Mackerel is a common fish that is packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But is it safe for your dog to eat? In moderation mackerel can be a good addition to your pet’s diet. However it’s important to understand its nutritional value and potential risks.
Nutritional Benefits of Mackerel for Dogs
Mackerel is an oily fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Here are some of the key nutrients found in mackerel:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The main benefit of feeding mackerel to dogs is its high omega-3 content. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and support skin and coat health. They can also benefit heart health, arthritis, allergies, and cognitive function.
The two main omega-3s in mackerel are EPA and DHA. Dogs can easily utilize these fatty acids for energy and growth. Mackerel is one of the richest sources of omega-3s compared to other fish like salmon.
Mackerel is an excellent source of high-quality protein for dogs. Per 100 grams, mackerel contains about 20 grams of protein.
Protein provides the building blocks for strong muscles and tissues. It’s an important part of any balanced canine diet.
Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to omega-3s and protein, mackerel contains a variety of vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E
These vitamins and minerals support overall health, metabolism, hormone and enzyme function, brain development, and immune health. The nutrient density of mackerel makes it a nutritious supplemental food.
Potential Risks of Feeding Mackerel to Dogs
While mackerel provides valuable nutrition, there are some potential downsides to consider:
Like many larger, long-lived fish, mackerel can contain mercury. In high amounts, mercury is toxic. Continued exposure can damage the nervous system and other organs.
However, the mercury levels in mackerel are generally low compared to fish like tuna. Eating mackerel occasionally or in moderation is unlikely to cause mercury poisoning in dogs.
Some dogs may be allergic to mackerel or fish in general. Allergies may result in symptoms like itching, ear infections, and skin irritation. Discontinue feeding mackerel if you observe any signs of an allergy.
There is some concern about spoiled fish oils causing a condition called pansteatitis in dogs. Pansteatitis is a painful inflammation of fat tissues.
To prevent pansteatitis, only feed dogs fresh mackerel that has been properly stored and handled. Avoid rancid fish.
The high fat content of mackerel may cause temporary digestive upset like loose stools or diarrhea. Introduce mackerel slowly and in small amounts at first.
Can Dogs Eat Mackerel Skin and Bones?
Mackerel bones are small and soft enough for dogs to eat. Chewing the bones can help clean teeth.
However, the skin and bones should always be cooked first. Raw fish may contain parasites or bacteria that can make your dog sick. Lightly cook the mackerel before feeding for safety.
If you wish to remove the skin and bones, that is fine too. Just be sure your dog is still getting the beneficial omega-3s from the fish flesh.
How to Feed Mackerel to Dogs
Here are some tips for incorporating mackerel into your dog’s diet:
- Introduce mackerel slowly and in small portions at first to check for any digestive upset or allergies. Just a few bites is a good starting amount.
- Lightly cook the mackerel by baking, broiling, or pan frying. Make sure it reaches an internal temperature of at least 145°F.
- Mix mackerel in with your dog’s regular food. The omega-3s will blend in with the fat already present in the diet.
- Feed two or three small mackerel meals per week. Avoid feeding mackerel daily due to mercury exposure concerns.
- Pick canned mackerel packaged for human consumption. Check the can for expiry date and damage. Rinse before serving.
- Opt for fresh mackerel fillets at the fish market. Cook thoroughly and check for any bones.
- If using raw frozen mackerel, thaw completely first for safety.
- Don’t season mackerel with onions, garlic, or other spices that are toxic to dogs.
- Refrigerate any leftovers and use within 3 days. Discard any spoiled mackerel.
- Speak with your veterinarian about the appropriate amount of mackerel to feed based on your dog’s size and health.
Mackerel-Based Dog Food Recipes
Here are a couple simple recipes for homemade dog food with mackerel:
Baked Mackerel and Sweet Potato
- 1 small mackerel fillet
- 1 small sweet potato
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Wash and peel the sweet potato, then cut into cubes. Toss with olive oil and bake at 400°F for 15 minutes. Steam the spinach. Cook mackerel fillet by baking, broiling or pan frying until flaky. Let the fish cool and remove any bones. Mix together the mackerel, sweet potato, and spinach. Portion into individual meals and refrigerate extras.
Mackerel and Rice
- 1 mackerel fillet
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 1 carrot, shredded
- 2 tbsp plain yogurt
Cook the rice. Steam the carrot until soft. Flake the cooked mackerel, removing any bones. Mix together the rice, carrots, mackerel, and yogurt. This simple meal provides protein, digestion-friendly fiber, and calcium for strong bones.
The Bottom Line
Mackerel is a nutritious fish full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. In moderation, it can be a healthy supplemental food for most dogs. Make sure to introduce it slowly and choose fresh, properly handled fish. Avoid feeding spoiled or raw mackerel. Speak with your veterinarian about the appropriate amount to feed based on your dog’s health and life stage. With some simple preparation and precautions, mackerel can be a tasty and healthy fishy treat.