There are many dog food companies that are striving to produce quality foods that have more than chicken and beef byproducts in them. Higher-end companies have started using different types of fish for their foods, offering owners more options for dogs who need different sources of protein. That alone tells you that fish is healthy for your dog, but does that mean you can safely feed your dog fresh fish?
Is Fish Healthy for Your Dog?
Fish is good for dogs in moderation, but it shouldn’t be the main source of your dog’s protein or caloric intake. It’s important to know that dog foods, even the lesser quality brands, are formulated especially for a canine’s dietary needs.
While some dogs need additional nutrition, this isn’t common, so unless your veterinarian specifies that your dog needs nutrition on top of their current food, their typical diet is enough for them.
However, giving your dog fish in moderation won’t cause any harm to them if you follow a few basic precautions. The first is knowing whether or not you can feed raw fish. There’s been a movement towards “raw food” for dogs, claiming this adherence to their “natural diet” is the best possible way to feed them.
This entails feeding your dog nothing but raw meat and possibly a few vegetables. When done properly, this can be healthy (and very expensive), but realistically not many people have the knowledge to feed this diet successfully.
Raw fish generally isn’t a good idea to feed your dog. While it gives your dog the “whole food” requirements, unless you live by the coast or other major waterway, it’s unlikely your fish is fresh enough to keep your dog safe from food poisoning or even parasites.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to very fresh fish, then you can feed the fish whole (without the innards). Some vets recommend having the fish deboned, while others say the bones aren’t an issue for most dogs. This depends on your dog and you should seek your vet’s counsel before you feed whole, raw fish.
Canned fish is another option, but you need to carefully read the label before you break out the can opener. Some canned fish, like tuna, is very high in mercury and should be fed with discretion. Other types are canned with a high salt content, and too much salt can make your dog dehydrated, spike their blood pressure, or cause bloating.
Canned sardines, as long as they are low in sodium, are quite good for dogs! They’re very high in calcium and the bones are soft and easily digested. The fatty acids in sardines encourage a healthy coat and skin. They’re also high in magnesium, which is said to help improve a dog’s mood.
In general, fish gives dogs a healthy dose of amino acids. These acids promote a healthy metabolism, which can slow down in older dogs or dogs who have been spayed and neutered. The omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure and reduce the risks of certain types of cancer or diabetes.
Parasites in Fish?
If you’ve watched those horrific shows on cable television about parasites, you’re at least semi-aware that fish can harbor some nasty parasites. There are three main types of parasites found in fish.
Flukes (trematodes) are usually found on the skin of fish or in the organs, especially the intestines. While they’re harmless to dogs, they can be quite disgusting to you. The most common types are found in the small intestine, but there is a species that resides in the lungs.
All kinds of flukes can be found in snakes, frogs, and fish, particularly salmon. These types of parasites aren’t transmittable to people via dogs, but eating undercooked fish will put you at risk for infection.
Roundworms are the types of worms found most commonly in puppies. They appear in the feces or vomit as long, white worms. They reside in the muscles of the fish and have a white sheen to them. Certain types of wild salmon can contain roundworms but they’re rarely found in farm-raised salmon.
You should avoid feeding the flesh of wild fish, as well as the internal organs. Roundworms can be transmitted to humans from infected dogs, with children and the elderly being the most susceptible to infection.
Tapeworms are the most common parasite found in raw rish. They live in the internal organs in fish, especially the intestines. They can also live in the fish’s body cavity. This is why it’s important to never feed the organs of fish, no matter how fresh they are. If your dog comes down with tapeworms, they are transmittable to humans.
While these three types of parasites are treatable, the treatment process can be long, and it’s nothing less than horrifying to see your dog passing worms in their feces. It’s said that freezing raw fish will kill the parasites, so if you’re completely set on feeding raw fish, make sure it’s been frozen completely for at least seven days.
Meat is good for your dog, and fish is completely safe to feed them if it’s given in moderation. Any fish you purchase for your dog should be fresh and of high quality, and you should always check with your veterinarian before you introduce whole fish into your dog’s diet.
When fed carefully, you won’t see any negative side effects, but you should be aware of proper storage and cooking techniques to avoid any food-borne illnesses or parasites.