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Can Dogs Eat Salmon? The Benefits of This Fatty Fish

A large salmon fillet rests on ice.

The smell of salmon can catch any dog’s attention and cause them to plead for a bite. Whether you’ve just brought home a fresh catch or you’re looking at last night’s leftovers, it’s tempting to share a bite of salmon with your furry friend. But, can dogs eat salmon?

The short answer is yes, dogs can eat salmon. In fact, it’s one of the healthiest snacks you can feed your best friend. As long as you feed it correctly, your dog will receive abundant health benefits. But if you don’t follow relevant safety guidelines, you could put your dog’s life at risk due to salmon poisoning

Learn how to safely feed salmon to dogs so your pet can get all of the benefits of eating salmon with minimal risk.

How to Feed Your Dog Salmon

Can dogs eat salmon: Dog begging for salmon

As long as you follow these steps, salmon is a safe and healthy snack for your pet. But if your dog has a pre-existing health condition, like pancreatitis, you should consult your vet before giving them any new foods.

Step 1: Remove All Bones, Pin Bones, and Scales

Most salmon filets that are sold in fish markets and grocery stores are already boneless, but you should always double-check your filet. It’s possible that the fishmonger missed a bone, and it’s especially common for them to miss pin bones.

While pin bones aren’t really bones — they’re actually calcified ligaments — they look like small bones. If you or your dog accidentally swallows one, it will feel like eating a small bone. It can scratch your dog’s trachea as they swallow and even be a choking hazard, especially for small dogs.

Carefully run your finger over your salmon filet to search for these pokey pin bones. If you find one, remove it with a pair of tweezers.

When dogs eat salmon skin, they receive additional nutrients. But you should make sure there are no fish scales left on the skin — scales are not edible and can be a choking hazard.

Step 2: Avoid Seasonings and Salt

While salmon is safe for dogs, many of the seasonings we put on human food are not. Garlic, onions, leeks, chives, and scallions are all toxic to dogs. Dogs also have trouble digesting spicy foods, and salt and sugar are unhealthy additions. You shouldn’t give your dog smoked salmon because it contains high quantities of salt and often has additional seasonings.

It’s okay to cook the salmon with a small amount of olive oil to keep the fish from sticking to the pan. But you should use as little as possible to avoid adding excess fat and calories.

Step 3: Cook the Salmon

While you may be used to eating raw fish in sushi, you should never feed your dog raw salmon. Raw salmon — especially wild-caught salmon — could carry a parasite that can cause salmon poisoning disease (more on this below).

In order to kill the bacteria, you need to cook wild-caught salmon completely. It should be light pink all the way to the center of the filet with no remaining darker pink or reddish spots. Undercooked salmon may be rare or medium rare in the center and can still carry live parasites.

The risk of parasites in salmon is significantly lower in farm-raised Atlantic and Scottish salmon. Farm-raised salmon are fed a controlled diet, which reduces the risk of the fish contracting parasites to nearly zero (but there is never a 100% guarantee). However, farm-raised salmon tends to be lower in omega-3 fatty acids than wild-caught.

Step 4: Cut the Salmon Into Bite-Sized Pieces

Salmon is a soft fish that tends to flake apart as you eat it. So, as long as you’ve removed the bones, pin bones, and scales, your dog should be able eat the fish with very little risk of choking.

However, some dogs tend to swallow their food whole. If your dog does this, cut the fish into bite-sized pieces before giving it to them.

Salmon skin can also be tougher to chew than the rest of the filet. So whenever you give your dog salmon skin, make sure to cut it into small bites.

Step 5: Feed Small Amounts as Part of a Complete and Balanced Diet

Even though salmon is extremely healthy and is the main ingredient in many high-quality dog foods, you can feed it too often. Dogs need a complete and balanced diet that features a combination of meat, fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains.

If you’re feeding salmon as a snack, make sure the salmon — plus any other treats or dog-friendly human foods you share — makes up less than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake. And when you start feeding salmon, start by sharing only one or two bites at a time. Any unfamiliar food can cause an upset stomach if your dog eats too much too fast.

If you’re feeding salmon as part of a homemade pet food, talk to your vet to ensure that your dog’s homemade diet is complete and balanced. Many well-meaning pet owners accidentally cause nutrient deficiencies when they start serving homemade meals because they feed too much meat and not enough of the other foods dogs need.

Salmon Poisoning Disease in Dogs

Can dogs eat salmon: a husky hunting for salmon

Salmon poisoning disease is the biggest health risk of feeding your dog salmon. It’s caused by a parasite called a fluke, which is found mainly in wild-caught salmon. This contaminant is significantly less common in farm-raised salmon, but there’s always a risk of ingesting it.

While flukes are generally harmless to dogs, they can carry the bacteria known as Neorickettsia helminthoeca. This enters dogs’ bloodstream where it spreads throughout the body and can affect multiple organs, causing our furry friends salmon poisoning. It may take several days, a week, or longer for salmon poisoning symptoms to present themselves.

Signs of salmon poisoning in dogs include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Muscle weakness
  • Seizures

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, your dog may have access to wild salmon and salamanders infected with the bacteria, which raises their risk of developing salmon poisoning disease.

For anyone feeding a dog salmon at home, you can eliminate the risk of salmon poisoning disease by cooking the fish completely.

Benefits of Salmon for Dogs

A dog eating its dinner at home

While salmon poisoning disease may sound scary, this fish is actually extremely good for your dog’s health as long as you prepare it properly. It’s a great source of protein and is full of healthy fats. In fact, it’s one of the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Here’s a look at the nutritional benefits of salmon.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), omega-3s can have wide ranging benefits. They help promote healthy skin and coat, reduce inflammation and support the immune system, improve heart health, and protect the joints against osteoarthritis.
  • Vitamin A: Salmon is a good source of vitamin A, an essential nutrient for dogs. This vitamin helps support your dog’s immune system, vision, skeletal, and reproductive health.
  • Potassium: This fish is also rich in potassium, a mineral that’s essential for healthy heart, nerve, and musculoskeletal function.

How to Add More Salmon to Your Dog’s Diet

Can dogs eat salmon: A dachshund eating food with Native Pets' Omega Oil

While fresh salmon makes a great snack for our furry friends, there are a lot of ways to add this healthy protein to your dog’s diet. You’ll find it in a variety of pet products from food to treats to supplements. Here are the best ways to power up your pooch’s diet with salmon:

  • Fish oil: A wild-caught salmon oil supplement, like our Omega Oil, is a safe way to add the high omega-3 content of wild-caught salmon to your dog’s diet without the risk of parasites. It makes a delicious dog food topper that can help entice picky eaters.
  • Dog treats: Properly freeze-dried raw salmon treats are a great way to safely add raw salmon to your dog’s diet. You can also find traditional dog treats that feature salmon as the first ingredient.
  • Dog food: Some high-quality dog foods feature salmon as the first ingredient. You can find traditional kibble, freeze-dried raw diets, and dehydrated dog food formulas with salmon as the main protein source. Check the ingredient list for other whole foods, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains to ensure it’s a high-quality recipe.

So, Can Dogs Eat Salmon?

French bulldogs with a bottle of Native Pets' Omega Oil

Dogs can and should eat salmon. This extremely healthy fish is one of the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which has benefits for your dog’s whole body.

But, you should never feed raw salmon. While wild-caught salmon is a better source of omega-3s than farm-raised salmon, it can carry a parasite that causes salmon poisoning — a potentially fatal condition — in dogs. Cook it thoroughly, all the way to the center of the fish, to kill off any parasites and bacteria.

These parasites are rare in farm-raised salmon, but rare doesn’t mean impossible. So make sure to thoroughly cook farm-raised salmon as well.

And if you want a healthy and easy way to add omegas to your dog’s diet everyday, try Native Pet Omega Oil. This fish oil supplement is made with wild-caught salmon and pollock — two of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids

For more information on your pet’s health and wellness, check out the Native Pet blog.
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