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Every now and then I come across a question that makes me roll my eyes and cringe at the same time because I'm being so judgy. I then settle back down and remind myself of the time I tried to feed Rodrigo a grape.
I don't have any right judging anyone. Yet I do.
Is it Safe to Feed Dogs Raw Fish?
Yep, dogs can eat raw fish, but like everything in this crazy dog nutrition world, that's not the end of the discussion because it's not that straightforward.
I add fish to my dogs' diet as a supplement and a natural source of essential fatty acids; not as a full meal. I don't think a dog can eat a diet primarily made of fish because I don't think it isn't healthy to limit a dog to a single protein. Because I feed fish as a supplement and not a meal, I add fish as a food topper, combining it with another protein.
If you are new to raw feeding, then I recommend starting with a reputable premade raw brand (scroll up to see my list). And as you learn more about making raw meals at home and find quality sources, you can expand your dog's menu.
What About the Parasites in Fish?
Many veterinarians will tell you to never ever feed your dog raw fish, because of the parasites and bacteria that live in the meat of the fish. But raw feeders add raw sardines, mackerel, salmon, and other raw fish to their dogs' diet all the time. So which is it? Is it safe to feed raw fish to our dogs or not?
Worms Found in Fish
As disgusting as videos showing worms in fish are – and I watched a few for this post and the one I have here is tame by comparison – it's perfectly natural for fish to have worms in them.
Based on my research, for raw fish to be safe to feed to our dogs, it needs to be frozen for at least 24 hours to kill any parasites and bacteria. Because I'm paranoid, I freeze fish for at least a week before feeding it to my dogs. 24 hours just doesn't seem long enough.
If you're feeding fish that you caught to your dog, make sure to remove any hooks before handing a fish over to your dog.
Are you rethinking sushi yet?
What About Mercury Levels in Fish?
One of the reasons I stick to sardines and mackerel is because they have lower toxin levels than other fish.
Our oceans are becoming more polluted so it's important to take care when buying fish to feed to your dog.
Raw Fish That I Feed to My Dogs
What fish you feed to your dog depends on what you have access to and if you bring this topic up in a large raw feeding group, people will respond with what fish they do and don't feed, completely confusing you about what's safe and not safe. For this post, I'm sticking to what I know.
Sardines and Mackerel
You can find plenty of websites that will tell you which fish are safe to feed to dogs raw. Personally, I'll only feed my dogs sardines and mackerel, because that's what I have access to through our local raw food co-op. It arrives frozen, I transfer it into smaller packages and leave it frozen for a week before grinding the fish (or chopping it up) to feed to my dogs. In the summer, my dogs eat the fish whole while outside (always under supervision).
I recently learned that I can also order smelt from Raw Paws Pet Food and I'm planning to place an order for my dogs soon.
Salmon and Trout
Although many raw feeders feed salmon to their dogs, there have been cases of salmon poisoning in dogs in the Pacific Northwest. Raw salmon may contain a parasite that can make dogs very sick. Because of this, I don't feed salmon or trout to my dogs raw unless it comes from a reputable source (a premade raw brand I trust).
Because there are other options; I'm okay with taking these off the menu.
Cooked Fish I Feed to My Dogs
When it comes to cooked fish, my dogs eat what I eat. I love salmon, trout, catfish, Dover sole, and swordfish. I'll make one dish for myself – spiced to my taste – and a second for the dogs, without anything other than fresh herbs that are safe for dogs (or nothing at all).
Since I have four big dogs, I never have enough fish to make an entire meal (swordfish is expensive), so I add the fish to their normal meal as a food topper. They love it.
I do feed canned sardines to my dogs. I look for sardines packed in water with no salt added. I will feed my dogs canned salmon and canned mackerel but I don't make a habit of it because it's crazy expensive.
Update: In 2017, I began added canned oysters (boiled in water, rinsed before feeding) because they are an excellent source of zinc and manganese, both of which are lacking in many raw diets. I do not give my dogs smoked oysters.
Commercial Raw Food Brands that Offer Fish
I can order sardines, mackerel, and smelt through my local raw food co-op or through Raw Paws Pet Food. And I like to alternate raw fish with fish from premade raw food. I'm able to gain access to more fish, it's safe to feed, and it's nice not to have to break down a 50-pound case of sardines every month.
There are several raw food brands that offer a fish recipe and here are the ones I feed to my dogs:
- Primal Pet Food Sardine Gride
- OC Raw Fish & Produce
- Vital Essentials Frozen Fish Patties
- Northwest Naturals
- NRG Wild Caught Salmon (dehydrated dog food)
What About Fish Skins for Dogs?
I recently received an email from someone who's dog got really sick from fish skins. When it comes to fish skins, it's important to remember that the toxins in our very polluted oceans are stored in the fish's fat and skin. This means that not all fish skins are safe for dogs and with so many people jumping into a lucrative pet industry, it's important that we only buy from sources we trust.
I give my dogs Beams, which are catfish skin treats sold by The Honest Kitchen.
I believe that these brands are superior to other fish skin treats because…
- the fish is harvested from Icelandic waters, which are some of the cleanest waters in the world
- the fish is tested for safety in Iceland and again when it arrives in the US
- the catfish skin treats are tough and long lasting
- these fish skins aren't greasy or messy
There are other quality brands out there (I also like PolkaDog), however, I primarily order Beams because my dogs love them and The Honest Kitchen is a trusted brand.
Beams catfish skin treats are available through my local raw food co-op (I buy them by the case) and from Amazon.com.
- The Honest Kitchen Beams
- PolkaDog Cod Skins
- Vital Essentials Minnows (these are small so I give them to my cat – the dog treats are the better deal)
Mussels for Dogs
A few months ago, Rodney Habib and Steve Brown shared the benefits of adding mussels to our dogs' food. I add green lipped mussel powder to my dogs' diet because it's a natural anti-inflammatory. However, I never thought of buying a case of frozen mussels to thaw and add to my dogs' meals. Would they eat them?
Now I don't have to bother with placing a random order with my local fishmonger.
More brands are coming out with freeze-dried mussels and I've been able to find fresh ones through our local co-op (although I haven't ordered them yet). Our dogs love the treats, which is a good thing because mussels are being called a “superfood.” If you're concerned about your dog getting enough nutrients in their diet and want to give your dog an extra boost, then mussels are an answer. If you can't add fresh mussels (or your dog won't eat them), freeze-dried mussels from a reputable source is a great option.
These are expensive, so if you can order fresh mussels in bulk through a supplier, you'll probably get a better deal. Or you can do as I do and order through a raw food co-op or watch for deals (Black Friday is a good time of year) and buy a case.