Adding Fish To Your Dog's Diet: What To Know

Adding Fish To Your Dog's Diet: What To Know

Posted by Volhard Dog Nutrition on Jul 13th 2021

We know fish is good for people. But what about leaving some of your fish for dogs? And what about other types of ocean dwellers, like crabs, shellfish, and other seafood? Is it safe and healthy to give seafood to dogs? Fish is one of the healthiest foods humans can eat. It's full of vital nutrients, vitamins, and protein. We know that fish is a good source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.

Does fish benefit dogs in the same way? In short, feeding fish to dogs should be seen as a supplemental or alternative protein. Too much fish for dogs may cause harm, but allowing them to have some of the right fish periodically can have great health benefits. Fish, and most other seafood, is low in calories and lacks many nutrients. Thus, a fish or seafood-heavy diet for dogs is inadvisable. Several studies have shown the adverse effects of giving too much fish to dogs, but more research has concluded that moderation is key.

The best results are achieved when owners provide their pets with a recommended (usually weekly) serving of a healthy fish choice.

Varying Your Dog’s Nutrition Plan With Fish

With the help of a healthy raw diet, your dog's body will acquire all the 45 nutrients essential for proper cell function, including protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Furthermore, they will produce enough energy for vigorous growth, boast robust health during adulthood, and enjoy a longer life beside you.

What does Wendy Volhard recommend when it comes to feeding an alternate protein like fish? The Volhard diets are based on a seven-day plan; the first five days should be dedicated to feeding a protein made of muscle meat/fat in an 80/20 ratio. On the sixth day of your dog's nutrition plan, she recommends switching to a different protein source, such as fish. Believe us; your puppy will be delighted to have some mackerel or salmon in their food bowl from time to time. Let's dive deeper into the subject and learn the relationship between fish and dogs, how to prepare fish for dogs, and what fish types are more or less suited for your puppy's food bowl.

Fish for Dogs: Benefits

The bottom line is, dogs enjoy a fish-based meal as much as humans do. The smell to them is amazing, and its rich nutrient profile makes them delicious tasting! This rich source of protein is frequently cited as a healthy alternative protein source, which is why numerous commercial dog foods have integrated fish in their composition. Protein is the most important macronutrient in a healthy dog's diet. Proteins are the building blocks of organ tissues and cells. Amino acids contained in protein are responsible for many processes in the dog's body, including maintenance of smooth workflow and digestion. Fish is known for its very high protein content. Lean fish choices also have superb protein-to-calorie ratios. Buying some fish for dogs on occasion is an easy way to increase your canine's protein intake without adding too many extra calories. Amino acids contained in protein help to regulate hormones, build muscles, fix tissue in tendons, ligaments, cartilages, and maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails. Fish may also help dogs with arthritis. A constant stream of high quality, high amounts of protein and amino acids can be seen as a possible preventative measure for future joint and arthritis problems in dogs.

Furthermore, fish is an excellent Omega 3 fatty acids source, whose fundamental role in your dog's overall health must be stressed. Something many pet owners don't realize is that dietary fat is not the kind of fat that will be found in your dog's adipose tissue. A good amount of healthy fats is essential for a well-balanced canine diet. Fats contained in fish will help your dog's body in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

It will also promote the building of the necessary insulation layer to keep the body warm or cold or protect internal organs. The most noteworthy benefits of the Omega 3 fatty acids (out of a vast array) are:

  • Proper neural development
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Healthier skin and coat
  • Canine cancer and arthritis prevention

There may be even more benefits of fish for dogs' joints and tendons and possibly even canine arthritis. Oily fish provides a substantial amount of dietary fat that is enriched with essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, a type of carboxylic acids that are adept at reducing inflammation in the body. The greatest benefit of allowing a healthy amount of essential fatty acids through natural sources like fish for dogs is its ability to treat your canine for arthritis and other joint problems, as several studies have suggested.

Aside from the Omega 3 fatty acids, the appropriate amount of fish for dogs delivers healthy quantities of vitamins such as iron, potassium, and calcium. Moreover, if your dog is suffering from specific meat allergies, fish can play an excellent replacement part!

How to Cook Fish for Dogs

Whether you cook or feed raw fish to your dog is not the discussion here, although feeding raw fish preserves essential minerals and oils that it will have lost through the cooking process. Make sure that you purchase the fish from accredited shops to avoid parasite contamination. Also, know your dog- If they do not chew well and swallow things whole, then whole prey fish may not be a good choice.

Properly cooked fish can be a good choice to feed to your dog because, unlike raw meat, raw fish has bones and potentially cannot be fed in the same way. One of the most well-known fish-related deadly health problems in canines is the salmon poisoning disease (SPD), which has been observed in dogs of mostly North American coast. Neorickettsia helminthoeca parasite is the cause of SPD, but it can be killed when salmon is cooked well.

Finally, if you're looking to give your pet the best nutrition possible, you need to stay away from fried or breaded fish and seafood. Processed fish foods are considered to be acceptable only for humans, and aside from very high-calorie content, such methods of preparing fish can cause your dog a lot of digestive issues and have many other negative health effects.

If, however, cooked fish is what you fancy, we've got you covered. Lightly cooking the fish could actually be healthier for your dog since unwanted parasites, bacteria, together with the superabundant fish oils, are removed in the process. However, different cooking techniques are more harmful than others, which is why you should refrain from fried fish (equally toxic for dogs and humans). Instead, look for healthier cooking techniques such as steaming, grilling, baking, or poaching with no seasonings. Feed a small portion to your dog to determine whether your dog prefers raw or cooked fish. Using this approach, you will also ascertain whether certain fish types cause allergic reactions or gastrointestinal issues to your dog.

Watch Out for Fish Bones

Raw fish is safe for your dog – in fact, it's safe for most humans! But people have a fear of raw fish and parasites. Many raw feeders love to supplement their dog's diet with fish, especially salmon, because of the omega-3 benefits. It's important to note, however, that there's a risk of parasites that you can easily minimize. Humans, in general, are paranoid of parasites. People and animals have safely consumed raw fish for thousands of years with no ill effects. Simply stated, if your dog's immune system is functioning well, parasites won't be a concern.

Fishbones are small, brittle, and dangerous. They can lodge themselves in your dog's mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines, sometimes even perforating the organ wall. Not only is this painful, but it can also result in an expensive visit to the veterinarian. While there are plenty of anecdotal stories about dogs eating fish bones without issues, in this instance, it is better to heed the advice of veterinarians and play it safe. Therefore, we recommend that you remove the fish bones before serving to ensure safe food ingestion. Specific bones, such as those found in tinned sardines, are safe for consumption and should not be a matter of concern for your dog. Canned fish is fine for your dog to eat as long as you give them canned fish that isn't packed in oil or filled with lots of added salt. You can add about a quarter of a can to your dog's daily food to add some extra protein and nutrients.

There is some worry about canned tuna (and I'll explain this again later in this article when I talk about tuna specifically). Even though canned tuna is non-toxic for dogs, you shouldn't feed your canine companion the saltwater fish because it could lead to a number of different health problems; specifically, this is due to the high mercury content of tuna.

Photo credit: Image By MySpiritSphere

Best Fish for Dogs

Now, let's approach the subject of safe fish for dogs and learn which fish types will leave your puppy drooling! 

From our observations, small fatty fish types are usually the best to choose, such as trout, mackerel, smelt, sardines, anchovies, and herring. These fish are all oily fish that are low in the food chain and therefore low in mercury and other environmental contaminants. They also provide rich omega 3s and plenty of antioxidants. 

Whitefish such as flounder and cod can help a dog with a need for cooling proteins. Canned wild-caught sardines, mackerel, and canned tuna fish (not albacore) in water with no salt added will definitely make your puppy happy. 

However, this list would not be complete without the dog's absolute favorites, salmon and sardines!


An abundant source of Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and selenium, salmon is a softer flesh fish that absorbs lower quantities of metals such as mercury, making it ideal for your puppy's food bowl. This fantastic source of protein can play both the meat and the treat roles in your dog's nutrition plan. If the latter is what you're aiming for, the Polkadog Alaskan Salmon Chips, with their high protein concentration, crunchy texture, and high palatability, are sure to make your dog's tail waggle in no time!


Your dog can consume this small, copper-rich fish without any worries related to the skin or bones. Sardines are great for preventing cancer and dental disease in dogs. They are rich in antioxidants. Sardines balance the fats in other protein sources fed throughout the week. Sardines are naturally rich in Vitamin D. Did you know dogs can't produce their own Vitamin D and therefore rely on it from food? A study was evaluated by Dogs Naturally Magazine that evaluated dogs low in Vitamin D as being at risk for cancer. They contain a good amount of Ubiquinol Coq10, which is important for cardiovascular health. They're a great source of Vitamin B12.

However, make sure that the sardines are packed in water and contain no added salt before serving. Always keep a can of sardines with you when traveling!

Some Fish are Unsafe for Consumption

On the other end, some fish types could potentially pose a health hazard to your dog. As such, staying away from the shark, tilefish, and swordfish is recommended to avoid digestive and other medical issues. 

Adding Krill Oil to Your Dog's Diet

Not all pet parents have the time and energy to prepare fish snacks or meals for their puppies. For them, the easiest way to provide all the protein and Omega 3 fatty acids to their dogs is through Volhard's Krill Oil supplement. Harvested from small crustaceans, krill oil contains an abundance of nutrients necessary for your dog's proper growth. Make sure that you contact us and learn more about krill oil's amazing benefits!


The "to fish or not to fish" dilemma has found its answer; due to its high Omega 3 and other nutrients composition, fish deserves a special place in your puppy's food bowl. Including fatty fish in a raw diet proves beneficial when completing the recommended allowances for:


Fatty fish is the main source of EPA and DHA fatty acids essential for optimal health and brain development. Alternatively, an omega-3 supplement can be used if fatty fish is not fed.

Vitamin D

In addition to providing EPA and DHA, fatty fish provide high Vitamin D levels, which is an essential nutrient for growth and development.

Essential Minerals

Certain shellfish provide additional nutrients besides EPA and DHA. Blue mussels are a good source of manganese, and oysters are a good source of zinc and copper.

From now on, feeding fish to your dog will be a walk in the park! However, if you have more questions on this subject, feel free to contact us or check out our blog! 

Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!