Can dogs eat seafood? Yes, if you follow these tips

Dog food isn’t just chicken and rice! As healthy as these staples may be, variety is just as important when it comes to creating a balanced meal for your fur baby. There are many safe and nutritious protein alternatives to chicken or your regular dog food, including turkey, beef, eggs, and even fish. Yep — fish!

Many people foods are known to be safe for dogs, but these scaly swimmers don’t usually make the list. Fish certainly isn’t the most popular food for dogs, which might have left you wondering: Is seafood bad for dogs?

Can dogs eat seafood?

Absolutely! But only when it’s prepared correctly. The meat of many fish species contains healthy fats and nutrients such as omega-3s that are great for a dog’s coat, but you must be extremely careful not to feed your dog certain parts of the fish, including bones — or shells, in the case of shellfish. Any seafood your pup does get needs to be completely cooked, or you run the risk of bacterial or parasitic infection.

Fish that are safe to feed to dogs are typically the species that live shorter life spans. Longer-living fish such as swordfish build up high mercury levels throughout their lives, which can have toxic consequences for canines. Safe fish include salmon, herring, flounder, and char.

a tan dog with pointy ears and a long snout takes a treat from the hand of a person in a denim jacket
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How to prepare fish for dogs

Whether purchasing fish from the store or preparing it yourself, the same conditions apply. Before serving it to your pooch, make sure it is fresh, cleaned, deboned, cooked, and unseasoned.

It’s extra important to make sure all the bones are out, as they can injure your dog’s mouth or throat. Another, perhaps surprising, risk is improperly prepared fish skin. While delicious, the skin is just as likely as the meat to transmit illness if not cooked thoroughly — this is why turning it into a jerkylike treat is the safest way to serve your pup fish skin. Remember to remove as many scales as you can!

When cooking the fish itself, grilling, steaming, or broiling is a smart way to go — as long as your fish is totally cooked! It’s best not to feed your pup fried fish, though, as the oils and batter may upset her stomach and intestines. Also, never serve your dog the head, tail or fins of a fish.

Salmon fillets for dogs

One popular way of including fish in a dog’s diet is simply to share. If you’re making salmon for yourself one night, prepare a piece for Rover — no seasonings, of course! For convenience, you can give your dog canned salmon, as long as it’s packed in water, not oil. Boneless fillets also make great treats for dogs, though vets recommend limiting your doggo’s salmon intake to once a week or less.

For any dog and any food, portion control is key. Anything in excess can be unhealthy, but it’s important to be careful with fats, even healthy fats like salmon. Your vet can help you whittle servings down to the ideal size for your pet if you’re unsure. If you intend to replace part of your dog’s diet with fish, make sure she’s also getting the nutrients she needs through supplements or other foods, like veggies.

a white cairn terrier stands in a yard with a snack in their mouth
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Making dog food with fish

A balanced canine meal will include protein, fiber, fats, and carbohydrates. Fish is an excellent source of protein and vitamins, and veggies will help your pup get the fiber she needs. Starch can be your carb — think of starches and grains like pasta, potatoes, or rice. Lastly, a healthy fat source, such as safflower oil, helps bind the ingredients together and make the food nutritionally complete.

Of course, these are just a few ways to combine ingredients into a healthy dog food. Before changing your pup’s diet, always double-check with her vet to make sure you aren’t overlooking any hidden nutritional needs.

Whether fish is a treat or an everyday meal, it can certainly be a tasty break from chicken. Packed with protein and healthy fats, it’s nutritionally beneficial as well. You can also prepare it in myriad ways, which can be refreshing for pet parents who want to switch it up every now and again, or just want to share a bit of their dinner with their best bud.

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