Can Dogs Eat Tuna?

Can Dogs Eat Tuna

It’s dinner time, and you are preparing the most delicious tuna sandwich. By the time you fully open the tuna can, Milo will already reach the kitchen and plead for some juicy tuna bite.

But just now, you realized your pooch has never eaten fish before. Will it be okay to share some tuna with him? 

Tuna is a saltwater fish that has many health benefits for humans and is a versatile food product. But, can dogs eat tuna too?

Luckily for you, we are here to answer this commonly asked question and provide you with some other important information, so read on!

Can Dogs Eat Tuna?

The short answer to this question is – yes, dogs can eat tuna. Tuna is safe for dogs to eat, and in fact, this fish is commonly used in commercial dog food products. 

Generally speaking, tuna is healthy for dogs as it is for humans. However, there are certain things you need to know before you include this fish into your dog’s diet. 

First of all, you should give tuna to your dog in moderation, and not for every meal. Never include tuna with bones, salt, oil, or additional seasonings. Seasonings like garlic and onion powder are extremely dangerous if ingested and can lead to serious health problems and even death.

Sodium and too much fat are difficult for dogs to digest and can lead to many health problems like bloat, indigestion, and pancreatitis

Some of the symptoms of sodium poisoning are: 

  • Lethargy;
  • Tongue swelling;
  • Nausea;
  • Lack of appetite;
  • Extreme thirst;
  • Excessive urination;
  • Convulsions.

The Risks Of Tuna

Firstly, tuna has much higher levels of mercury than other fish. 

Mercury is present in our oceans, rivers, and lakes and enters through industrial activities (coal plants, for instance) and industrial waste. Mercury accumulates in fish and aqua life, and every year it’s getting worse.

Therefore, the larger the fish and the longer its lifespan, the higher the mercury concentration in its tissues will be. Because tunas are long-living and big fish, there are high amounts of mercury present. Thus, feeding your dog regularly and in high quantities with tuna could lead to mercury poisoning.

Some of the symptoms are:

  • Tremors;
  • Vomiting blood;
  • Bloody or watery diarrhea;
  • Loss of coordination;
  • Loss of feeling in paws;
  • Kidney damage thus inability to urinate;
  • Hair loss;
  • Anxiety or nervousness;
  • Blindness.

Mercury poisoning could be fatal for your pooch, so contact your vet immediately if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above.

The second thing why tuna or any type of fish could potentially be dangerous to your dog is fish bones. Generally, fins, tail, head, and bones should not be fed to dogs. You should always debone the fish first before giving it to your dog. 

Fish bones can cause injury of the digestive tract and internal organs and could cause your dog to choke. If you notice your dog pawing at their face or excessively drooling, the bone is probably stuck in their throat.

What Type Of Tuna Can Dogs Eat?

There are over 20 different types of tuna, but only 5 are edible and safe for consumption, and these are:

  • Skipjack
  • Yellowfin
  • Bluefin
  • Bigeye
  • Albacore

Opt for albacore or skipjack tuna, because these two contain the lowest mercury level as those are the smallest ones of all 20 types.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Or Canned Tuna?

  • Technically yes, but we strongly advise not to. The American Veterinary Medical Association does not recommend the consumption of undercooked or raw fish. This is because fresh tuna can contain parasites, bacterias, and viruses embedded in the muscle tissues, internal organs, and skin. 
  • These bacterial organisms are known as Salmonella, Clostridium, and Listeria, and could be extremely dangerous for animals and humans; thus, could endanger public health. 
  • Another reason you shouldn’t consider raw tuna (or any other raw fish) is because it contains enzyme Thiaminase. This enzyme will break down any thiamine (B1) your dog ingests, but proper cooking breaks down the enzyme.
  • However, if you still decide to feed your dog raw tuna, you should wash it thoroughly and debone it first. Also, consider freezing the meat for a few weeks, as chilly temperatures are not suitable for these parasites.
  • Canned tuna, when given in moderation can be a very healthy, protein-packed snack for your dog. Choose skipjack and albacore because those have lower mercury and sodium levels. Also, look for the tuna packed in water rather than oil, and before you decide to treat your dog with tuna water, first make sure there is no salt or other seasonings added.

Can Dogs Be Allergic To Tuna? 

Yes, they can. In fact, dogs can develop intolerance to any type of food, so there is always a slight possibility your dog is allergic to fish, such as tuna. That’s why you always start with small amounts when giving any new food.

Some of the symptoms for food allergies are:

  • Chest tightness
  • Skin rash or hives
  • Watery, itchy or red eyes
  • Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath
  • Facial pain
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy or infected ears
  • Swelling of the face, ears, earflaps, eyelids, lips
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

If you notice any of the symptoms above, contact your vet as soon as possible, and don’t feed your dog with tuna again.

Are There Any Health Benefits?

Tuna has many health benefits, and it’s packed with minerals, vitamins, and protein. It has low saturated fat levels and is rich with omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for reducing omega-6 fatty acids and cholesterol. 

Tuna has lower amounts of sodium compared to other sea fish and contains many vitamins and minerals. Some are vitamin D, vitamin B12, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B2. As for the minerals, it is packed with iron, iodine, choline, magnesium, phosphorus, and selenium.

By acknowledging this, some of the health benefits are:

  • Muscle buildup and strong bones due to high protein amount
  • Smooth and soft coat, reduced inflammations and itch due to omega-3 fatty acids
  • Nervous system development due to vitamins and minerals present in tuna
  • Stronger immune system
  • Healthy heart and eyes due to omega-3 fatty acids
  • Healthy digestion
  • Healthy cells, tissues, organs.

Overall, tuna meat is healthy for your dog as it is low in fat, high in protein, and has many essential vitamins and minerals. The downside of this meat is high levels of mercury.

How Much Tuna Can Your Dog Eat

There is no doubt that tuna is very healthy and has many health benefits for your dog. However, there are certain risks such as mercury and sodium poisoning, so it is highly advised to limit the intake.

To clear things up, let us look at the chart below:

20-pound dog1 canned tunaOnce every three weeks (yellowfin) orOnce every ten weeks (white albacore)
40-pounds dog1 canned tunaOnce every 9 days (yellowfin) orOnce every 4 weeks (white albacore)
90-pounds dog1 canned tunaOnce every 5 days (yellowfin) orOnce every 2 weeks (white albacore)
150-pound dog1 canned tunaOnce every 3 days (yellowfin) orOnce every 9 days (white albacore)

It is for the best you give your dog tuna as a special treat that you will provide every-once-in-awhile.

How To Prepare Tuna For Your Dog?

  • If your dog is eating tuna for the first time, it is probably for the best to start slowly, to make sure there are no worrisome reactions. You can buy different types of tuna or in various forms, and each has its attributes. 
  • It is best to serve your dog plain tuna, without any salt or additional seasonings such as onions, garlic, and similar as these could be dangerous for your dog’s health. To get rid of as much salt as possible, try to steep the tuna in water overnight.
  • Also, if you plan to give your dog canned tuna, use the one that is packed in water rather than oil or other add-ons, as too much fat and salt can cause inflammation of the pancreas and other health risks. 
  • If you choose to serve your dog cooked tuna, it is best to buy tuna steaks. Both baking and broiling are fine (even grilling and steaming), as long as you don’t add extra oil or seasonings. 
  • Still, raw or cooked, you should always remove the fish’s bones, as bones can cause your dog to choke and damage the internal organs. Furthermore, always cut tuna in bite-size pieces before serving it, for easier chewing. 
  • Serving raw tuna is also an option, just make sure that the meat is deboned, cut in bite-size pieces, and thoroughly washed. 

Tuna Alternatives

1. Whiting

  • This sea fish is a good source of selenium, magnesium, protein, and vitamin B. Make sure you pull out all the bones, even the smallest ones, as those could be a choking hazard. 

2. Salmon

  • This fish provides almost the same benefits as tuna. Just make sure you cook it before feeding it to your dog and serve it in small portions in moderations. 

3. Sardines

  • These fish have a short lifetime and are very small; thus, the chances of mercury accumulations over time are reduced to a minimum. Sardines are packed with proteins and minerals and are also a great source of calcium.

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