While the majority of commercially available dog foods contain meat-based proteins, quite a few also contain fish. Salmon, in particular, makes an appearance on many dog food ingredient lists, and might have you wondering, “Can dogs eat salmon?” The short answer is “yes, they can.” And there are actually quite a few health-related reasons that dogs should eat salmon. But before you go serving up your canine companion a doggie dish of the pink fish, there are a few things you should know first.
Can Dogs Eat Salmon the Same Way Humans Can?
Salmon is recommended for humans as a very healthy fish to consume, providing a lot of health benefits and being a great low-fat meal. But while we can enjoy salmon in a number of ways and with different marinades and seasonings, giving your dog some salmon in the same manner that we’ve prepared, cooked, and served it up for ourselves is actually a big no-no.
Dogs can eat salmon, but they can’t always eat all the other ingredients or seasonings that you might use to flavor a piece of salmon. Generally speaking, that goes for most human foods you might consider feeding your dog, as well as other types of fish. And while there are actually a few types of fish that are safe for dogs to eat, you’ll first want to focus on the question ”can dogs eat salmon?” first since it is one of the most common and favorite types of fish humans tend to eat, and the most likely to be shared with your furry friend.
Can Dogs Eat Salmon and Receive the Same Health Benefits as Humans?
There are actually many health benefits of salmon for dogs, so it’s actually a great treat to give your dog on occasion. Salmon is packed full of important vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin A, all the B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, and potassium.
In addition, salmon is also high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for strengthening your dog’s immune system, as well as improving the health of your dog’s skin and coat. It also helps to reduce itching symptoms in your dog.
And, because salmon is high in protein, it’s a great source of alternative protein for dogs who may not be able to handle digesting meat-based protein so well. This is actually a common problem for many dogs—dog owners whose dog has allergies to common meat-based proteins such as chicken or experiences digestive issues when eating too much meat can feed their dog salmon and other fish or plant-based protein foods, as well as dog foods that utilize alternative protein ingredients.
Eating salmon also helps to prevent allergies or reduce the symptoms of existing allergies, and also serves to improve brain health, making it a great addition to a senior dog’s diet. Senior dogs who begin to experience inflammation due to the onset of arthritis can also benefit from eating salmon—the Omega-3 essential fatty acids help to reduce inflammation.
Other health benefits of salmon for dogs include aiding the digestive system, reducing the risk of heart disease, helping to prevent cancer or slow the growth of cancer cells, aiding in weight loss and preventing obesity, and even helping the development of brain functions in puppies. In fact, salmon is often given to pregnant dogs because the health benefits aid the brain development of the puppy fetuses.
Dogs with kidney disease can also benefit from salmon, as it helps to reduce the effects of various symptoms of kidney disease, such as loss of appetite or frequent urination.
How to Feed Your Dog Salmon
Now that you definitely know the answer to the question “can dogs eat salmon?” you probably want to know the best way to feed your dog salmon, as well as the best type of salmon for your dog.
For starters, you never want to give your dog raw salmon, or smoked salmon. Both raw and smoked salmon can contain a type of bacteria that can be especially harmful to dogs. If bacteria from raw salmon enters a dog’s system it an cause a whole host of health problems, ranging from mild symptoms like an upset stomach to more severe health issues such as gastrointestinal issues and possibly even leading to an untimely demise. Smoked salmon is also very high in salt, which is also bad for dogs, so it’s a definite no on smoked salmon.
If you eat sushi, you might be thinking to yourself, but I eat raw salmon all the time, why doesn’t the bacteria affect me? The answer is that all sushi grade fish has been frozen for at least 24 hours, which serves to kill any bacteria and parasites that could be harmful to humans.
That still doesn’t mean you can give it to your dog, though. Any salmon you give your dog should always be fully cooked to ensure any harmful bacteria are fully eliminated, because salmon poisoning is actually a dog-specific disease. That’s why other animals such as cats or bears can eat raw salmon without any health issues.
Next, you’ll want to make sure that any salmon you give your dog has also had all of the bones removed. There are many small bones present in a piece of salmon that hasn’t been fully cleaned and deboned, and they can present a choking hazard if swallowed. They can also cause esophageal or intestinal damage if they travel further into the dog’s system, likely leading to an expensive vet bill, and, of course, unpleasantness for your dog.
Only feed your dog salmon fillets that have been fully deboned, or salmon from a can that does not contain any bones.
Now, back to the discussion of can dogs eat salmon with seasonings? You might think you are giving your dog a tasty treat when you share some of your seasoned or marinated salmon filet, but you could actually be doing your dog much more harm than good. Seasonings such as garlic and onion are toxic to dogs, and other seasonings could cause digestive issues.
Feed your dog plain, cooked salmon without any salt, pepper, or other seasonings. Don’t worry, they’ll still think it’s especially tasty—dogs don’t really require seasoning on their food the way humans prefer.
If you have time and you want to get creative there you can search for some salmon dog treat recipes on the Internet. The recipes will contain other ingredients that are safe for your dog to consume and serve to introduce a little bit of variety into your dog’s diet.
Best Types of Salmon for Dogs
There are three main types of salmon you might find for purchase in the marketplace: sockeye, chinook, and coho. All three types are very healthy, but Chinook salmon contains the most Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Sockeye comes in 2nd place for the most.
You might also consider giving your dog only organic salmon so as to ensure that the fish does not contain any unnatural ingredients used in the salmon production. However, be advised that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) doesn’t actually have any standards in place for certifying seafood as organic—seafood marked as organic typically comes from international sources and has not been certified as organic by US standards.
In the marketplace, you’ll see both wild caught and farm raised fish for sale. You might think that wild caught fish are safer and healthier to eat and that farm raised fish may contain chemicals. The truth is that it really depends where the fish was either caught or raised.
Some salmon caught in certain areas of the world may contain higher levels of mercury, while some farm raised fish may have been raised without the aid of any antibiotics. Also, farm raised Chinook salmon tends to contain significantly more fatty acids than wild caught Alaskan Chinook. If you are especially concerned, you can certainly take the time to research exactly where your fish is coming from.
Can Dogs Eat Salmon That is Canned?
Canned salmon certainly offers more in the way of convenience when you are seeking to give some to your dog. It’s already cooked and free of bones, saving you time and worry. And, canned salmon also provides the same health benefits as fresh cooked salmon, so your dog won’t be missing out on any of the health benefits of salmon either.
Just be sure to purchase canned salmon that has the salmon in water rather than oil. The oil can cause digestive problems for your dog. And, on a side note, canned salmon may also contain additives to help preserve freshness. If you are concerned about that, you’ll want to stick with fresh salmon.
How to Feed Your Dog Salmon
There are many ways in which you can introduce salmon into your dog’s diet. You can utilize the salmon as a training treat, rewarded them with some salmon when they perform their training correctly. Or you could just give them some salmon after or in addition to their regular dog food.
Moderation is key when giving your dog salmon, because too much salmon can lead to weight gain or digestive issues such as vomiting or diarrhea. Giving your dog one portion of salmon per week is ideal—mixing a little bit in with the dog’s regular dog food is an option.
You could also simply purchase a dog food that utilizes salmon as one of the main ingredients. This way you don’t necessarily have to worry about bones and seasonings and how much salmon is too much—instead, your dog will be getting all the proper nutrition it needs directly from the dog food, and in the correct portions.
It’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian before feeding your dog salmon so that you can come up with a meal plan that features salmon but doesn’t introduce it too much in abundance. This way, your dog will receive a well-rounded meal plan that provides it with all the dietary protein it requires—too much can lead to health problems, so regulating your dog’s diet is always important.
Believe it or not, there are actually salmon oil supplements available for dogs. Your dog might not enjoy swallowing a pill as much as a tasty bowl of freshly cooked salmon, but it will still serve the purpose of delivering a good healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Giving your dog salmon oil supplements is a good way to ensure the dog gets the omega-3 fatty acids without worrying about bones or too much fat.
Can Dogs Eat Salmon Skin?
Salmon skin, while tasty and healthy, also contains much more fat than the salmon flesh, so it is not recommended for dogs. Giving your dog salmon skin and other foods high in fat can lead to obesity and even pancreatitis. You can, however, cook the salmon with the skin on, and then simply remove it before giving any of the salmon to your dog.
Can Dogs Get Salmon Poisoning?
Dogs will only be susceptible to salmon poisoning if they are given raw or undercooked salmon. You may not notice anything wrong with your dog at first—the symptoms of salmon poisoning in dogs can take up to 6 days to appear. Additionally, there are a variety of symptoms, so you may not even associate them with salmon poisoning at first. The symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- A discharge from the eyes and nose
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
If you spot any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian. This is especially true if you know that your dog has consumed raw salmon (or anything it shouldn’t have eaten) within the last few days. Salmon poisoning can lead to death if not treated, and even if the symptoms aren’t from salmon poisoning, they could be resulting from something else toxic the dog accidentally consumed. Getting treatment as soon as possible could be critical to avoid your dog getting any sicker.
It’s also important to note that dog’s will easily smell salmon, both raw and cooked. So you should never leave raw salmon unattended if your dog has a habit of sniffing around the kitchen and grabbing table scraps when you aren’t looking. You might also want to invest in a dog proof garbage can so that your dog can’t pull raw pieces of salmon (or anything else harmful) out of the trash to chow down on.
Additionally, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling raw salmon before touching your dog. Your hands could be contaminated with bacteria that can easily contaminate your dog’s food and other foods you might serve your dog shortly after.
Can Dogs Eat Salmon: In Conclusion
A good brand of dog food with salmon as an ingredient will provide your dog with all the important vitamins, protein, and nutrients it needs. However, there is a certain satisfaction in giving your dog a flavorful treat now and then, and so you might want to have some salmon on hand to give your dog once in a while. Just be sure to follow the guidelines above regarding what type of salmon is safe, and always remember the moderation rule when giving your dog any type of food other than dog food.