Can Dogs Eat Fish? How Some Seafood Can Benefit Your Pup’s Health

by Hannah Roundy

dog outside on fishing dock with net nearby

Meat is perfectly safe for dogs to eat and they need a lot of it in their diet. But can dogs eat fish?

Yes, dogs can and should eat fish and seafood. Fish is a fantastic source of protein that’s low in fat and rich in natural vitamins and minerals. Many pet parents opt to feed their pup a fish-based dog food diet since it’s a novel protein that’s less likely to cause them allergy symptoms or digestive issues. 

Can dogs eat fish if it’s raw? Dogs should only eat fish that’s been thoroughly cooked. Raw fish is unsafe for dogs to eat since it may expose them to harmful bacteria or parasites. Baking, steaming, or grilling fish cooks out any unsafe pathogens before they are exposed to your dog.

The Benefits of Fish for Dogs

Why feed fish to your dog over other proteins? There are multiple reasons why fish might be a better fit for your pup. 

Great for Dogs with Allergies

For one, fish is a novel protein that dogs are rarely exposed to. Dogs rarely develop allergies to novel proteins which means fish is a safe ingredient for pups with allergies to typical proteins like beef and chicken. For this reason, salmon, whitefish, and cod are often the main protein in allergy-friendly dog food recipes. 

Even if your pup has environmental allergies, fish can minimize their symptoms. Most fish are naturally high in fatty acids to soothe your dog’s itchy, flakey skin during allergy season. Rich Omega-3 levels in fish also support your pup’s skin and coat health. 

Naturally Nutrient-Dense

Most fish are naturally abundant in vitamins and minerals that are essential to keeping your dog in peak health. Salmon and mackerels, for example, contain natural zinc, iron, iodine, selenium, along with vitamins B6, B12, and B13. Each of these nutrients plays its own role in supporting your dog’s overall health. 

Supports Healthy Weight

Can dogs eat fish for diet support? Yes – if your overweight pup needs to lose a few pounds, they can benefit from a fish-forward diet. Fish is high in protein but has a much lower fat content compared to other proteins like beef. Switching over to a fish diet may get your dog closer to their target weight without sacrificing protein. 

Fish Can Boost Immunity

Fish has a high level of selenium to keep your pup’s immune system strong and prevent sickness or disease. Selenium helps your dog’s body prevent cell and tissue damage that can leave them feeling sick. 

Supports Senior Dog Health

While fish can be beneficial for dogs of all ages, it can specifically help senior dogs experiencing the symptoms of aging. Fish skin has natural collagen that can improve senior dog’s joint health, elasticity, and bone strength. 

Can dogs eat salmon?

Now we know that dogs can safely eat fish – but what kind? Can dogs eat salmon? Yes, salmon is absolutely safe for dogs to eat. 

Salmon is the main protein in many dog food recipes. This fish is rich in Omega-3 to support your dog’s skin health and immune system. Dogs happen to love the taste of cooked salmon as well as salmon-based dog foods. 

Can dogs eat salmon if it’s raw? The safest way to feed salmon to your pup is to cook it thoroughly and keep it free of seasonings.

Can dogs eat tilapia?

Can dogs eat tilapia and other whitefish? Absolutely! Tilapia is an even better option for dogs because it’s protein-rich, low-calorie, and rich in nutrients like potassium and vitamin D. Whitefish like tilapia are usually a cheaper feeding option for dogs compared to salmon, as well. 

Be sure you are only feeding your pup tilapia that’s skinned, deboned, and cooked through. Fish bones are dangerous for dogs to eat because they are small and hard to see. Dogs can easily choke on a fish bone left inside a tilapia filet, so be very careful.

Can dogs eat tuna?

Humans love a good tuna salad or sandwich, but it’s not as safe for pups. Can dogs eat tuna? No, tuna is not safe for dogs to eat. We recommend leaving this fish out of your pup’s dinner bowl. 

Tuna is high in mercury, which can be life-threatening to your pup in high doses. Most fish have a small amount of mercury. But because tuna are so large, they have a higher concentration of mercury than most other fish species. For this reasons, we do not suggest exposing your dog to tuna. 

What fish is safe for dogs to eat?

The following fish are safe enough for your pup to enjoy. 

  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Flounder
  • Cod
  • Lake Whitefish
  • Catfish
  • Carp
  • Sardines
  • Haddock
  • Trout
  • Shellfish (lobster, shrimp, crab)

What fish is NOT safe for dogs? 

Avoid feeding your dog any fish that is served raw and is not deboned. All fish served to your pup should be cooked, deboned, and descaled. The following types of fish are not considered safe to feed your pup. 

  • Swordfish
  • Tuna
  • Shark
  • Tilefish

Fish Meal vs. Real Fish

Beware of dog food products containing fish meal instead of real fish meat. Fish meal is an ambiguous ingredient often used in dog food to save money on protein. It’s a combination of fish meat, bones, oil, and fish by-products. 

The trouble with fish meal is that you don’t typically know what types of seafood are included in the product. This means the meal could contain by-products of fish that aren’t good for your dog’s health. The majority of fish meals include cheaper seafood like anchovy, menhaden, or herring. 

Your pup will get the most out of eating real fish meat and oil. That gives them direct access to the natural nutrients fish are rich in and their bodies will benefit from eating it. 

Remember that real protein should always be the first ingredient in your dog’s food too. AAFCO requires dog food manufacturers to list their ingredients in order of quantity, so the first ingredient fills the majority of the recipe. You always want that first ingredient to be real fish meat since dogs need a protein-rich diet.

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