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As responsible and loving dog owners, it’s just normal for us to be so giving to our dog’s desires. But sometimes, we just have to stop and ask whether what we are about to do can do more harm than good. This is especially true when it comes to their diet. For example, can dogs eat tuna?
And if they can, are there some considerations or limitations that we have to know to keep our pooch safe and healthy? Are there also certain types of tuna fish that can’t be eaten at all? Can we feed our dogs tuna every day or use tuna as our dog’s primary protein source?
We got it. There are a lot of questions surrounding tuna fish and dogs, and in this article, we will try our best to answer all of these.
And in case you still have concerns after reading this post, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with us. We are more than willing to help.
What Is Tuna?
Tuna is a nomadic saltwater fish that can be found throughout the oceans of the world from the Atlantic Ocean to Indonesia. Tuna fish belong to a subgroup of the mackerel family, and it is one of the most popular and widespread fish worldwide.
Tuna can live a long life, and being carnivores, they are on top of the food chain in the ocean. It is believed that tuna can reach until the ripe age of 50, can grow anywhere between 1 to 15 feet in length, and could weigh as much as 1500 pounds.
There are over 20 types of tuna, but only five are edible and safe for consumption. And these are yellowfin, skipjack, albacore, bigeye, and bluefin.
Skipjack tuna, also known as “light” tuna is the most commonly known species in the United States. Albacore tuna is the only species that can be legally sold under the name “white meat” tuna.
Tunas are not just tasty, they are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. No doubt, humans love eating them so much, and some companies manufacture commercial dog foods with tuna because of their nutritional value, and high protein content.
Can Dogs Eat Tuna? Is It Good?
Tuna is not toxic for your canine companion, so dogs can eat tuna. However, while tuna is rich in nutrients that can be helpful for your dog’s growth, development, and overall health, you shouldn’t feed your dog tuna fish regularly.
This can be intriguing considering that tuna is a highly nutritious fish, but once you see the other side of this fish you will realize why feeding dogs tuna every meal is not recommended.
First and foremost, tuna may contain high mercury levels than other fish because of their age and size. This may put your dog at risk for mercury poisoning, which can cause irreversible damages to a dog’s organs and can even be a fatal condition.
And second, tuna is also high in sodium, which can also be problematic for dogs when consumed in large amounts over a while.
There are still other risks involved in feeding your dog huge amounts of tuna regularly, and we will talk more about them in one of the subtopics below.
If you want to add a novel protein (alternative source of protein) to your dog’s diet, you can give tuna as a dog treat, but not as a daily staple.
Smaller and younger, wild-caught fish are safer for your pup and these include whitefish, flounder, salmon, herring, catfish, cod, whiting, and light tuna fish (canned).
Health Benefits of Tuna for Dogs
Tuna can offer your pooch a multitude of health benefits, so there’s no doubt that it can be a great addition to your dog’s diet.
Tuna is high in lean proteins and low in bad fats that can cause obesity and several weight-related health problems. Hence, tuna can be an amazing alternative to beef and other red meats for your dog’s protein source.
Tuna is also rich in essential vitamins and minerals that can help your canine companions to thrive. It is particularly packed with vitamins B3, B6, and B12, which are all beneficial in strengthening your pup’s immune system, and in promoting healthy metabolism, and high energy levels.
Tuna is also high in selenium, which is helpful for a dog’s immune system and joint health. It is also rich in potassium and magnesium, which are both great in promoting healthy bones and muscles, as well as phosphorus, which is vital for your dog’s bone strength.
Moreover, tuna is also packed with antioxidants, which are essential in fighting the harmful effects of free radicals, which include the prevention of cancer.
Of course, we can’t conclude the benefits of tuna without emphasizing its high Omega-3 fatty acids content. Aside from being a rich source of protein, tuna is popularly known for this, which is really noteworthy.
Omega 3 fatty acids are vital not just in maintaining your dog’s healthy and shiny coat, but more so in promoting cardiovascular health, reducing inflammation, and lowering cholesterol levels.
And like what was mentioned earlier, tuna is a great novel protein for dogs. Meats that are not commonly found in dog foods are called novel proteins, and tunas are novel proteins since dogs don’t eat them that often.
The role of novel proteins can be more appreciated when a dog develops allergy or sensitivity over time to his primary source of protein.
Hence, substituting tuna with beef or chicken once in a while can help prevent allergies due to long-term and frequent intake of the same type of meats. Aside from tuna, venison and duck are also used as novel proteins.
Health Complications of Tuna for Dogs
If there’s one amazing addition to your dog’s diet, it can be tuna fish as long as it’s only given in moderation.
Instead of giving your pup tuna every day, you can treat them as dog treats or occasional toppings to their favorite dog food. You can even use tuna juice to add flavor and make the meal more palatable for your pooch.
Adding too much tuna to your dog’s diet can cause several health problems. To start, tuna contains high levels of mercury compared with other types of fish such as tilapia, flounder, or salmon. Skipjack and albacore contain the lowest concentration of mercury in the tuna family.
Why does tuna contain a higher level of mercury compared with other types of fish that are caught and sold in the market?
Well, industrial pollutants leak mercury, which then flows into lakes, rivers, and oceans. Once this heavy metal is in the water, it will be consumed by the fishes and other forms of life that live there.
And as we mentioned earlier, the larger the fish and the longer it has been living in the body of water, the higher the concentration of mercury will be in its tissues.
Compared with other edible fishes, tuna can grow bigger and they can also live longer thereby allowing more mercury to accumulate in their system.
So, if you are going to feed your dog fish that contains high levels of mercury for an extended time, then, your dog may be at risk for mercury poisoning. If the symptoms are not caught in time and there are no medical interventions, this condition can kill your dog.
Below are the symptoms of mercury poisoning that you should watch our:
- Hair loss
- Vision problems
- Vomiting, often with blood
- Diarrhea, often with blood
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Loss of sensation in their paws
- Kidney problems (inability to urinate, shaking, whimpering, abdominal swelling)
Contact your local veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
Moving on, tuna lives in salty water, so their meat can absorb the salt (sodium chloride) from their habitat. This also means that the tuna that are available for us and our canine companions to consume may have high sodium levels in their meat.
Too much intake of sodium can be a problem in dogs since salt is poisonous for them when taken in huge amounts. Hence, it’s best to offer your dog tuna in moderation.
One of the common health problems in dogs associated with high sodium intake is sodium poisoning. Symptoms of this condition that you should watch out for include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of tongue
- Excessive urination
- Extreme thirst
Another reason for dog owners to be concerned about feeding dogs tuna is the enzyme thiaminase. This enzyme can be found in raw tuna and other raw fish for that matter.
When it goes into your dog’s system, it can break down vitamin B1 (thiamine) in your dog’s diet. This wouldn’t be a concern, though, if you make sure to only give your dog cooked tuna.
Moreover, the high protein concentration in dogs can also be problematic to some extent. When your dog eats a lot of tuna and ends up consuming too much protein, his digestive system may not be able to tolerate it. This can leave them with an upset stomach, which can be uncomfortable for your pup.
How to Add Tuna to Your Dog’s Diet
When feeding your dog tuna, it’s best to clean it first thoroughly, remove the bones, and cook it properly. You may bake or broil the tuna fish, and make sure not to add salt or other seasonings. Dogs love the bland taste of meats, so they would be happy to munch on your homemade tuna dish in a heartbeat.
It’s also not advisable to serve raw tuna to your pooch as this can increase their chances of being exposed to harmful bacteria and parasites. And if you choose to buy canned tuna for your dogs, stick to canned tuna products that are packed in water rather than oil.
Oil is high in calories. And though it is not toxic for dogs, it’s just empty calories that can only cause obesity and it doesn’t add nutritional value to their diet.
Aside from obesity, excessive oil intake can also lead to an inflamed pancreas, which can have serious health implications for your dog. So, it’s better to stick with fresh tuna or with canned tuna that is soaked in water.
You may also offer your dog a portion of your tuna sandwich with mayonnaise, but not every day, of course. Your dog may love the taste and smell of mayo, so it’s all up to you to control how much he consumes. Remember that mayo is fattening, so, it’s important to only add it to your pup’s diet in small amounts.
Moreover, when giving your dog a bite from your tuna sandwich, make sure to stay away from any “red flag” ingredients for dogs. For instance, onion and garlic are toxic for dogs, and too much salt is also harmful to them.
So, always watch out for the food that you prepare for yourself that you end up offering to your pooch. Sometimes even if our intentions are good, our actions can still have bad effects on our dogs if we are not extra careful.
Without a doubt, tuna is a highly nutritious fish that can be good for dogs. However, like what was mentioned above, they can also cause some health problems when taken in huge quantities regularly.
Hence, if you want to add tuna into your pup’s diet, you may do so by giving it as a treat and not as a part of their daily meals.
If you are feeding your dog freshly cooked tuna, you may give them one or two small bite-size pieces every week or every other week.
And since the weight of your dog may also influence how much tuna they can safely take, these portions may vary if you have a small or a larger dog. You may adjust the frequency or the number of pieces accordingly.
To be more specific, it is safe to feed dogs weighing around 20 pounds one full can of tuna about once every three weeks.
A dog weighing 40 pounds can have one standard size of canned tuna every nine days, and a 90-pound dog can safely wolf down on a can of tuna about once every five days.
These portions are safe for healthy adult dogs. You shouldn’t feed your puppies tuna at all, and if you have senior dogs, you may also want to limit if not totally stay away from tuna.
Adult or senior dogs with sensitive stomachs or that are experiencing digestive issues shouldn’t be fed tuna at all.
How much tuna can I give my dog?
Tuna is safe when fed in moderation, but do not feed your dog tuna regularly as it will contribute to the accumulation of mercury in your pooch's tissues. Keep any tuna your dog eats to a small amount, as little as one tablespoon, and do not feed them tuna every day.
Can Tuna kill a dog?
Small amounts of cooked or canned tuna don't contain enough mercury to cause a problem in your dog if given periodically. Adult dogs should not eat cooked or canned tuna more than once or twice a week, in small amounts.
Which canned tuna is best for dogs?
So when feeding tuna fish for dogs, always choose skipjack or albacore tuna for a lower mercury content per serving. Research shows that each fish has the following mercury content: Skipjack (chunk light in canned form).
What fish can dogs not eat?
Tilefish. Swordfish. King mackerel.