Nutritionists never get tired of telling people to eat more fish and less meat. When fish is on the table at home, there is usually a bite for the four-legged friend, because he is completely crazy about fish. But is fish even tolerable and healthy for dogs?
Can dogs eat fish?
Not only are dogs allowed to eat fish, but they should also do it regularly. Fish is very nutritious and also contains a lot of unsaturated fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids from fish are particularly important for dogs.
When properly prepared, fish is an essential part of the diet of four-legged friends who like it.
How does fish fit into a dog’s species-appropriate diet?
The question is justified because in nature dogs live on land and fish in the water. Therefore, doubts as to whether a wild dog would ever hunt and eat a fish are entirely permissible.
However, some dogs hunt for fish in lakes, rivers, or on the coast.
What is even more interesting in this context is that fishermen in certain areas have always had dogs that they specifically trained to help them with their work. On the one hand, there are the sled dogs, which have always been kept by the Innuit to help hunt fish and seals.
Some Asian lace is closely related to the sled dogs. Akita-Inu were also trained to fish. At the other end of the world, the ancestors of today’s Newfoundlanders and Landseers lived as typical fishing dogs.
If you consider the living conditions of these fishermen and their working dogs, it quickly becomes apparent that the fishermen certainly did not go hunting regularly after their work to get meat for their dogs.
The dogs were mostly fed raw fish and it wasn’t bad for them. The New Zealand fishermen were sure to drop a lobster for the dogs from time to time. Some scallops must have been there too.
Can my dog be allergic to fish?
A food allergy refers to the proteins it contains. Fish contains a lot of proteins, so allergies are possible here too. However, dogs that are allergic to fish are really rare.
If your dog has already reacted to fish with allergy symptoms, it cannot be assumed that it is a real allergy. Farmed fish that are now on the market are often contaminated with antibiotics, heavy metals, or germs, which can also cause physical reactions.
But of course, you don’t have to force anything or take unnecessary risks. If experience has shown that your dog cannot tolerate fish, he shouldn’t get one either.
Fish contains proteins, fats, and other nutrients that are valuable for dogs
There is a similar amount of protein in fish as in meat. However, fish is easier to digest and more digestible than many types of meat, which is why fish is particularly suitable for the preparation of light foods. It doesn’t always have to be poultry.
Since the allergy potential of fish proteins is extremely low, you can also use fish as an alternative source of protein if your dog is allergic to meat. Fish is also the most recommended source of protein for exclusion diets.
All fish contain important vitamins and minerals in varying proportions. Mainly it is vitamin A, which is very important for eyesight. The body needs B vitamins 2, 3, and 12 for various metabolic processes and the nerves.
In addition, vitamin D ensures that the metabolism of the vital mineral calcium works well, particularly in fatty fish. Vitamin D deficiency leads to serious problems with the nourishment of bones and teeth.
The previously widespread disease rickets, which was prevented with cod liver oil, is a well-known example.
Fish also provides minerals and trace elements such as iron for blood formation, magnesium for the musculoskeletal system, and potassium, which is important as an electrolyte for the transmission of stimuli to the nerves. Selenium and iodine are also important.
The trace elements are necessary for many different processes in the body, including even for the hormonal balance.
The high content of omega-3 fatty acids
The most interesting component of fish for the diet of dogs is its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Like omega-6 fatty acids, they are essential fatty acids that a dog’s body needs but cannot produce on its own.
Omega-6 fatty acids are found in abundance in many foods. There is seldom a deficiency here.
Even if they are essential for life, an excess of omega-6 fatty acids is harmful. It leads to an increased cholesterol level and all the known consequences such as arteriosclerosis, gout, etc. The omega-3 fatty acids are something of a natural counterpart to the omega-6 fatty acids contained in meat.
That is why an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids is essential for dogs that are predominantly meat-based to meet their protein needs.
This allows the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids to be regulated in a meaningful way.
Raw fish for the dog – or not?
The question of whether fish should be fed raw is discussed again and again among dog owners. This is supported by the fact that the biological availability of the nutrients in the raw state is highest for dogs.
This is countered by widespread concerns about the possible transmission of germs and parasites.
Heating fish helps against the risk of infection. But if you prefer to feed him raw, you can also kill the most important pathogens with cold. Previously frozen fish is much safer.
Most commercially available fish products have already been frozen before you buy them. The most common parasite, the fish tapeworm, does not survive several days in the freezer.
If despite all caution, an infestation occurs, the vet can help with a wormer.
My Dog Ate Fish Bones – Are they bad for dogs?
The bones are another argument in favor of feeding fish raw. In the raw state, the bones are elastic and do not break or splinter. As with bones, the structure changes when heated.
If you don’t want to feed your dog raw fish, you should be careful to remove any bones. With raw fish, it is advisable to pull out very large bones before feeding your dog.
What does thiaminase mean in fish?
Some types of fish contain the enzyme thiaminase, which can break down vitamin B1 (thiamine) in the body. Because of this, it is often advised not to feed these fish raw. Thiaminase is not heat-stable and does not pose a problem in cooked fish.
But you only need to worry about it if you constantly feed raw fish that contains thiaminase – for example, redfish, mackerel, cod, and saithe.
If you only give your dog raw fish occasionally, it is completely sufficient if you are aware that it would be pointless to serve a side dish such as legumes, pork, or nuts with this fish of all places, because it is particularly rich in vitamin B1.
Native freshwater fish for the dog
The native species that you will certainly get fresh from a fish farm near you include, for example, pikeperch, trout, pike, eel, carp, char, whitefish, perch, and smelt.
Smelts are so small that you can give them wholly to larger dogs. The bone-rich char is not so well suited for very small dogs that are not used to carving whole fish.
Fish from the North and Baltic Seas
You can also buy most of the larger fish from the North Sea and Baltic Sea as fillets if you prefer not to give your dog fish with bones – for cod (or cod in the Baltic Sea), plaice, herring, sole, redfish, saithe and Even for inexperienced people, halibut is not necessarily a bone hazard.
You can often get the smaller varieties whole, but you can also fillet herring, mackerel, and sea bream yourself. The small sprats are more for dogs who prefer their fish in one piece.
Mediterranean fish and fish from the Atlantic
Even with Mediterranean fish, it is no problem to buy the most popular of the larger species already filleted without bones. This includes swordfish, sturgeon, and various perch.
Excellent fillets are also provided by typical Atlantic fish such as hake, sea bream, tuna, bonitos, and sole. The fillets can also be cut out very well from the slightly smaller sea bream.
The smaller species such as sardines and anchovies are easier to feed whole.
Beware of raw eel!
The meat of the eel is considered a delicacy by fish lovers and is in itself completely harmless. But raw eel blood is poisonous to all mammals. This applies to dogs, humans, cats, and other animals alike.
This fact is often not known even to anglers, which is why accidents do occur again and again when fishing for eels. Contact with eel blood can cause inflammation on the skin.
Eye contact can cause permanent visual damage. Therefore, you should always prevent your dog from getting the opportunity to rob an angler or otherwise get hold of a freshly caught eel.
For this reason, you shouldn’t feed the eel raw. If you like a smoked eel and your four-legged friend is begging for all their love, you can give them a piece of a smoked eel when the fish has been hot-smoked.
Fish are smoked both hot and cold. For eels, however, hot smoking is the more popular method, so the majority of smoked eels are likely to have been hot-smoked.
But it is better if you ask your fishmonger carefully before you let your four-legged smoked eel nibble.
Pangasius not good for dogs
For a while after its appearance, the cultivated fish was very popular in European fish kitchens because it was inexpensive and many people liked its taste.
But there is increasing evidence that the Asian fish farms, from which it usually comes, keep the fish under conditions that are harmful to health.
Exposure to antibiotics, germs and environmental toxins not only harm people but also dogs. For this reason, pangasius is mostly not recommended as a food for your dog.
Fish oil for dogs
Fish oil is a good alternative to giving your dog the most important omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to the vitamins and minerals found in all types of fish, it also contains valuable vitamin E, which is found in high-fat fish.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E is primarily responsible for protecting all cells from unwanted changes and inhibiting aging processes.
Because of the combination of unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E, many dogs get fish oil regularly, as it also ensures a beautiful coat and healthy skin.
How about seafood for the dog?
Dogs who like fish are usually happy about other sea creatures. Nothing speaks against crustaceans and shellfish.
In general, the same rules apply to prawns, crabs, shrimp, lobsters, lobsters, and mussels as to fish: They can also be fed raw, should be frozen beforehand, and, depending on their origin, they can be heavily contaminated with environmental toxins.
It is better to feed mussels without shells because your dog could injure himself. However, some mussel shells contain very valuable nutrients. Perhaps you have also used green-lipped mussel extract for joint problems.
Cheaper products mostly do not contain mussel meat, but rather ground shells of the green-lipped mussel.
You can basically feed smaller prawns whole, but depending on the size of the dog, it may not get along well with it, you know best yourself.
If you give your darling a whole lobster, you’d better cut them up before feeding them. Your dog could cut itself on crustacean scissors and tongs.
Ready-made fish feed for dogs
Fish can be found in both canned and dry food from various manufacturers. Dried fish is particularly popular as a treat. If you are looking for ready-made food with fish because your dog is allergic to meat, pay close attention to the list of ingredients.
Food with the label “with fish” on the label can also contain meat.
Dry food like the Exclusion dog food with fish & potatoes from Zooplus does not contain any other animal proteins and is therefore ideally suited for an elimination diet.
Fish is completely healthy for the dog
If your dog likes to fish and you take all precautionary measures to keep pollution and the risk of infection low, fish can be a valuable part of your four-legged friend’s diet.
The nutritional composition of fish matches the needs of dogs very well and fish is so easy to digest that it is extremely good for even dogs who need light food and brings a bit of variety to the bowl.