Can dogs eat fish?

When looking at the ingredients on your dog's food or other brands in the store, you'll probably see fish quite frequently. Even if it is an ingredient of dog food, dogs still cannot safely eat just any fish we put in their dinner bowl. Here is what you need to know if you want to add a fishy treat to your dog's diet.

The benefits of giving dogs fish

It is a known fact that dogs love the smell of fish. Fish is an excellent source of protein and is often included in commercial dog food as an alternative protein source. According to veterinarians, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may provide health benefits, including the reduction of inflammation. Fish is also a good alternative for dogs with food allergies to more common ingredients, such as chicken.

If you choose to feed a homemade diet that contains fish, be sure to consult your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to make sure you are meeting all of your dog's nutritional needs. You should give your dog only a small portion of fish the first time until you determine if he can consume that particular fish without an allergic reaction or stomach upset. Read more about Pets With Food Allergies

The best types of fish for dogs

Although there are many types of fish in the sea, most commercial dog foods are made using shorter-lived fish like salmon, ocean whitefish, lake whitefish, herring, walleye, flounder, and Arctic char. Fish that live longer, such as tuna and swordfish, may contain heavy metals like mercury. With so many fish to choose from, it is better to be safe than sorry.

The risks of feeding fish to dogs

It is not the fish itself that is harmful to dogs, but the preparation method. Fish cooked in too much oil can cause GI upset in dogs, or even lead to serious illnesses such as pancreatitis. There are also many seasonings that can cause serious health problems for dogs, especially if the ingredients are toxic, like garlic. One of the biggest risks of feeding fish to dogs is bones.

Can dogs eat fish bones?

The bones of fish are small, brittle, and dangerous. Dogs can get them in their mouths, throats, stomachs, and intestines, sometimes even perforating the organ walls. This is not only painful, but may also lead to a costly veterinarian visit. There are plenty of anecdotes about dogs eating fish bones without any issues, but in this case, it is better to heed the advice of veterinarians. Read More about Are bones safe for your dogs.

Are dogs able to eat raw fish?

Raw fish can carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella and listeria. This presents a problem for two reasons; It can make your dog sick, and it can also make you and other members of your family ill, according to the FDA. For small children, who may be exposed to your dog's saliva more than adults, and for people with compromised immune systems, this can be particularly dangerous. You should take all the precautions suggested by the FDA when preparing your dog's raw diet with fish, such as thoroughly disinfecting all surfaces and bowls after use, and washing your hands after handling raw food.

Is there a limit to how much fish a dog can eat?

It is possible to have too much of a good thing. In moderation, dogs can eat cooked, steamed, or grilled fish. Consult your veterinarian about the appropriate serving sizes of fish for your dog, especially if you plan to make fish a regular part of her diet.


Basically, yes, dogs can eat fish, and fish can be a healthy part of your dog's diet. However, fish should be cooked completely without any extra oils and seasonings, contain NO bones, and not be a fish with high mercury levels, like tuna. 

For more information about dog nutrition, nutrition specific to your dog's breed/condition or feeding fish to your dog, you should consult your veterinarian on your next visit.