Avoid Feeding Tuna Salad to Your Dog
You may be wondering if it’s safe to give your dog tuna salad. However, it’s best to avoid feeding your furry friend this particular dish. Tuna and other long-lived fish like swordfish tend to accumulate high levels of mercury, as revealed in the FDA’s list of Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish^1^. Mercury is a byproduct of the manufacturing process that contaminates lakes, rivers, and oceans, ultimately being absorbed by fish. The larger and older the fish, the higher the mercury content in its body^1^.
Since tuna has a long lifespan (typically 10-15 years), it contains elevated levels of mercury. Consuming large quantities of mercury can be toxic and result in various health issues, including brain problems, autism, impaired mobility, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, severe anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and functional decline^1^. Therefore, it’s crucial to exercise caution.
However, there’s no need to panic if your dog manages to steal a bite of tuna from the kitchen table. In small amounts, mercury is unlikely to cause harm to your pooch. The worst that could happen is an upset stomach or diarrhea. If these symptoms occur, it’s essential to consult your veterinarian promptly^1^.
Tuna with Mayo: Not Recommended
While tuna poses a risk of mercury exposure, mayo is high in fat. Consequently, it’s not advisable to feed your dog tuna with mayo. Although not life-threatening, excessive fat consumption can lead to stomach upset, acute diarrhea, and weight gain in dogs. Overweight dogs are more prone to various health problems, including hip and joint issues, heart and lung diseases, back problems, skin diseases, and a decreased quality and quantity of life[^2^]^3^[^5^][^6^].
Tuna in Oil or Water: Not Recommended
You should also refrain from serving your dog tuna in oil or water for the same reasons mentioned above. The mercury risk associated with tuna applies to both canned tuna in oil and water alike.
Cooked and Raw Fish: A Safer Option
Technically, dogs can consume both cooked and raw fish. However, it’s generally safer to give your dog cooked fish to minimize the risk of parasites and bacterial infections. If you’d like to treat your canine companion to some fish, opt for smaller and shorter-lived varieties like salmon, pike, flounder, whitefish (from the ocean or lake), herring, walleye, and Arctic char^2^. Cook these fish through baking, grilling, or steaming, without adding seasonings or excessive oil. Seasonings often contain toxic ingredients like garlic, which can lead to serious health problems in dogs^2^.
Before cooking, ensure that any fish bones are removed, as they can splinter and cause complications in your dog’s mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines^2^. It’s also important to avoid using too much oil in the cooking process, as it can upset your dog’s stomach, cause loose stool and diarrhea, and potentially lead to pancreatitis^2^.
Health Benefits of Fish for Dogs
Fish is an excellent source of easily digestible protein for dogs. It’s particularly beneficial for dogs with stomach upsets or liver and kidney diseases. Additionally, fish is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which offer several health advantages. For growing puppies, Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to the development of brain function. Puppies and adult dogs can benefit from Omega-3 fatty acids to heal sore, flaky, damaged, or itchy skin. These fatty acids also possess anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent and alleviate allergy symptoms, making fish a suitable option for dogs with food allergies to more common ingredients like chicken and beef[^7^].
Commercial Fish Dog Foods vs. Homemade Fish Dog Foods
If you’re considering fish-based dog foods, opting for commercial varieties is generally a safer choice. Modern commercial dog foods often use shorter-lived fish to minimize the risk of mercury toxicity^8^. High-quality and complete dog foods usually contain all the necessary nutrients, eliminating the need for additional supplementation unless advised by your veterinarian^8^.
When purchasing fish-based dog foods, look for the AAFCO label on the packaging. This indicates that the dog food is complete and balanced. However, if you choose to provide your dog with a homemade fish diet, it’s crucial to follow your veterinarian’s recipe precisely to prevent any potential nutritional deficiencies^8^.
If you incorporate fish into your dog’s diet as a treat, remember to exercise portion control. Too much fish can lead to weight gain and obesity in dogs. Treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s overall diet^8^.
To learn more about dog nutrition, visit the Family Cuisine website.
Also read: Can Dogs Eat Chicken Feet
[^3^]: American Kennel Club. (n.d.). Is Tuna Safe for Dogs?