Can Dogs Eat Tuna? Are Tuna Safe or Bad for Your Dog?

Every dog owner wants to give their pal the best diet possible. These days, many commercial dog foods include fish like tuna. But is tuna good for your dog? The answer is yes, but there’s more you need to know.

For instance, can they eat raw fish? What about cooked tuna fish? How about breaking open a can of tuna? Let’s dive into the specifics.

A Labrador Retriever being offered a food bowl
A hungry Labrador Retriever

If Dogs Can Eat Tuna, Is It Safe For Your Pet to Eat Tuna? 

Tuna is an extremely healthy fish with lots of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. So is it a good source of food for your dogs? That’s a different question. 

Yes, tuna is safe for dogs to eat. That said, it has a high amount of mercury, which builds up in their bodies (and human bodies, as well). For that reason, it shouldn’t be a regular feature in their diet.

If your dog eats a bit of cooked tuna, it’s no big deal. They can safely enjoy a few bites now and then.

Tuna in bowl
Cooked Tuna

Why you should feed your dog tuna?

First, let’s look at the health benefits of eating tuna. This ocean fish is packed with healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids and is low in saturated fats. This is good for your dog’s heart, skin, and eyes. 

Tuna also has lots of potassium, which lowers blood pressure. It’s also a great source of protein and vitamin D, and good for your dog’s bones. 

Manganese, zinc, Vitamin C, and selenium are antioxidants that fight free radicals in the body and boost your best friend’s immune system. It also supports muscular and brain development. 

Finally, it contains all the good stuff that a dog’s body needs for energy, growth, and maintenance, including vitamins B6 and B12, Riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, iodine, and choline.

What Kind of Tuna Can Dogs Eat?

A chef cutting fish
A chef preparing some tuna

Dogs can eat albacore tuna, bluefin tuna, skipjack, ahi tuna, and yellowfin tuna, so long as it’s cooked. Canned tuna is okay but watch the sodium level. 

You don’t want to add too much salt to your dog’s diet when feeding your dog tuna. Added salt can cause numerous health issues and undo the benefits of tuna.

How much tuna can your dog eat?

How often to feed your dog tuna is up to you. Some people are comfortable making it a daily part of their dog’s diet, while some veterinarians say that dogs shouldn’t risk eating tuna at all. Talk to your vet to decide how much you feel comfortable feeding. 

As a general rule of thumb, try not to feed more often than a few times a week and not more than five percent of their diet. This applies to both cooked and canned tuna. You should be even more cautious with puppies and senior dogs.

How to feed your dog tuna?

If you decide to give your pup tuna, cook it beforehand. You can prepare tuna by steaming it until it is opaque all the way through.

You can also bake it or boil it. Don’t cook it in too much fat or oil. Buy fresh tuna or frozen tuna for your dog.

Canned tuna is fine as well, just make sure to use the kind that has no added sodium. 

What’s a Good Homemade Tuna Recipe for Dogs?

A batch of tuna meal
Tuna meal – Image source

If you want to make your own fish treat for your pup, try the following recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 can tuna in water
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 cup chopped cooked veggies like carrots and peas
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup yogurt

Combine and give to your canine companion as a topper to their kibble or as a regular meal.

What about homemade treats with tuna?

Dog treats are a good way to give a little tuna but not too much. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 can tuna in water (or other whitefish)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup wheat flour

Combine all the ingredients until they stick together. Roll into golfball-sized pieces and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool before feeding. These are perfect for dog training.

Can tuna treat sensitive stomachs in dogs? 

Tuna probably isn’t the best option for dogs with an upset stomach or stomach issues. It could make the problem worse, and it probably won’t make the situation better. Stick to bland foods like chicken and rice.

Can Tuna Be Harmful to Dogs?

Unfortunately, tuna has high levels of mercury, which is why pregnant women and children are advised not to eat too much of it.

Dogs have much smaller bodies than humans, and mercury can build up their bodies much more quickly. 

Tuna are large fish and they eat other fish. When they eat those fish, the pollutants being carried in those smaller fish bodies are absorbed into the tuna’s body. They also live longer, so they have a longer time to accumulate all that bad pollution.

This video explains more:

Over a long period of time and in large amounts, mercury can build up in your dog’s blood and cause anxiety, loss of coordination, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, kidney damage, loss of feeling in the extremities, hair loss, blindness, and even death. These are symptoms of mercury poisoning.

Why are raw and canned tuna not good for dogs?

Raw tuna can contain parasites or other contaminants, so it should always be cooked through. Because tuna is a large saltwater fish, it has high levels of sodium concentrations, which can give your dog sodium poisoning. 

You also need to watch out for thiaminase inactivation, which is caused by eating raw tuna. 

If you feed your dog lots of canned tuna, you can also give them too much sodium. Salt poisoning causes weakness, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and, left untreated, death. This is known as hypernatremia.

Finally, some dogs are simply allergic to tuna. Never feed your dog anything you suspect it is allergic to.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A Terrier mix dog looking up
A hungry Terrier mix – Image source

Do dogs like tuna?

Many dogs love tuna, while others think it’s gross. The only way to tell is to try giving your dog some. Try giving them a little piece of tuna to see how they feel before feeding them a big bunch of fillets.

Can my dog eat tuna salad?

Don’t give dogs tuna in brine because it has added sodium, which is bad for the cardiovascular health of your pet, among other things.

Tuna packed in oil of any kind should also be avoided. Tuna in water is fine. Tuna steak can be a real treat, just make sure it’s cooked all the way. 

What if your dog is eyeing your tuna salad at a picnic?

Don’t give your pooch any dish made with tuna, such as tuna salad or tuna casserole, unless you’re absolutely sure that all of the ingredients are safe. For instance, tuna salad can have grapes, which are deadly to dogs.

Is commercial dog food with tuna okay?

Regardless of which commercial food you opt for, always make sure that it’s approved by the FDA and that it contains healthy whole ingredients.

If you decide to feed a food with tuna in it, check with your vet to see what they think. A small amount of tuna each day shouldn’t hurt your dog.

Can pregnant dogs eat tuna?

As mentioned above, tuna contains high levels of mercury which they get from the fish they eat. So it’s not recommended to feed pregnant dogs tuna.

Can dogs with pancreatitis eat tuna?

Low fat, high lean protein diets are good for pancreatitis. You might want to try different types of fish, including tuna, to see if they agree with your dog.

If tuna’s high mercury levels concern you or if you’re worried if tuna is good for dogs, try smaller fish like sardines instead.

Tuna Can Be a Tasty Addition to Your Dog’s Diet

A rescue dog eating tuna
Kato, a rescue dog, munch on his tuna – Image source

With all the tasty types of tuna out there, it’s no surprise that many people want to try feeding it to their canine friends.

You want to be careful about the heavy metal buildup and feeding too much sodium to your dog, but otherwise, feeding this flounder-relative might be a great idea.

Of course, chat with your vet and see if your dog likes tuna. Make sure they aren’t allergic before making it a part of their daily diet. The nutritional benefits make the occasional treat of tuna worth it. 

While the information in this article is deemed reliable, it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for a conversation with a trained professional. Always check with your veterinarian before introducing any new foods.

Further reading: What are Alternatives to Tuna for dogs?

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