You’ve just brought home some fresh Nigiri and are wondering if you ought to share some with your pooch, when you realize that you have no idea if it’s safe to feed sushi to a dog. After all, the last thing that you want to do is to end up killing your dog while you’re trying to treat them to something special.
The question of whether sushi is safe for dogs isn’t a simple one to answer. After all, there are many different types of sushi, and not all of them are equally suitable for dogs. The short answer is, “it depends.”
To find out which types of sushi are safe — and which ones you should never give a dog — read on; the guide below will fill you in on everything you need to know.
Is Sushi Safe for Dogs?
This is a complex question, as sushi isn’t a single type of food, but rather a broad grouping of many different dishes. Broadly speaking, sushi is a type of raw fish wrapped in rice and seaweed.
In order to best answer the question, we should break sushi down into its separate components and inspect each of them individually.
The fish is the main thing that people think of when they think of sushi, and it’s also the most complex part of the equation. Some types of fish are much better for dogs than others.
The rice is usually short-grain rice made with rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. Rice is perfectly fine for dogs to eat, and it’s commonly found in dog food. While not toxic, your dog’s intake of sugar and salt should be strictly limited. The vinegar, on the other hand, is known to cause digestive problems in some dogs, so while it won’t likely kill them, it won’t make them happy either.
The seaweed, called “nori,” should be perfectly safe, and in fact, is fairly nutritious. Most dogs won’t eat it without the fish inside, though.
What Types of Fish in Sushi Are Safe to Feed My Dog?
When dealing with raw fish, the biggest concern is parasites. Many fish have parasites — like flukes, roundworms, and tapeworms — inside them, and these can infect your dog if they eat them.
That being said, there are a few types of raw fish that are likely to be safe for your pup. These include:
There are no guarantees with any of these, though, as some dogs have allergies to certain kinds of fish. That means while most dogs may be able to eat the raw fish above, it doesn’t necessarily mean your dog can.
What Types of Sushi Are Dangerous?
The list of safe sushi types may seem to be woefully short and missing many of the most popular dishes at your local restaurant.
Sadly, it’s a simple fact that most raw fish is risky for dogs, and that includes most of the fish found in sushi. You’re much better off giving your dog cooked fish or telling them “no” when they start begging.
The following fish should never be fed to your dog in their raw form. Some are known to be incredibly dangerous, while others are just likely to be dangerous. Don’t take the chance, regardless.
A Special Note About Salmon and Tuna
While parasites are usually the biggest concerns when feeding a dog raw fish, salmon and tuna have other issues that are worth mentioning.
Dogs who eat raw salmon are at risk of developing salmon poisoning, a potentially fatal disease caused by a type of bacteria within the parasites on salmon. The bacteria are especially common in fish found in the Pacific Northwest, where most salmon comes from.
It’s important to note that farm-raised salmon almost never contains this bacteria, but you’ll likely never know for sure where your sushi restaurant gets their fish, so don’t take the chance.
Tuna, on the other hand, is notorious for being full of mercury. If your dog consumes too much mercury, they could suffer mercury poisoning, which leads to kidney damage, intestinal disorders, and even death.
Other Ingredients to Watch Out For
While rice, fish, and seaweed are the basic components of sushi, sometimes you’ll find other foods inside as well.
These include spices like ginger, which should be safe for your dog in small doses. Other common flavor additives include condiments like wasabi, which shouldn’t kill your dog, but it will give you quite the mess to clean up.
The biggest concern, however, is avocado. Avocado contains something called “persin,” which is fatally toxic to a wide variety of animals. Dogs tolerate it better than many other animals, but it can still cause them to become incredibly sick and may even kill them, so avoid giving your dog avocados.
One More Thing to Worry About
Besides parasites, bacteria, and mercury, there’s one more thing found in certain types of sushi that could potentially kill your dog: thiaminase.
Thiaminase is an enzyme that breaks molecules of thiamine in half, making it useless from a nutritional perspective. That’s a big problem because dogs need thiamine to live.
Cooking tends to break down thiaminase, making it less likely to be dangerous to your pup. Of course, that doesn’t help much when you’re talking about raw fish.
Many of the fish on the “do not eat” list contain thiaminase, whereas the ones on the “safe” list do not. However, the list is not comprehensive, so always do your research before feeding your dog a new type of raw fish.
Not All Dogs React Equally to Raw Fish
Just because your dog has eaten a parasite or harmful bacteria doesn’t mean they’ll get sick. The dog’s digestive system is a harsh place, and many ingested organisms die a quick death there. The ones that survive will often get dispatched by the dog’s immune system.
However, as dogs get older, their immune systems become less powerful, so you should be particularly hesitant to feed raw fish to a senior dog. Likewise, if your dog is immuno-compromised, you should make sure everything you feed them is cooked.
Is There Any Benefit to Serving Your Dog Raw Fish?
All those things are equally true of both raw and cooked fish, but cooked fish doesn’t come with any of the risks that raw fish does (assuming it’s prepared properly, of course).
With that in mind, there’s really no reason to ever give your dog raw fish. Not only will it potentially subject them to life-threatening pathogens, but it’s also not healthier or tastier for them.
We recommend adding fish to your dog’s diet every chance you get, but be sure to cook it first.
So, What’s the Verdict? Is Sushi Safe for Dogs?
The best answer that we can give to this question is, “Some sushi is safe for dogs, but there’s still no real reason to give it to your pup.”
Most raw fish is filled with parasites, toxins, and dangerous enzymes, so you’re rolling the dice every time that you share your sashimi. It’s not worth the risk, in our opinion, so give your dog cooked fish instead, or just tell them “no” when they start begging.
We know that it’s difficult to turn down your pet when they hit you with those puppy dog eyes, but it’s even harder to explain why you’re rushing them to the vet because you gave them a thiamine deficiency.
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Featured Image: DrawsAndCooks, Pixabay