Can I Give My Dog Salmon?
Our ancestors were satisfied with feeding their dogs a steady diet of kibble, carrot sticks, and pizza crusts, but modern-day pet owners have raised their standards. Each passing day reveals the ever-strengthening evidence in favor of the relationship between our diets and our health, and ideal canine nutrition has evolved in accordance with these findings. It turns out that we really are what we eat. Food is so much more than just ‘fuel in the tank,’ and many pet parents find themselves scouring the Internet in search of the healthiest foods for their pets.
Many sources advocate for supplementing doggy diets with lean meats, but which meats are ideal for pets? Are the health nut favorites for humans, like chicken and salmon, best for our dogs? Can dogs have salmon?
The answer is yes, but only fresh, fully-cooked, and in small amounts. This fish is considered one of the healthier meat options for our dogs—there are many health benefits associated with small portions of salmon—but it also comes with a fairly high risk of poisoning. So feel free to prepare a little bit of fresh salmon for your pooch, but do not feed them raw scraps or week-old leftovers. This also means that you should not give your dog sushi containing raw salmon!
There are many purported health benefits of salmon. One of the most often-praised properties of salmon is its high omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 fatty acids are great for brain and nervous system health—they can protect your dog’s brain as they age, keeping them sharp and energetic into their senior years. They are also thought to support eye health, which can protect your dog’s vision as they grow older.
These healthy fats boost skin and coat health, too. If your dog has dry, itchy, flaky skin or a dull, rough, thinning coat, an increase in healthy fats may soothe their itching and restore their coat to its shiny glory.
Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be one of the most powerful anti-arthritis nutrients. One study performed in Canada found that dogs who received supplements of omega-3s from fish sources experienced significant improvements in their osteoarthritis symptoms. The dogs who consumed the fishy fats experienced improved mobility, while those who were given another fat source showed no change in arthritis symptoms.
Salmon also contains a fair amount of complete protein, which provides all the amino acids your dog needs to grow and maintain a healthy body. Your dog’s entire body is made of these amino acids—all the way from their toenails to their heart muscle—so it’s important that they receive adequate protein. Fortunately, protein deficiency in dogs is exceedingly rare, but growing or athletic dogs may require higher levels of this macronutrient than their sedentary, full-grown counterparts. If you think your dog may be low in protein, talk to your veterinarian before altering their diet. Your furry friend may have a problem absorbing protein from food.
Salmon can also support your dog’s immune system, lowering their risk of both short-term infections like colds and of long-term chronic diseases like heart disease and some cancers. Salmon is thought to combat chronic inflammation, which can alleviate pain and swelling and reduce the risk of developing several diseases. This fish also contains large amounts of certain nutrients, including zinc, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin D, many B vitamins, and Vitamin A.
There are, however, a few pitfalls. Your dog should never eat any amount of raw salmon—salmon is associated with a high risk of poisoning. Uncooked fish is often full of parasites and dangerous bacteria, particularly neorickettsia helminthoeca.
This bacteria causes salmon poisoning. Symptoms of salmon poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, behavioral changes, weight loss, dehydration, fever, and ‘leaky’ nose or eyes. If your dog has eaten raw fish and shows any of these symptoms, take them to the vet as soon as possible. If this condition is untreated, it will often be fatal. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your dog’s chances of survival.
Things to Consider
If you decide to feed your dog salmon, make sure it is fresh. Remove all bones and skin (the skin is high in fat) and go easy on the flavorings—stick with virgin olive oil and dog-friendly herbs. Avoid feeding your dog any salmon that has been cooked with garlic, onions, or large amounts of salt or spices. Your dog does not need gourmet. The best food that you can give them is simple, easy to digest, and minimally flavored.
In conclusion, fresh, de-boned, fully cooked salmon is a safe supplement for most dogs. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and many vitamins and minerals that can lower the risk of disease and protect overall health. Because this fish poses a high risk of poisoning by bacteria, make sure that it is completely cooked. If your dog shows any signs of salmon poisoning, seek veterinary care as soon as you can. Salmon poisoning is life-threatening.