Having fish is an integral part of our healthy diet. But is it the same for your furry friend too?
Well, yes, the same is the case for dogs too. Fish contains omega-3, digestible protein, and other essential nutrients that can keep your dog healthy and happy.
To make sure that your beloved pup is eating a lot of fish in their everyday meal, you can give them seafood snacks to supplement their diet. It can include dried sprats. This is a healthy as well as a tasty alternative to dog treats. Or, on special occasions, you can add a little bit of fish to their dinner.
But do you know which fish is safe for your dog to have?
You might have cans of sardines and tuna at home. As tuna is one of the most readily available and commonly eaten fish, you might wonder and ask yourself, “Can dogs eat tuna?”
Well, tinned tuna is cost-effective and convenient at the same time. And these two reasons are enough to tempt you to feed your canine buddy tuna.
But hey, can dog eat tuna?
Come, let’s find out!
There are many dog food manufacturers out there that use tuna as one of their many ingredients.
However, there are arguments among dog food experts regarding the safety of giving tuna to your pup. Therefore, we suggest that you always double-check dog food ingredients before actually giving them to your dog.
Also, you need to have a clear idea about which food your dog can eat and which food they can’t. We are telling this because some foods are perfectly healthy for humans, but they pose health threats when it comes to feeding dogs.
So, according to nutritionists, before we talk about tuna, let’s see what human food your dogs can eat.
All About Tuna
Part of the mackerel family, tuna is a saltwater fish. This fish is migratory.
Tuna can be regarded as one of the fastest fish. This is because they are sleek and have streamlined bodies. This allows them to go quickly through the water.
Did you know that tuna can go about 40 miles in an hour?
You can find these fish in warm ocean water.
Tuna can be availed in different colors, types, sizes, and shapes. They can weigh more than 1500 pounds, and in length, they can be from anywhere between 1 to 15 feet.
Some kinds of tuna can live up to the age of 50 years. However, some of their varieties are on the way of getting extinct.
Different Kinds of Tuna
Did you know that there are over 20 different varieties of tuna?
And people consume only about 5 of those varieties regularly. These include yellowfin, bluefin, bigeye, albacore, and skipjack.
Now, can dogs eat tuna?
To a certain extent, it depends on the size of the tuna you are feeding them. For example, a large bluefin can weigh 1000 pounds or more when mature. But, on the contrary, a skipjack tuna can weigh about only 42 pounds when they are matured.
Albacore weighs about 73 pounds in adulthood. And a mature bigeye tuna and yellowfin weigh around 400 pounds at maturity.
Can Dogs Have Tuna?
Yes, you can feed tuna to your dog, but only in small amounts and occasionally. However, don’t make it a staple in your dog’s regular diet.
Similar to some other fish, tuna is rich in omega-3 and protein, which are crucial for your furry friend. These can keep them healthy.
Here’s a note of caution from the nutritionists.
Don’t feed large amounts of tuna to your pup. Also, you should refrain from giving them tuna every day.
Because tuna is a source of mercury, if you give too much to your pup over time, it can cause mercury build-up. And your dog can develop long-term health issues. Another fish that contains mercury is mackerel. However, compared to tuna, it has less mercury.
Now, if you go to the dog food aisle in the supermarket, you will see that many dog foods have tuna as one of their ingredients. This proves that tuna is safe for dogs. But, if you don’t want mercury to accumulate, don’t feed them regularly with this fish.
So, what if you want your furry buddy to benefit from eating fish as part of their daily diet?
You can go for dog foods that have short-lived, fresh fish containing low levels of mercury.
Also, whether you can feed tuna to your dog depends a lot on the type of tuna you are offering.
Did you know that canned tuna comes in springwater, brine, and oil too?
So, what kinds of tuna are safe for your furry buddy?
We will discuss that later in this post.
Tuna: Nutrition Basics
Tuna comes with many health benefits for your dog. They are filled with minerals, vitamins, and nutrients that you commonly find in fish meat. Following are the details:
Tuna is a good source of protein. This is why many dog owners prefer giving this fish to their pets. If you feed tuna to your pup, they will gain lean protein. Also, it will provide protection against unwanted fat.
Tuna comes loaded with antioxidants. Give this to your dog, and it will reduce the actions of free radicals in their body.
- Saturated fat levels
This fish contains less saturated fat. This means, if you feed tuna to your dog, it will help them in keeping good cardiovascular health. Also, it can help with high blood pressure.
Tuna is filled with various vitamins, including vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin B6, riboflavin, and niacin. So if your dog eats this fish, it can have a stronger immune system.
Tuna is rich in magnesium, potassium, iodine, choline, iron, phosphorus, and selenium. Selenium or selenoneine can bind the mercury and protect your beloved pup’s cells from mercury poisoning and damage.
- Fatty acids
Tuna is full of omega-3 fatty acids. This can reduce the cholesterol in your pup’s blood vessels. Also, it can lessen the omega-3 fatty acids. As a result, your canine buddy can have a healthy coat and be free from itching and inflammations. Did we tell you that omega-3 can help your pup have better eyesight too? And not to mention a healthy heart!
- Low sodium
Tuna has a low level of sodium – another advantage of giving tuna to your dog!
What Kinds of Tuna can Your Dog Eat?
Dogs are carnivores in nature. And so, almost all dogs like how meat tastes.
The taste of fish, such as tuna, is a tasty one for most pups. So yes, they like tuna. Lets find our what different forms of Tuna can a Dog Have.
Can Dogs Have Canned Tuna?
For humans, tuna is an easy and pocket-friendly way to introduce fish in our regular diets. And trust me, most people have at least one can of tuna in their cupboard somewhere!
But can you share the tinned tuna with your canine buddy?
The tuna that you get in canned form is often the meat of skipjack or albacore tuna species. Now, between these two, most nutritionists suggest you go with the skipjack.
Because compared to its albacore variant, it has lower mercury levels and is safer for your four-legged buddy.
Now, tinned tuna has high salt levels, which is not at all good for your pup. But, of course, if you search the dog food aisle well, you can come across some canned tuna that has no added salt. So, if you are planning to share this fish with your dog, go for this variety.
Also, you will find some canned tuna that has been infused or cooked with spices and herbs. This can be pretty delicious to your taste buds, and you can use them on salads too. But, NEVER feed this to your pet. Canned tuna with additional spices and seasonings can make your pup really ill. And you don’t want that, right?
Apart from salt and spices, there are canned tuna that are preserved in various liquids. For example, you can find tuna chunks in sunflower oil, freshwater, or brine.
Now, are these safe for your pup to consume?
Let’s find out.
Can Dogs Have Tuna in Sunflower Oil?
Your pup can have tuna in sunflower oil.
Just make sure to drain the oil thoroughly. And while feeding it to your pup, give them only a tiny amount of it.
Compared to other oils, sunflower oil contains less saturated fat. And if your dog eats it in a small amount, they can actually benefit from it.
Nutritionists say that if you feed too much oil – no matter what the oil is – it can be bad for your pup.
They can gain weight and suffer from inflammation.
Omega-6 is there in sunflower oil. This oil is good for your pup. However, you must let them have it with omega-3. This way, you can prevent unwanted immune responses and inflammation in your dog.
Now, eating a small piece of tuna in sunflower oil is no doubt safe. But if you get the option of tinned tuna in springwater, choose the latter. It is the best choice that you can make.
Can Dogs Have Tuna in Brine?
Well, if you feed only a tiny amount of tuna in brine to your pup, it should not be toxic.
However, nutritionists suggest not to feed this to your dog to be on the safe side.
You might have already guessed. But still, we are saying it. There is a lot of salt in the brine. This can be bad for pups. And if they ingest it too much, it can lead them to have sodium poisoning too.
As we have told you earlier, the best kind of canned tuna that you can feed your dog is tuna in springwater. Tuna in sunflower oil is safe, but the springwater one is always number one as it has less fat and salt than other types of canned tuna.
Can Dogs Have Tuna Steak?
Now, this is a tricky subject!
For humans, some say bluefin is the best. And not to forget that we eat raw tuna in sashimi and sushi.
However, NEVER let your furry buddy have raw tuna. It may have parasites in it. Also, consuming it might lead your pup to have gastrointestinal upset.
And never ever feed bluefin tuna to your pup.
Well, it contains high levels of mercury.
Now, suppose you still insist on feeding tuna steak to your dog. In that case, you can choose species with lower mercury levels, such as skipjack and albacore. These species are safe for your dog to consume. And you can get them as canned tuna steak.
If you want to feed your pup some fresh tuna steak, always ensure that it is cooked without seasonings.
Can Dogs Have Tuna with Mayo?
In general, yes, you can give your dog tuna with mayonnaise.
Your pup might actually like a sandwich made of tuna fish, especially if you have it now!
BUT, here is a note of caution.
Don’t feed too much mayo to your dog. It can add up to their everyday calorie and contribute to their weight, which is not good, especially for overweight or senior dogs.
An essential part of your dog’s diet is fat. But too little or too much can cause health issues. Moderation is the key.
If you are keen on feeding a tuna sandwich to your dog, don’t make it a habit. You can give it as a treat only on special occasions, as you should not include mayo in their everyday diet.
Can Your Dog Have Tuna Salad?
Yes, they can. Just not every day.
Your dog can have a bite or two of tuna salad. Just make sure that the other ingredients used in the salad are not toxic for your pup.
Can Feeding Tuna to Your Dog be Harmful?
Well, this is an ongoing debate!
While some nutritionists and vets say that dogs are perfectly fine to eat tuna, others say just the opposite. They think you should not feed tuna to your dog.
Then there are others who say that it’s safe to feed only a small amount of tuna to your pup occasionally.
Here we have discussed the risks of feeding tuna to your dog:
1. High levels of Mercury in Tuna
Many pet health experts or nutritionists are against feeding tuna to your dog. This is because of the research that suggests high mercury levels in it.
Compared to other types of fish such as tilapia, salmon, or flounder, tuna has higher levels of mercury.
If you look at the tuna family, you will find the two varieties of tuna with the lowest levels of mercury: albacore and skipjack.
Did you know why there is so much mercury in tuna fish than the other kinds of fish that people and dogs consume?
Industrial pollutants, including coal plants, leak mercury. It then flows into oceans, rivers, and lakes. Once it is in the water, the aqua life consumes it. This is when it accumulates in fish too.
If a fish is large and lives for a long time, the chances are that it will accumulate a higher concentration of mercury in its tissues.
Now, compared to some other edible fish, tuna grows bigger and lives longer. This is one big reason why there is so much mercury in tuna meat.
When you feed this mercury-filled tuna to your furry buddy, there’s a chance of mercury poisoning in them. This can happen if you give them a lot of tuna regularly over a long period.
This can be a serious issue if you fail to notice the physical signs of mercury poisoning in your dog and don’t provide them with immediate treatment.
Symptoms of mercury poisoning in your dog
Following are some symptoms of mercury poisoning in dogs:
- Diarrhea – can be bloody or watery
- Loss of coordination
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Loss of hair
- Numbness in paws
- Kidney damage – whimpering, shaking, abdominal swelling, and inability to urinate
- Vomiting blood or emesis
In case you notice these symptoms in your furry friend, make sure to contact your vet immediately.
Bonus Read: 7 Best High Fiber Dog Foods Reviews in 2022
2. Vitamin B1, Thiaminase and Even Salt in Tuna
Tuna contains the enzyme thiaminase. This is another reason why a lot of dog owners are concerned about feeding tuna to their pups.
Not only raw tuna but also other raw fish contain thiaminase.
So, what is this thiaminase?
Well, it is an enzyme that breaks down any thiamine or vitamin B1 that your dog consumes. Don’t get frightened. If you cook tuna properly before giving it to your pup, the heat will make this enzyme useless.
Another health threat that tuna possesses is its high content of sodium. Again, this is bad for your dog.
We have mentioned earlier that tuna lives in salty water. And salt or sodium chloride can be absorbed by its meat. So this means the tuna that you get to eat might contain high sodium.
If your dog ingests too much sodium and there’s a huge build-up of sodium in your pup, then the chances are that they will have hypernatremia.
This is what happens when there is too much sodium in their body. And this can lead your dog to suffer from a severe illness.
Now, don’t get panicked.
One can of tuna does no harm to your dog.
To have this illness, your dog needs to eat large amounts of tuna over quite a long period. So don’t worry, as you’re not going to do that, right?
3. Contamination and Parasites
What do you generally do when you prepare fish for your family?
You clean them well and cook them properly, right?
The same goes for your furry buddy too.
If you want to introduce tuna to your dog, make sure to clean it well and cook it properly before feeding it to them. This ensures that if you feed tuna to your dog, they don’t face any parasite issues.
The parasites that you can find in fish meat get killed once you cook them using heat.
4. Dogs can be Allergic to Tuna
Well, just as humans, dogs can be allergic to certain foods too.
It varies from dog to dog.
So, your canine buddy may be allergic to fish or tuna.
What if you suspect that your dog is allergic to tuna?
Well, REFRAIN from feeding tuna to your pup.
Now, what if your pup is allergic to tuna and consumes it accidentally?
Don’t waste time. Call your vet and take them to your nearest animal hospital immediately.
5. Dogs With Kidney Disease
If your dog has kidney disease, following a low protein diet would be the best thing to do. A large part of the kidney’s work involves removing excess amounts of protein from the body.
So, if your dog follows a low protein diet, it will give its kidneys a break. So, nutritionists don’t really recommend giving tuna or any other high-protein food to your dog with kidney issues.
How Much Tuna Can Your Dog Eat?
You should not include tuna in your dog’s regular diet. However, you can give your dog tuna as occasional treats, as feeding large amounts of tuna can be harmful to your dog.
Now, you might ask, “How much is too much?”
Well, if your dog doesn’t consume tuna regularly and once in a while steals some tiny amount while you are not looking, don’t get worried. This won’t harm your beloved pet.
Nutritionists suggest, while feeding fresh tuna to your dog, you can give them one or two tiny pieces of tuna once or twice a week.
If your dog is of a small breed, feed them a little less often. And if your dog falls under large dog breeds, you can give them a little more. This is because how much they can eat depends a lot on their body weight.
Have a look at the following points to get an idea about how much tuna should you actually feed your dog, according to nutritionists:
- If you are feeding canned tuna to your dog, know that you can give one can of tuna once every three weeks to a 20 pounds dog.
- It is safe to have a can of tuna once in every nine days for 40 pounds dog
- You can give tuna once in every five days to your 90 pounds dog
This is a basic measurement. You can modify it according to your dog’s weight.
Can Senior Dogs and Puppies Eat Tuna?
The general rules of giving tuna to your dog mentioned above are applicable to all healthy adult dogs.
Now, are you a parent to a puppy?
Most nutritionists say that you should not give tuna to your puppy as part of their daily diet.
During the first year of your pup’s life, their digestive and gastrointestinal systems develop. And this continues for quite some time. So you should make sure not to give them any risky food such as tuna during this time.
Now, what if you have a clever puppy, and they somehow manage to get a tiny bit of tuna from your plate when you are not watching?
Don’t panic. It won’t do any harm. Just make sure not to feed them tuna actively.
Coming to older or senior dogs, they shouldn’t really have any problem eating tuna. However, suppose your dog has a sensitive stomach or is developing digestive issues. In that case, we don’t recommend giving them tuna as part of their daily diet.
What About the Tuna That is There in Commercial Dog Food?
Commercial dog food companies are increasingly using tuna in some of their recipes. They are using it as novel proteins, diversifying the kinds of animal-based proteins.
Nutritionists are not very optimistic about these dog foods containing tuna. So be cautious.
Because it’s difficult for you to know exactly how much mercury it contains, from where the tuna is sourced, and what amount of tuna is there in each bowl you are giving your furry friend to eat.
Now, there are some cheaper varieties of tuna available in dog foods. It is used as a cheap source of protein for your dog.
These dog foods can contain extremely high levels of mercury.
If you still insist on feeding commercial dog food with tuna as an ingredient, we would suggest you do your research well before actually buying it for your beloved pup.
Always look for a reputable and popular dog food company that uses human-grade tuna meat in its recipes.
Now, this food will come with a pretty high price tag for sure. And this is why feed this to your dog only occasionally.
Can Tuna Help in Treating Sensitive Stomach in Dogs?
You can find tuna in commercial dog foods. At times, these are meant for dogs with sensitive stomachs – dogs that have a hard time processing other kinds of protein. These are aimed at helping them with their stomach issues.
Now, can dogs have tuna to treat their problem of sensitive stomachs?
Well, not all dogs are the same. In addition, food intolerance and sensitivities vary from dog to dog. So, there is no rule on this as such.
However, according to David Southey, a pet nutritionist, fish can help with food sensitivities that cause low levels of fat. Your pup can digest this with ease.
Well, that doesn’t mean that feeding tuna will make your pup’s sensitivities go away. It only means that you will be able to keep it somewhat under control.
Now, when you introduce any new food to your dog, it is always advised to give them a tiny amount at first. See how they react. You can increase the amount later.
How to Serve Tuna to Your Dog?
Well, you can feed tuna to your dog. However, it is not the safest option out there.
Anyway, if you serve tuna to your dog, keep the following points in mind:
- If you buy canned tuna for your pup, go for the water-based one. Also, it should not have any added seasonings or flavorings.
- Always cook the tuna well before feeding it to your canine buddy. This will eliminate any harmful bacteria and parasites.
- You don’t want your pup to suffer from mercury poisoning, right? So do your research and go for tuna that has a lower potential for significant levels of mercury. You can choose albacore or skipjack tuna.
- While cooking tuna for your pup, don’t add any seasoning or salt. Your dog will like it without the additives. But, unfortunately, these additives do more harm than good. So steer clear of it.
- Are you planning to feed fresh tuna to your furry buddy? Make sure to debone it first. If the bone somehow gets lodged in their air passage, it can cause a choking hazard to them.
- You can do one thing. Take a bowl of water and steep the tuna into it. Keep it overnight. This way, you can get rid of some amount of salt. Then you can cook and feed it to your dog.
- Is it the first time that you are giving tuna to your dog? Then don’t go overboard with it. Take it slow.
Give your doggo only a little tuna at a time. Watch their reaction after getting the treat. If you see that they like it, you can give them another bite.
There are many fish out there that are safer for dogs. Those fish are generally used in commercial dog food. They include whitefish, salmon, arctic char, flounder, and herring.
Then there is salmon that comes with the same nutritional benefits as tuna for your dog. However, it comes with a low risk of mercury poisoning.
Nutritionists say that feeding your pup with a plate or bowl of fish is not enough. Instead, you should feed them a complete, balanced diet.
Whether you choose to fish or any other source of protein for your furry friend – be it store-bought kibble or fresh meat – it should have The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) label. This suggests that the diet is balanced and complete for your dog.
Foods that AAFCO approves have gone through rigorous testing and compliance. This is to make sure that it is healthy and safe for your canine buddy.
DIY Tuna Dog Treat Recipe
Do you want to bake some delicious tuna treats for your furry buddy?
Here is a recipe that you can try at home.
- One can of tuna in water
- One can of salmon
- One cup of wheat flour
- Four eggs
How to make:
- Take a large bowl and pour all the ingredients into it.
- Mix them well with your hand or an electric mixer.
- Take a baking pan. Grease its sides with oil.
- Pour the mixture into it.
- Now switch on the oven, set it to 350°F and place the baking pan in it.
- Bake it for about 40 minutes.
- Switch off the oven when it turns golden brown.
- Take it out and let it cool.
- Store it in a zip lock bag.
To conclude, before you introduce tuna to your furry friend, make sure to consult with your vet once.[wpdatatable id=64]
Forrest is a lover of dogs, the wild outdoors, deep mysterious conversations… and coffee. He is the owner of several websites, including Canine Weekly. He resides in Austin, Texas.