Can I Give My Dog Fish?
There are few animals that people consume in most parts of the world. Depending on your continent, religion, and climate, you may be more inclined to eat cows, chickens, goats, dogs, pigs, horses, or even guinea pigs or capybaras. However, if you live anywhere near a sizable body of water, you have probably eaten some sort of fish in your life. Whether you are more into freshwater fish like walleye and catfish or ocean favorites like tuna, you stumble across some sort of finned food at least semi-regularly.
This is especially true in recent years—as the average American has become more aware of the link between red meat and chronic illness, many people have started to turn to fish as a healthier alternative to beef. With this change, however, comes a shift in the contents of our table scraps. Is that bad for our furry friends? Can dogs have fish?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat fully cooked fish in moderation. Most of the fish you find at the supermarket is not toxic to dogs or cats. It can be argued that fish may be one of the healthiest meats you can feed your pets—it is often lower in fat and calories than beef, yet higher in omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin B12. That said, your dog’s diet should not be based on any type of fish. Fido’s ancestors may have been omnivores, but they are not adapted to eating a fish-rich Mediterranean diet!
When it comes to fresh, cooked fish, the biggest perk is the high level off omega-3 fatty acids. For those of us who are interested in beauty and skincare, omega-3s are renowned for improving the health of our skin and hair—and the same goes for our dogs! Canines struggling from flaky, itchy, dandruff-laden skin or a dull, scratchy fur coat may benefit from a diet supplemented with fresh fish that is rich in omega-3s.
These healthy fats are even known to help support optimal brain and nervous system health. Many experts swear by these important nutrients as the perfect way to protect your dog’s brain and central nervous system from the negative effects of aging, which can preserve their energy levels and their cognition even as their muzzle turns grizzled and gray. This anti-aging effect may also help preserve your dog’s vision—which is important, because Chihuahuas can’t wear glasses!
Another potential health benefit of the healthy fats in many types of fish: it can prevent and combat the symptoms of arthritis. Though the studies performed on dogs are limited, one canine study discovered that senior dogs suffering from osteoarthritis experienced moderate improvements in their symptoms after they received omega-3s from fish sources. The dogs who received another type of fat did not see any improvements in their mobility.
Fish is also high in ‘complete’ protein. Though there is some evidence that excess amounts of animal protein can contribute to health problems, animal protein contains all of the amino acids that your dog requires to maintain optimal health. This does not mean, however, that fish should be your dog’s only protein source. While high-protein fish can be a helpful supplement to your dog’s usual diet, trying to feed them on an all-fish diet will almost certainly result in nutritional imbalances.
Proponents of the Mediterranean diet love to praise fish, but it is far from a perfect food. Though you may love sushi, you should not give your dog any quantity of raw fish. Raw or undercooked fish may be full of potentially dangerous bacteria, viruses, and parasites. If your dog eats spoiled or undercooked fish, they may develop symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite (leading to weight loss), weakness, lethargy, behavioral changes, refusal to drink fluids, and fever.
Things to Consider
If your dog develops any kind of illness after eating fish, it is wise to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Some types of poisoning associated with fish are mild and will pass within a day, but others can be life-threatening. It is difficult to know how serious your dog’s situation is without a professional medical examination.
The best way to feed your dog fish is fresh, deboned, skinned, thoroughly cooked, and minimally flavored. Do not feed your dog any fish that has been heavily seasoned, buttered, or covered with batter or breading. If your dog shows any symptoms of food allergies, eliminate any fish they may be eating and consult a veterinarian. Fish allergies are rare in dogs, but they are not unheard of.
In conclusion, fully cooked fish is safe for dogs in moderation. It is high in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids that may protect brain, eye, skin, and joint health. Dogs should not eat fish that is undercooked, expired, or heavily flavored, but fresh fish served with canine-friendly herbs can be a healthy treat.