Whether or not dogs can eat tuna is a controversial topic. Dogs primarily need a protein-based diet. In that regard, fish presents itself as a perfect meat source for dogs. Why? Well, fish has high protein content, low-fat levels, and a good amount of Omega-3 fatty acids.
But can dogs safely have tuna?
Technically speaking, dog foods commonly use tuna in their ingredients. However, dog food experts have recently raised alarms about the high mercury levels in this fish. This increases the risk of mercury poisoning in dogs which can prove to be fatal. But is mercury poisoning from tuna fish really a possibility or are we overthinking? Let's find out!
So, Can Dogs Eat Tuna?
Yes, they can. Canine diet specialists believe that currently, the mercury levels in tuna fish haven't risen to an extent where it's dangerous for dogs to have them. But moderation is key; so never go overboard when feeding tuna for dogs.
The mercury levels in the sea are rising with time. Where does this mercury come from? Well, that's pretty much us dumping our industrial waste into the ocean (guilt-free, I might add!) This mercury slowly gets added into the marine ecosystem and when we feed on these fish, we ingest the same mercury. So, it's pretty much like we're slapping ourselves in the face!
The bigger size and larger lifespan of tuna fish allow them to accumulate a lot more mercury than smaller fish. Here's a report by FDA on mercury levels in commercial fish and shellfish. As you can see, the mercury levels in tuna are quite high.
With this in mind, we can say that dogs can have tuna fish, but only once or twice a week in controlled amounts. Also, consider the breed of tuna that you're feeding your dog. The smaller the breed, the lower its mercury levels. So, smaller species like Skipjack and Albacore should be opted instead of larger ones like Bigeye, Yellowfin, and Bluefin.
Benefits of tuna
We've already discussed that dogs can eat tuna, albeit in controlled amounts. So now, let's discuss the benefits of tuna for dogs.
Tuna, like all kinds of fish for dogs, is a great meat source. The protein content in this fish is extremely high. This helps dogs build lean muscle mass to stay in shape. Whenever choosing any meat source for dogs, lean muscle mass growth is the primary factor to consider.
At the same time, tuna is quite low in fat. This also adds to lean muscle buildup because excessive fat can lead to weight gain in dogs. So, by having tuna, your dog can build a strong stature and strut its stuff in the park.
With tuna, your dog also gets a high level of Omega-3 fatty acids and boy, do they help in making a dog's coat smooth. You'd probably not be able to get your hands off your dog's fur as Omega-3 makes it lush and gives it a soft finish.
Tuna is also extremely beneficial for nervous development in dogs due to the presence of essential vitamins and minerals. With tuna, your dog gets Vitamins B3, B6, B12, and D. Also, don't forget its mineral content which includes Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Iodine, Selenium, Choline.
How to feed tuna to your dog
As convenient as it might be to just let your dog have tuna fish, that's probably not the safest option. There are some factors that you have to consider before you feed tuna to your dog.
With that said, people feed 3 types of tuna for dogs:
We'll discuss the safest ways of feeding all three.
The best way to feed cooked tuna to your dog is to first debone it. Dogs aren't great with bones and would end up eating them as well. These bones can easily lodge in air pathways and present a choking hazard for dogs. Once you've deboned the tuna, broil or bake it without any seasoning or added spices.
Trust me, your doggo would enjoy a bland fish a lot more. Also, beware that tuna already has a high content of sodium in its body, so adding more table salt would increase the sodium content further which isn't healthy for your dog to consume.
Now, if you're going with canned tuna, make sure you study the can's label properly. Canned tuna is often submerged in oil or water. Go with the latter if you're buying tuna for dogs. Also, notice if the canned tuna has any sort of additives. What you're looking for is plain, boring tuna as that's what Fido wants.
Now, can dogs eat raw tuna? Well, we'd advise against that. Raw tuna can have lots of dangerous bacteria and viruses that may harm your dog. So, it's best to stay away from this option. However, if you're really into feeding raw tuna to your dog, then make sure you properly wash it and feed minimal amounts.
How much tuna is safe for dogs?
There's no doubt that tuna is healthy for dogs. But with the risk of mercury poisoning, it's highly advised to limit its intake.
Ideally, adult dogs should not eat tuna more than once or twice a week, and that too, in extremely controlled amounts. It's always better to be safe than sorry.
You might also be wondering, "Can puppies eat tuna?" Well, there's no extensive research available on this topic. But it's advised not to feed this fish to your puppy. The first year of your pup's life should consist of specialized puppy diets.
What other fish can dogs eat?
That's an interesting question. You see, a lot of other fish types provide the same nutritional benefits as tuna, just without the risk of mercury poisoning. So, without further ado, here's a list of fish that dogs can eat in place of tuna.
- Salmon: This one's a real treat for dogs! But make sure you cook salmon before feeding it and limit it to one or two feedings a week. Salmon provides pretty much similar benefits as tuna.
- Sardines: These fish are really small so the levels of mercury in their body are extremely low. Also, their lifespan is short which further reduces the chances of mercury accumulation over time.
- Whitefish: Yummy-yum!
So, there you have it! In this article, we thoroughly discussed the benefits and dangers of tuna for dogs. If you're still skeptical and are wondering, "Can dogs eat tuna?", then we'd advise you to try some of the other fish mentioned in this article. However, the fact remains, dogs can safely have tuna once or twice a week. Anything more than that and you're playing with fire.