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Can Dogs Eat Anchovies? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Anchovies are one of those divisive foods — you either love them or hate them. But dogs love anchovies. Pop open a can or bottle of these fish anywhere near your dog, and within seconds, you can almost guarantee that your pooch will be at your feet, staring up at you with longing eyes. There’s just something about the strong fishy smell of anchovies that dogs can’t get enough of, but can you feed these little fish to your dog? Are anchovies safe for dogs?

The good news is that yes, dogs can eat anchovies. So, it is safe to give in to your pet’s pleading eyes and share that fishy goodness with them, but before you do, there are a few things that you may want to keep in mind.

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What exactly are anchovies?

There are over 150 different anchovy species, all of which belong to the Engraulidae family.

Most are fast-growing small fish, typically reaching no more than 6 inches in length, and while they can be found in cool to temperate oceans around the world, they are most common in and around the Mediterranean.

Anchovies are best known for their strong flavor, but their strong taste actually has more to with how the fish are cured than their natural taste. Fresh, uncured anchovies are quite mild in flavor.

This curing process mixes the anchovy origin story up a bit, as in Finland and Sweden, the term “anchovy” refers to a traditional seasoning process rather than a type of fish. Thus, anchovy products imported from those countries often contain herring, sprats of other types of fish.

a hand feeding a Rhodesian Ridgeback hound dog
Image credit: Anke van Wyk, Shutterstock

Things to consider

Before you indulge your dog’s desire to share your anchovies, here are a few things to consider.

Anchovies can be a good choice for dogs

According to veterinarian Leslie Gillette DVM, “Fish can provide a novel protein for dogs, which can be particularly beneficial in managing and minimizing food allergies,” and they are a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for keeping your dog’s coat looking its best and their skin healthy.

Anchovies can be particularly good choices for your dog. As a fast-growing species with a relatively short lifespan, they typically contain less mercury and other heavy metals in their flesh than other longer living species. Also, due to their small size, anchovies are almost completely digestible, which means that your dog can eat them whole, without fear that they will get fish bones stuck in their throat. That said, with small dog breeds, you may still want to cut the anchovies in half to make sure they’re easy to swallow.

fresh anchovies
Image Credit: Diane Helentjaris, Unsplash

Be careful which anchovies you feed your dog

The best anchovies to feed your dog are freshly caught or frozen and thawed raw anchovies. However, unless you’re a huge fan of these little fish or keen on cooking Mediterranean-style dishes, chances are that the anchovies that you will have on hand will be cured anchovies.

In the United States, cured anchovies can be found in three different forms: oil-packed, salt-packed, or marinated in vinegar. Of the three, you should avoid salt-packed anchovies. While your dog will probably like them, too much sodium is bad for your pet’s health.

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How many anchovies should I feed my dog?

The exact number of anchovies that a dog can eat in one sitting will depend greatly on your dog’s size and how much food they eat each day. However, as anchovies don’t contain all the nutritional requirements that your dog needs to stay fit and healthy, they should only be given as a treat or a supplement and should never completely replace your dog’s meal.

It may be best to limit your dog’s intake of anchovies to a couple per week. Alternatively, seek your vet’s advice if you want to make anchovies a more regular part of your pet’s diet.

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Featured Image Credit: Anchovies (4122029675), Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble, Wikimedia Commons CC 2.0 Generic

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