Can Dogs and Cats Eat Fish?

Written by: Care Yummers


Oh, the age-old question that has tickled the minds of pet parents far and wide: can dogs and cats eat fish? If you've found yourself wading through myths and truths, trying to figure out the best way to include fish in your pet's diet. Well, good news! You're about to dive into the deep end of how tossing some fish into your pet's bowl can be a swimmingly good choice for a balanced diet.

Now, before you start imagining your dog or cat flipping tails over a fishy feast, let's reel in some details. We'll explore the benefits that make fish a fantastic addition to your pet's menu, highlight the best types of fish that are both safe and nutritious, and navigate through the risks and considerations to keep in mind. Also, if you’re wondering how to safely introduce fish into your pet's diet without causing a splash, we’ve got you covered. So, strap on your life jackets, and let’s set sail on this exciting voyage to enhance your pet’s health and happiness.

Benefits of Fish for Dogs and Cats

Protein Source

Fish is a stellar protein source for both dogs and cats, offering  a high biological value which means it's rich in essential amino acids your pets need. This makes fish an excellent alternative for pets with allergies to more common protein sources like chicken or beef.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

One of the most significant benefits of fish for dogs and cats is its rich content of Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly  EPA and DHA . These fatty acids are crucial for reducing inflammation and supporting overall wellness from nose to tail. They contribute to healthier skin, a shinier coat, and can even improve heart and kidney functions.

Hypoallergenic Properties

Fish can be a fantastic dietary choice for pets with food sensitivities or allergies. It's often not included in standard pet food, which means it’s less likely to trigger allergies in pets that react to more common ingredients. This can lead to fewer allergic reactions and a happier, more comfortable pet.

Skin and Coat Health

The benefits of fish oil for a pet’s skin and coat are widely recognized. Omega-3 fatty acids help to maintain a silky, shiny coat and can significantly reduce dry, itchy skin caused by environmental factors or other dietary allergies. Regular inclusion of fish in your pet's diet can lead to visible improvements in their coat’s health and appearance.

Digestive Benefits

Fish is not only nutritious but also  highly digestible for dogs and cats, making it an excellent food for pets with sensitive stomachs or older pets who may have slower digestive systems. It helps in the absorption of nutrients and reduces the risk of digestive upset.

By incorporating fish into your pet's diet, you're providing them with a rich source of essential nutrients while also catering to pets with special dietary needs. This can lead to a healthier, more vibrant pet with fewer health issues related to poor nutrition or allergic reactions.

Best Types of Fish for Dogs and Cats


Salmon is a top choice for both dogs and cats due to its high levels of  Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids , which are crucial for maintaining a healthy skin and coat, supporting cardiovascular health, and aiding in brain development.


Whitefish varieties such as cod and haddock offer a lean protein source that's low in fat, making them excellent for your pet's muscle health and weight management. These fish are also low in mercury, making them a safer option for regular consumption. Whitefish is a good choice for pets with sensitive stomachs due to its digestibility.


Herring is another nutritious option, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that promote a healthy skin and coat. This fish is known for its distinct flavor, which can add some variety to your pet's diet. It's also beneficial for cats, adding excitement and variety to their meals.


Small and oily, sardines are  packed with essential nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin D, making them beneficial for bone and heart health. They are generally safe for dogs due to their small size and can be consumed with the skin and bones. However, it's important to choose sardines packed in water rather than oil and to avoid added salt.


As part of the whitefish category, cod is a beneficial fish for pets, providing a source of lean protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. Low in fat and mercury, cod is a healthy addition to your pet's diet, particularly for maintaining muscle health and supporting overall wellness.

By incorporating these types of fish into your pet's diet, you can ensure they receive a variety of nutrients essential for their health. Always ensure the fish is cooked properly and free from bones to prevent any health hazards.

Risks and Considerations

While fish can be a nutritious addition to your pet's diet, there are several risks and considerations to keep in mind to ensure their safety and health. Here, we'll dive into the potential hazards associated with feeding fish to dogs and cats, including mercury levels, bone hazards, the risks of raw fish, and the importance of careful seasoning and preparation.

Mercury Levels

Certain fish species, particularly those that are longer-lived like tuna and swordfish,  accumulate heavy metals such as mercury in their systems over time. This buildup can lead to heavy metal toxicity in pets if consumed regularly. To minimize the risk, it's advisable to opt for shorter-lived fish species which are less likely to contain high levels of mercury.  Mercury poisoning in dogs can manifest in various symptoms, including blindness, loss of control over body movements, tremors, and even more severe conditions such as depression, anorexia, paralysis, and potentially death, with young puppies being particularly susceptible.

Bone Hazards

Fish bones pose a significant risk to dogs and cats. These small, brittle bones can easily become lodged in your pet's mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines, potentially perforating organ walls. This not only causes pain but can also lead to expensive veterinary visits for removal. Therefore, it's crucial to ensure that any fish fed to pets is thoroughly deboned.

Raw Fish Risks

Feeding raw fish to pets carries the risk of transmitting harmful bacteria like salmonella and listeria . These bacteria can not only make your pet sick but also pose a health risk to you and your family. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises against the consumption of raw or undercooked fish by dogs at any life stage, including pregnant females and puppies, due to the higher risk of harboring and transmitting parasites and bacteria. Cooking or freeze-drying fish properly is essential to kill any potential pathogens.

Seasoning and Preparation

When preparing fish for your pet, it's important to avoid cooking in excessive oil or using seasonings that may contain toxic ingredients, such as garlic. These can cause gastrointestinal upset in pets or even lead to serious illnesses like pancreatitis. Fried fish, fish sticks, and uncooked fish skin are not recommended for dogs due to the risk of gastrointestinal issues and the potential for transmitting parasites and bacteria. Always ensure fish is cooked without harmful seasonings and oils, and avoid feeding fish heads, tails, bones, and fins to your pet.

By being mindful of these risks and considerations, you can safely include fish in your pet's diet, reaping the benefits while minimizing potential hazards. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate serving sizes and types of fish that are best suited for your pet's specific dietary needs and health condition.

Fish Pet Food

How to Safely Introduce Fish to Your Pet's Diet

Introducing fish into your pet's diet can be an exciting way to enrich their nutrition. However, it's essential to approach this change with care to ensure it benefits your furry friend's health without causing any adverse effects. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do it right.

Consulting Your Veterinarian

  1. Assess Your Pet's Health Needs : Before making any dietary changes, consult with your veterinarian. Pets with underlying health conditions such as kidney or liver disease might need to avoid fish.

  2. Determine Suitable Fish Types : Discuss with your vet which types of fish are best for your pet, considering factors like age, size, and specific health needs.

  3. Allergy Test : If you suspect your pet might be allergic to fish, your vet can help identify safe options or recommend an allergy panel.

Preparation Methods

  1. Choose the Right Fish : Opt for fish that are low in mercury and easy to digest, such as salmon, whitefish, herring, or sardines. Avoid high-mercury fish like tuna.

  2. Cooking is Crucial : Never serve raw fish to your pet due to the risk of salmonella, listeria, and parasites. Cook fish thoroughly by steaming, properly freeze-drying, or baking.

  3. Debone with Care : Ensure all bones are removed from the fish before serving to prevent choking hazards. Consider boneless options like canned or precooked fish for ease.

Portion Control

  1. Start Small : Introduce fish into your pet's diet in small amounts and gradually increase based on their reaction. Monitor portion sizes to prevent gastrointestinal issues.

  2. Follow the 10% Rule : Treats, including fish, should only make up  10% of your pet's daily diet to avoid obesity.

  3. Adjust According to Size and Activity : Tailor portion sizes to your pet's size, age, and activity level. Consult your vet for personalized recommendations.

Monitoring for Allergic Reactions

  1. Watch for Symptoms : After introducing fish, observe your pet for signs of allergic reactions , such as skin irritations or gastrointestinal upset.

  2. Report Any Concerns : If you notice any adverse reactions, contact your veterinarian immediately. They can help adjust the diet or suggest alternatives.

  3. Keep a Food Diary : Documenting what types of fish your pet eats and their reactions can be helpful for identifying allergies or intolerances.

By following these guidelines, you can safely introduce fish into your pet's diet, enhancing their nutritional intake while minimizing risks. Always prioritize your pet's health and well-being by consulting with a veterinarian before making significant dietary changes.


Through this exploration, we've navigated the waters of including fish in your dogs' and cats' diets, highlighting the potent benefits such as  high-quality protein and  essential fatty acids for optimal health, while also addressing the potential risks to be aware of. We've underscored the importance of choosing the right types of fish, such as salmon and whitefish, and the necessity of proper preparation to ensure our furry friends can enjoy these benefits safely. It's clear that when done thoughtfully, incorporating fish into their diet can offer our pets a world of good, from  supporting their cardiovascular health to  enhancing their coat's luster .

As pet owners, it's paramount to consult with a veterinarian to tailor this addition to our pets' specific dietary needs, initiating this change with careful consideration for portion sizes and potential allergies. This guidance not only aids in maintaining the balance and safety of our pets' diets but also enriches their overall well-being. Let us take this knowledge forward, offering our pets the diverse and nutritious diet they deserve, ensuring they lead happy, healthy lives.


Is including fish in my dog's or cat's diet beneficial?

Absolutely, fish is a fantastic source of protein for both dogs and cats. Incorporating fish into your pet's diet ensures they receive the necessary proteins and essential amino acids they require for optimal health.

Are there any reasons why dogs should not eat fish?

While fish itself is not inherently bad for dogs, the preparation method can lead to health issues. Fish cooked with excessive oil may upset a dog's gastrointestinal system or, in severe cases, trigger pancreatitis. Additionally, seasonings used in cooking fish can pose significant health risks, especially if they contain toxic substances like garlic.

Are there specific types of fish that dogs should avoid?

Yes, dogs should steer clear of fish with high mercury levels, such as albacore tuna, swordfish, and king mackerel. If you decide to give your dog tuna as an occasional treat, opt for varieties without additives. Be cautious of the carrier oil used in canned tuna as well.

What are the most nutritious fish options for dogs?

Several fish types are beneficial for dogs, including tuna, salmon, whitefish, cod, and whiting (also known as hank), for their rich nutrient content that meets dogs' dietary needs.