When it comes to dog food, conflicting information comes from the Web, pet stores and your peers. Fish, an increasingly popular core ingredient in high-end dog foods, is not exempt from this debate. Some vets and nutritionists extoll the benefits of a fish-based or fish-enhanced diet, while others warn against dangerous parasites and risky feeding behaviors. The truth is that feeding a dog fish, depending on the fish type and circumstances, is perfectly acceptable.
Salmon Poisoning Disease
One of the most common reasons pet owners get confused about the safety of different types of fish is the existence of salmon poisoning disease. The condition, caused by parasites present in salmon and other fish that breed upstream, is extremely dangerous and can have fatal results within 14 days of infection. In these cases, the fish is not poisonous; the parasites in the fish are. WebMD advises that cooking fish thoroughly will kill parasites and make the salmon safe for canine consumption.
Benefits of Fish
When used as the base for a dog’s diet, the right fish can bring a variety of health benefits to your four-legged companion. Fish contains vital omega-3 fatty acids, which are helpful in keeping your dog’s joints moving smoothly. Additionally, fish and fish oils have been shown to improve the quality of a dog’s coat when used as supplements to a non-fish diet. Fish-based foods usually rely on a mix of deboned fish, fish meal, chicken proteins and potatoes to round out the ingredients.
No single diet or dog food is perfect for every dog. Dogs, like humans, require diversity in their diets to ensure deficiencies and allergies do not develop. When you're providing a primarily fish-based diet, it is important to loop in other proteins to ensure your dog is getting all the ingredients he needs to stay happy and healthy. Protein rotation decreases the risk of food allergies and intolerances in your pup. Try mixing cooked fish with kibble, and rotate fish out with cooked lean beef and cooked chicken every few days. Think about what your dog would eat in the wild -- certainly not the same dry food every day.
General Fish Dangers
A few specific dangers in feeding fish to dogs exist, but these dangers are not necessarily linked to fish types. Raw fish can contain parasites that can make your dog sick, even in fish other than salmon. Fish can have small bones that pose choking hazards to dogs or cause digestive tract complications. As with any food substance, cook fish thoroughly to ensure bacteria and parasites are not an issue. Remember, if you have any questions about a specific diet you’d like to feed your dog, speak to your veterinarian before switching up the diet.