While we generally don’t encourage feeding your dog a lot of “people food”, there are certainly some foods that are healthy for them and can be fed occasionally. Is mackerel one of them?
Generally speaking, dogs can eat mackerel safely. However, there are a number of risks, including mercury levels, salmonella, additives, and bones. Mackerel shouldn’t be a staple of your dog’s diet, but with proper precautions, they should be able to safely enjoy it as a treat.
Let’s look at all aspects of feeding your dog mackerel, and when it is and isn’t a good idea.
Is Mackerel Healthy for Dogs?
From a nutritional standpoint, mackerel is very healthy for dogs. It is an excellent source of fatty acids, protein, and several vitamins, all which are beneficial to your dog’s health.
But there are also risks involved, depending on how the mackerel is prepared, what kind of mackerel is eaten, and how frequently it is consumed.
You must weigh the pros and cons of feeding mackerel to your dog before deciding to do so.
Why Mackerel Is Good For Dogs
Perhaps the best benefit of mackerel is its Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega oils and fatty acids aid in brain function, help to keep a dog’s skin and fur in good condition, and contribute to joint health, which can be especially beneficial to dogs that are prone to, or already suffering from arthritis.
Mackerel is also a protein, which dogs need in order to keep their muscles lean and strong. As for vitamins, mackerel is a rich source of vitamin B-12, and also provides B-6, niacin, iron, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, and selenium
So there is no question that mackerel is a nutritious food for your dog.
Why Mackerel Is Bad For Dogs
Too much of a good thing often makes it a bad thing, and mackerel is no exception. While the common belief that mackerel containing mercury is true, there isn’t usually enough of it in the fish to be harmful to dogs (or humans).
The risk of heavy metal poisoning isn’t what you need to worry about with mackerel; rather, it’s the naturally occurring enzyme called thiaminase.
In large quantities, the enzyme can cause Vitamin B to break down, and can be responsible for creating a deficiency of this vital vitamin, which in turn can lead to a host of other health problems.
But the amount of mackerel that a dog would have to eat for thiaminase to actually become problematic is simply staggering, and realistically it’s not something that you or your dog will ever have to worry about.
How Should Dogs Eat Mackerel?
Mackerel should only form part of a dog’s diet and shouldn’t be their primary source of protein.
You should only give your dog mackerel that has been cooked. Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to salmonella and other bacteria that can be present in raw fish.
They can also be made deathly ill by the parasites (like roundworm) that can be present in fish but are usually killed during the cooking process. So no raw mackerel for dogs!
With Skin On or Skin Off?
While many humans prefer to eat the fish with the skin removed, dogs like it just as much with the skin on. And because mackerel skin is a rich source of omega fatty acids, it’s actually good for dogs to eat the skin provided that they don’t have too much of it.
Too much of that skin-based fatty acid can cause weight gain in dogs, but that would require a significant amount of consumption.
Is Tinned Mackerel Bad For Dogs?
Fish packaged in tins is bad for dogs because of the extra fat and and salt that the smoking process produces, not to mention the long list of preservatives (and extra added salt) that tinned mackerel includes.
Dogs also shouldn’t be allowed to eat mackerel in tomato sauce, mostly for the same reasons as it usually comes out of a tin and is far saltier than fresh mackerel and laden with preservatives. Tomato sauce also has a higher sugar content, another ingredient not good for dogs.
With or Without Bones?
Mackerel has bones that can get stuck in dog’s teeth, gums, and throats. They are a choking hazard and can cause serious digestive pain. The best way for dogs to enjoy mackerel is by eating the deboned, fresh fillets that can be purchased at supermarkets.
So long as mackerel is freshly cooked and eaten in moderation, mackerel can be a safe and healthy food for your dog. Just make sure it is properly prepared and doesn’t include any seasoning or additives.