Dogs love to eat and when it comes to food, they hardly discriminate. While pups may be far from picky eaters, their indifference towards what goes into their mouths can potentially be a big problem. Specifically, if your dog happens to graze over something that could be dangerous or severely harmful to his health. As a responsible pet owner, it is up to you to make sure that your animal is properly taken care of and that means knowing what they are eating. Even though dogs would love for you to feed them whatever they wanted, it is your responsibility to ensure that he does not ingest anything that could hurt him.
One common question most pet owners have, in regards to their animal’s diet, is can dogs eat fish. You’ve probably taken a glimpse at the ingredient panel of your dog’s food or examined other brands of dog food in the store, and seen that fish is frequently on the menu. But as most of us know, not everything that goes into our dog’s food is good for them. So what’s the verdict when it comes to fish?
Yes, dogs can eat fish. Fish can be a part of a healthy diet for your dog, provided it is fully cooked without any additional oils and seasonings, does not contain any bones, and is not a species prone to high levels of mercury such as tuna. Not only can you quickly whip up a fresh piece of fish for your pup, but you can also find many complete and balanced fish-based dog foods on the market that will appease your furry friend’s appetite.
Benefits of Fish for Dogs
Fish is a healthy source of protein which is why it is often included in commercial dog food as an alternative protein source. Some of the clear benefits of fish for dogs is that they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which according to veterinarians may be able to help to decrease inflammation. Fish is also a good alternative for dogs that have canine food allergies to more common ingredients, such as chicken.
Fish can serve as part of a great home-cooked diet for your pet, but if you do choose to try a homemade diet with fish, first consult with your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to make sure you are meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs. The first time you give your dog any type of fish, start with a tiny piece and build up in order for you to determine if your dog can tolerate that particular fish without having an allergic reaction or any kind of gastro-intestinal problem.
Best Types of Fish for Dogs
The most common types of fish used in big name dog foods are shorter-lived species such as salmon, ocean whitefish, lake whitefish, herring, walleye, flounder, and Arctic char. Longer-lived fish species, like tuna and swordfish on the other hand, can contain heavy metals like mercury. Mercury is dangerous because as it builds up over time in the fish’s system it can lead to heavy metal toxicity, which is why feeding a shorter-lived fish species is suggested over tuna or swordfish. And with so many fish to choose from, it is better to be safe than sorry and go with what you know!
Fish itself is not harmful to dogs, but the way we prepare it can cause problems. Fish cooked in too much oil can cause GI upset in dogs, or even lead to serious illness such as pancreatitis in dogs. Using seasonings can also cause severe health problems for dogs, especially if they contain toxic ingredients like garlic.
The biggest risk of feeding fish to dogs, however, is bones. Fish bones are small, brittle, and dangerous objects. The reason they can be harmful to your pet is if they happen to lodge themselves in your dog’s mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines. Sometimes they can even perforate the organ wall, causing a great deal of pain and damage to your animal. Not only is this painful, it can also result in an expensive visit to your veterinarian. While there are plenty of anecdotal stories about dogs eating fish bones without issues, when it comes to the well-being of your animal, it is better to play it safe and avoid letting your dog consume the bones.
Raw fish runs the risk of carrying harmful bacteria like salmonella and listeria. This is problematic for two reasons: it can make your dog sick, and according to the FDA, it can also make you and other members of your family ill. This is especially worrisome for small children, who may come into contact with your dog’s saliva more than adults would, and for people with compromised immune systems. If you choose to feed a raw diet with fish, make sure you take the appropriate precautions suggested by the FDA for preparing your dog’s meals, like thoroughly disinfecting all surfaces and bowls after use, and washing your hands.