Sardines may be small, but they pack a powerful punch in terms of nutrition. But can our dogs benefit from the nutritional profile of these tiny fish in the same way that we do? Can dogs eat sardines?
Fish has a long history as a healthy food because it’s full of essential nutrients many people don’t get enough of. Sardines are a rich source of healthy fats that help brain and heart functions and provide excellent levels of vitamin D.
Oily fish has been used for many years to boost health. It’s beneficial Omega -3 fatty acids support bone health, boost mood and immunity, and lowers cholesterol. But it’s not just the Omega-3 in sardines that make it a good choice to give your dog.
Can dogs eat sardines – the benefits
Sardines are high in protein and provide several essential vitamins and trace minerals, including;
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B12
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin D
- Coenzyme 10 Q10
- Vitamin E
What does this mean for you and your dog? Well, apart from keeping your dog’s coat healthy and shiny, Sardines also contribute to the following;
- Brain health and development
- Anti-inflammatory function
- Immune function
- Cancer prevention
- Heart health and circulation
- Eye health
Which makes them an excellent choice for growing puppies or elderly dogs suffering from joint problems like arthritis. Despite the many benefits of sardines, they should be used as supplemental food, not as a replacement for a balanced diet. With so many health benefits, are there any risks to giving your dog Sardines?
Sardines for dogs, the risks
Many people are worried about the mercury levels in fish. Despite this being a genuine concern, sardines are low in mercury. As sardines are small and relatively short-lived fish, they do not absorb or ingest enough heavy metal to become an issue.
Another concern that some dog lovers have is bones in fish and whether they present a choking hazard to their dogs. Fortunately, sardines are soft-boned fish. Dogs can cope with these bones and digest them easily. Although, you may want to remove the larger backbone from fresh or flash-frozen sardines.
As with any new food that you introduce to your pet, start with a small piece first. Most dogs enjoy the taste of fish and cope well with it, but allergies can happen, so always err on the side of caution. Luckily, too many sardines’ most common side effect is a stomach upset and a fishy smell. If either of these symptoms occurs, reduce the amount of sardines or the frequency you give to your dog.
Finally, if you have a dog that needs a low Purine diet, then sardines are not a good choice. However, certain fish and shellfish are OK to give as treats. Just do your research beforehand as to what’s suitable.
Should I give my dog fresh or canned sardines?
Whether you should give your dog fresh or canned sardines depends on you and your dog. Because raw fish doesn’t do it for some dogs. However, if your pet is happy with some fresh, raw fish added to their dinner, it’s advisable to remove the backbone and any other large bones before giving it to your dog. You can, of course, cook the sardines, but the more you cook or process food, the more likely you are to destroy valuable nutrients.
Canned sardines are a convenient alternative. However, choose your sardines wisely. Sardines come packed in several ways, and not all of these will be beneficial for your dog. Look for sardines that are packed in water with no added salt and try to avoid the following;
- Soy oil
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
- Tomato sauce
- Other flavorings
How many sardines should I give my dog?
As a guideline, one small sardine is appropriate for a dog that weighs around twenty pounds. If you are using canned sardines, this equates to about half a 3.75-ounce can.
For larger dogs to get the full benefit of feeding sardines, you would obviously need to increase this amount. The table below gives you an idea of how much to give your dog based on your dog’s weight.
|Weight||4oz can sardines|
|5lbs||1/4 can per week|
|15lbs||1/2 can per week|
|25lbs||5/8 can per week|
|50lbs||1 can per week|
|100lbs||1 3/4 cans per week|
Sardines can be given to your dog once or twice a week in addition to their regular dog food. Since a small sardine contains around 25 calories and 175mg of omega-3 fatty acids, you will need to adjust the amount of regular food you provide to keep your dog from putting on weight.
As a general rule, a 3.75 ounce can of sardines ( in water ) has around 200 calories, roughly equivalent to half a cup of most dry dog foods.
Assuming that your sardines are packed in water with no added salt, then feel free to use the water as gravy on your dog’s food.
What if I can’t get sardines?
You can feed your dog a variety of fresh, frozen, or canned fish, including;
- Salmon, canned or cooked (never feed raw salmon as it can contain a bacterium fatal to dogs)
- Shellfish, including oysters and crab
However, try to steer clear of any tinned fish with added ingredients like salt, oils, and flavorings and stick to fish packed in water only.
Can dogs eat sardines?
Yes, fresh sardines, canned or lightly cooked, feeding your dog sardines is safe. These small fish are a great source of health-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamins and minerals essential for a good immune system, which makes sardines a fantastic and natural way to treat your dog.
If you are introducing sardines into your dog’s diet for the first time, however, remember to start with a small portion first. Despite fish being easy to digest, dogs, just like us, can suffer from allergies, so be on the lookout for any adverse side effects. If you notice symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Although fish is good for your dog, it should not replace their regular dog food but instead be used to supplement their diet, bearing in mind the extra calories.
We love this recipe;
Sardine & oats cookies
- 3 cans of sardines in water
- 1 cup of flour
- 1/3 cup of oats
- 1/3 cup of cheddar (optional)
- Remove the sardine pieces from the can, do not pour in the liquid at this step.
- Mash the sardine with a fork until minced. There is no need to remove the bones as they have been pressure cooked and thus very soft (not a choking hazard) – plus, they will provide extra calcium!
- Add 1/3 cup of oats and mix well
- Then add 1/3 cup of cheese
- Mix well until the dough ball forms. Add in the water from the can to get the consistency needed. Alternatively, to reduce sodium levels, plain water or broth will work too.
- When it comes together, place it on your work surface. Dust the work surface with some flour
- Roll until 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick, then cut with your favorite cookie cutter(s)
- Lay them on a baking rack and bake at 180 degrees for 15 mins. Please leave it to cool in the oven for 5-8mins before removal.
- Please remove them and let them cool completely before serving your pup!