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Can Dogs Eat Mackerel? How Healthy Are They?

Krysha Thayer

By Krysha Thayer

Mackerel Fish On Wooden Chopping Board

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Dr. Lauren Demos

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Feeding fish to cats is a no-brainer. Most love it, and it’s usually very healthy for them. But can you feed fish to your dog? More specifically, can your dog eat mackerel? Surprisingly, it can. Not only can they eat it, but mackerel are packed with beneficial nutrients that may help improve their skin and coat. Keep reading to learn more about mackerel, its health benefits, and how to feed it to your dog.

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What is Mackerel?

Mackerel is a group of fish that include several different varieties.. You’ve likely had several types of mackerel yourself. These fish are found worldwide in various temperate regions, but some are more popular as food sources than others.

Smoked mackerel
Image Credit: Reinhard Thrainer, Pixabay

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Is Mackerel Healthy for Dogs?

Canines can’t eat most fish. However, most dogs can consume mackerel as long as they aren’t sensitive to it. You should test their sensitivity with a small portion to see if they both like the taste and if it sits well in their tummy. But is it healthy for them?

Fish in the mackerel family are packed with various nutrients like vitamin A, which helps your pup digest and absorb calcium, supporting strong bones. They are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids1 that contribute to healthy skin and fur. Added omega-3s could help reduce shedding or treat dry, itchy skin. The most prominent nutrient in mackerel, though, is protein. Protein is vital for highly active canines since it supports lean muscle growth and better energy levels.

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How Do You Feed Your Dog Mackerel?

Once you’ve determined that your dog likes mackerel and may benefit from it, how do you feed it to them? There are some things to consider when choosing the best way. Let’s take a look.

Meal vs. Treat

Can Mackerel
Image Credit: primorske, Pixabay

Mackerel alone does not provide the balanced nutrition required for a healthy pup. You should choose a healthy, well-formulated dog food appropriate for your dog’s life stage, size, or breed that will serve as their main diet. Their regular dog food will provide everything they need, and adding mackerel, while it provides excellent nutrients, is not required. Therefore, it’s a great treat or snack, but you don’t want to overdo it and risk providing too much of a good thing.

Portion Sizes

How much is considered a treat for your dog’s size or breed? This is relative to their regular diet and activity level. If they already consume other treats, you may want to slowly substitute one of their other treats with small pieces of fish. You should always be aware of changes in their weight when changing your pet’s diet. If you have any questions about proper feeding, be sure to reach out to their vet.

Raw vs. Cooked

Grilled Mackerel
Image Credit: , murakumo28, Pixabay

How you prepare the fish for your pet is just as important as when you feed it to them. Eating raw fish isn’t a great idea for anyone, including your dog. Raw fish, or any raw meat for that matter, can harbor bacteria and other diseases that the high temperatures of the cooking process would neutralize.

Cooked mackerel is the safest, but you should choose a cooking method that retains maximum nutritional value without becoming a danger to your pup. Steaming or poaching is best, and you want to avoid adding spices or deep frying. While canned mackerel is cooked, many canned foods have added preservatives or sodium that can be harmful, especially in large quantities.

Risks & Precautions

While mackerel is healthy, you should avoid feeding fish that contains bones. Bones can become stuck in a dog’s throat or digestive system and cause serious health problems. Also, avoid seasonings, added oils, or other ingredients like sauces when serving fish. Smoked fish is especially bad for dogs. Some fish have high levels of mercury, but that can be prevented by choosing smaller fish in the mackerel family, like North Atlantic Mackerel and Chub.

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Many fish in the mackerel family are delicious and healthy for our dogs. Using properly prepared mackerel as a treat can provide several key benefits, including healthier skin and fur. As long as you only feed fish occasionally, your dog can benefit from the protein and other nutrients. If you have questions about feeding your dog any fish, be sure to contact your veterinarian for advice.

Featured Image Credit: akids.photo.graphy, Shutterstock

Krysha Thayer

Authored by

Krysha is a proud mom to Shelly, a tortoiseshell “Tortie” rescue kitty that loves to talk back, especially if I’m late with breakfast. Shelly’s big personality, despite her small stature, has been a driving force behind my ambition to spread awareness about local shelters and the small things residents, support groups, and non-profits can do to support them. Growing up, Krysha experienced the care of many pets, fr...Read more

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