irritate a dog’s bowel movement and make them sick.
What Fish is Safe For Dogs?
Finally, coming to the best part! Here is the list of fish that you and your pup can enjoy together. However, remember that even though they are beneficial, they alone cannot provide your dog with all nutritional benefits.
And, here we go:
Dogs can eat salmon fish safely. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can benefit your dog in many ways. The only catch is to keep the consumption minimal and thoroughly cooked. You can also toss a few chunks of cooked salmon over the kibbles.
As most sardines are canned or stored in a tin, we do not recommend giving sardines as a primary source of nutrition. However, several options exist, like sardines in spring water or organic ones. The ones soaked in oils are unhealthy, and their high-fat content can lead to pancreatitis.
You must have read trout as one of the common ingredients in dog food. It is because not only are they safe for dogs, but they also offer nutritional benefits to dogs. You may say, “But hey, it lives for 11 years”. Well, yes, and it also has some amounts of mercury. But it has comparatively low mercury levels that are not harmful to dogs as an occasional treat.
Yes, your dog can eat catfish as well. It is a source of protein and does not include toxins that can harm dogs. Yet, you should feed your dog catfish in moderation. Also, if your dog suffers from obesity, you must not serve fried catfish to them. It can lead to weight problems.
Another fish that revolves around controversy regarding dogs is Tilapia. This fish needs a lot of preparation before it is given to dogs. Serving your dog raw tilapia can bring in a lot of bacteria to dogs. The best part is that they are low on calories. Even if you cannot make them a part of your dog’s everyday menu, Tilapia can be a great training treat!
Herrings are a great example of great things coming in small packages. As a nutritional powerhouse, they provide dogs with necessary fatty acids, without running the risk of obesity. Additionally, they contain Omega 3, similar to other fish on this list.
Definitely known to be a dog favorite, Cod comes recommended by vets, as they are low in fat, lean, and a great source of protein. In fact, most dog treats and snacks contain Cod in one form or the other, making it one of the most common ingredients.
A fish known to be high in protein, vitamins B6, B12 and niacin, dogs can easily chow down on this. Although you need to be careful that you serve the dog plain Haddock, which is devoid of seasoning or salt of any kind.
Dogs can eat Perch as long as it’s deboned and served plain and in small quantities. While this fish contains good amounts of fatty acids and nutrients, overconsumption can also lead to high levels of mercury poisoning in dogs.
Packed with minerals, vitamins, calcium, and phosphorus, Flounder comes recommended for dogs, making it one of the best fish to give them. What makes it stand out further is that unlike most fish, Flounder has very low levels of mercury, ensuring that it’s safe for consumption.
Cooked or Raw?
It would be best if you never served your dog raw fish. The only way your dog should have seafood like scallops, crabs, or fish is the cooked way. You can use any cooking method like- boiling, frying, baking, etc.
Although, for frying, you should use very little amount of butter or oils. For example, you can use coconut, sesame, or peanut butter. These are much safer than other oils but still should be used in moderation.
Giving your dog raw fish or seafood exposes dogs to many parasites, bacteria, and viruses. To be precise- Sea worms, including tapeworms, listeria, vibrio, etc., are the most common to cause harm. You must cook and prepare the fish before adding them to your dog’s meal.
Need to know how to prepare them? Worry not! Here you go-
How Do You Prepare the Fish For Dogs?
Step 1: Wash your hands and the fish thoroughly under the running water.
Step 2: Use a sharp knife to carve out the fish bones. Remember to remove all the spikes and broken pieces of the bones carefully.
Step 3: Wash the fish under running water again
Step 4: Use cooking methods like boiling, steaming, or poaching.
Step 5: Once cooked, chop the fish into small pieces
It is essential to chop down the fish into small chunks as big chunks are hard to chew. Especially if your dog is an eager eater, only serve in bite-size pieces.
Our final thoughts on “can dogs eat fish?” is YES. Dogs can eat fish. However, not all types of fish are safe for dogs. As a responsible dog parent, you must ensure that your dog only consumes fish that do not have high levels of mercury or toxins. Also, before tossing your dog chunks of fish, it better be cooked and unseasoned.
Frequently Asked Questions
We do not recommend serving your dog fish sticks, especially if your dog is on a weight management plan. The amount of carbohydrates, fat, and seasonings can harm dogs. If you want, you can fry the sticks in a healthy oil like coconut or sesame. But still, only serve your dog fish sticks as an occasional treat in minimal quantities.
Dogs cannot have fish bones or any bones in general. Bones are not edible and hold no nutritional value. If your dog eats fish bones, they will get stuck in their throat or digestive tract. This can also cause internal bleeding as fish bone is very sharp. If there is such a situation, please seek veterinary attention immediately.
You can add fish to your dog’s diet. They serve a lot of benefits if they are prepared correctly. The only catch is to give your dog unseasoned and thoroughly cooked fish. You must not fry them in any oil as it can lead to obesity. Salmon can be a great addition to a dog’s everyday meat.
The healthiest fish for dogs are salmon and flounder. They are rich in protein and do not have high levels of toxins. If you serve them thoroughly cooked and unseasoned, you can make them a part of your dog’s everyday meals. They also have omega-3 acids that help with inflammation. The only catch is keeping other nutritious food items on the plate apart from these fishes.
Fish eggs or caviar are not toxic to dogs. But, we do not recommend them as they are high in sodium and can store a lot of sea bacteria. The only way to serve your dog small amounts of fish eggs is to cook them thoroughly. Also, please keep the consumption minimal as they do not hold high levels of nutritional value.