Can Dogs Eat Fish Safely?
Read this before giving your dog fish 🐟
While fish are generally considered safe, and even healthy, for your dog to enjoy, there are some kinds of fish that should be off limits to your pet.
The Dodo reached out to Dr. Claudine Sievert, a veterinarian working with Stayyy, and Dr. Aziza Glass, a veterinarian at Personal Touch Veterinary Clinic, to find out the answer to the question: Can dogs eat fish? And if they can, which types of fish are safe for them?
Is fish healthy for dogs?
Yes, fish is perfectly healthy for your dog to enjoy as long as she’s eating the right type of fish and it’s prepared correctly.
Benefits of fish for dogs
There are plenty of benefits that safe fish has for your pup. Some of the most common ones include:
It’s a healthy source of protein
“It's a healthy source of protein and is usually included in commercial dog food as an alternative protein source,” Dr. Sievert said.
It’s rich inomega-3 fatty acids
Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have a lot of health benefits for your dog, including:
- Decreasing inflammation
- Improving your dog’s skin
- Keeping your dog’s coat soft
It’s a good protein substitute for food allergies
If your dog’s allergic to other sources of protein, like chicken or beef, fish is a suitable source of protein to include in her diet instead.
Which fish are safe for dogs?
Not all fish are created equal when it comes to their nutritional benefits (or mercury levels), so you should be mindful about which variety you feed to your pup.
“The best fish to look for when adding to your dog’s diet are shorter-lived species that are less likely to have high tissue mercury levels or less potential for parasite accumulation in their bodies,” Dr. Glass told The Dodo.
Some safe fish to feed your pup include:
- Arctic char
Which fish are unsafe for dogs?
The fish you should avoid are the species that live longer lives relative to other fish species.
Some longer-lived species of fish include:
“These fish live longer and can carry a higher level of mercury,” Dr. Glass said. “As fish grow older, the mercury in their systems builds up over time, which can lead to heavy metal toxicity upon consumption, especially for dogs.”
These fish are typically harvested at an older age and may also contain parasites in their skin, muscle tissues and internal organs.
What parts of a fish can dogs not eat?
To safely feed fresh fish to your dog, there are some key considerations to be mindful of, like getting rid of risky fish skin and bones.
The parts of the fish your dog shouldn’t eat include:
Dogs can't eat fish bones because they are small, brittle and dangerous.
“They can lodge themselves in your dog's mouth, throat, stomach and intestines,” Dr. Sievert said. “Sometimes they can even perforate the organ wall. Not only is it painful, but you may also have to take them to the vet.”
Fish skin carries a high potential to transmit diseases and parasites to your dog, so it’s best to remove surface scales and carefully clean, debone and filet the fish before feeding it to your dog.
Fins, tails and heads
Since they have no benefit to your pup, Dr. Glass also recommends removing the fins, tail and head of the fish before serving it.
Can dogs eat raw fish or sushi?
It’s not recommended to feed your dog raw or undercooked fish, since raw fish is at risk of carrying harmful bacteria like salmonella and listeria.
Not only can this bacteria make your dog sick, but it can also make you and other members of your family ill. “It's especially worrisome if your children come in contact with your dog's saliva and for people with compromised immune systems,” Dr. Sievert said.
Can dogs eat fish sticks?
While you may be tempted to feed your dog fish sticks, it’s best to look at healthier options to feed your dog, especially since fish sticks can be made with seasonings or spices that may be harmful to her.
“Fish sticks do not provide any nutritional benefits to your dog, and feeding too much can result in health problems down the line, like gastroenteritis or pancreatitis,” Dr. Glass said. “If you’re in the mood to give your dog a treat in moderation with their diet, look to … fresh fruits and veggies that provide better nutrients to your pet to ensure even their treats are well-balanced.”
With that said, if your dog were to steal a fish stick from your plate, there’s no real reason to be alarmed. Just make sure she doesn’t grab the entire box.
“You should always keep the amount of fish sticks you give to your dogs to a moderate level,” Dr. Sievert said. “Don't feed them regularly or make them a part of their diet.”
Can dogs eat fish every day?
Yes, dogs can technically eat dog-friendly fish every day (especially if yours is eating a fish protein diet due to food allergies).
When it comes to fresh fish, though, talk to your veterinarian to make sure you’re feeding her the right kind of fish, and keep in mind when preparing fish (or any kind of human food) for your dog to always avoid putting any oils, butter or spices on the food as they can negatively impact your dog’s GI tract.