Salmon is one of natures’ superfoods, and it’s also one of the most popular fish in the world for people to eat. It’s tasty, versatile, and has excellent health benefits. If you’re a dog owner, you might have found yourself wondering – can dogs have salmon? Is it good for them? And is it safe for them to eat? In this article we’ll be taking a look at what types of salmon are good for dogs, the types of salmon to avoid, and how to cook salmon in ways that are both safe and healthy for your beloved canine friends.
Can dogs eat salmon?
In short – yes, dogs can eat salmon. But they can’t (and shouldn’t) eat all the kinds of salmon that humans do.
Dogs should only be given salmon that has been cooked correctly. Cooked salmon is equally as healthy and nutritious for your dog as it is for you – and dogs can benefit from the extra nutrients in their regular diet.
Most dogs love the taste of fish – so salmon treats can make a great healthy snack to train or reward your dog.
Is salmon good for dogs?
Salmon is known to be low in fat and high in protein, and it also contains many vitamins and minerals that are essential for keeping good health.
When you feed your dog properly cooked salmon, it can pass along a variety of healthy benefits that can keep their skin, coat, and heart health in top condition.
Salmon is frequently added as an ingredient to both dry and wet dog commercial foods and treats. Look for wild-caught salmon on the ingredient labels, as this is generally a better source of Omega 3s and it’s free of chemicals and pollutants that can be found in commercial, farmed salmon.
Like any other foods, you shouldn’t overfeed your dog on salmon, as this can cause weight gain and other problems.
Health benefits of salmon for dogs
As a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids and various amino acids, salmon can improve your dog’s immunity and heart health, and keep them active and alert. It can also help to relieve some skin irritations and contribute to a healthy coat.
If you have an old or arthritic dog, salmon can help reduce joint inflammation and stiffness, allowing your dog to move with comfort.
Puppies and younger dogs can also benefit from salmon in their diet, as it helps brain development and concentration.
Some of the numerous benefits of feeding your dog properly cooked salmon are:
- High in proteins
- High in Omega 3
- Low in fat
- Contains many vitamins including A, B, D
- Contains minerals including zinc, potassium, and magnesium
- Reduced inflammation in joints
- Supports the immune system
- Eases symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease
- Can improve concentration and cognitive functions
- Increases energy levels
- Promotes weight loss and healthy skin
- Improves heart health
- Boosts energy
- Promotes healthy weight loss
- Promotes healthy skin and coats
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Can often be tolerated by dogs that are allergic to chicken or beef
Is it safe to feed my dog salmon?
We’ve already mentioned that salmon is full of wonderful health benefits for your dog. But while it’s okay for them to eat it when it’s prepared properly – there are still a few safety facts that you need to consider before feeding your dog salmon.
Salmon is considered to be a fish that’s low in mercury levels, and contains less traces of heavy metals and pollutants than other fish. This means your dog can eat more helpings of salmon, but if you overfeed them on salmon – mercury build-up in their body can eventually become a problem.
In addition to the toxins that might be lurking in that tasty piece of raw salmon, there may be lots of small fish bones which are brittle in their raw state, and could either choke your dog, or get stuck in their intestines or stomach – meaning an expensive vet visit!
Most importantly, you should never feed raw salmon to your dog!
Raw salmon may contain highly toxic bacteria and parasites that can be potentially deadly to dogs. So it’s better to avoid taking this risk and cooking all salmon that you intend to feed your pup.
Can dogs eat raw salmon?
Humans, bears, cats, and other animals can mostly eat raw salmon safely – and have been doing this for hundreds of years. But canid species (such as dogs, foxes, and wolves) are at risk of getting seriously ill from eating raw salmon.
When humans ingest “bad” raw salmon, we might experience gastrointestinal illness – but we won’t develop salmon poisoning in the way dogs can.
If you feed your dog raw or undercooked salmon, even if it’s fresh sushi or sashimi that you’ve bought from your favorite store, it can be potentially deadly. No matter how much your pup begs or gives you those big, sad eyes, resist the temptation to throw them a morsel of this raw fish.
This is because of the potential parasites that can be found in the flesh of salmon.
What causes salmon poisoning in dogs?
Raw salmon can contain a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. This flatworm is mostly harmless – unless it’s infected with a bacteria known as Neorickettsia helminthoeca. It’s this bacteria that causes salmon poisoning disease.
It’s also possible for dogs to contract salmon poisoning through contact with the feces of another dog infected with salmon poisoning.
Salmon poisoning is most prevalent in Oregon, North California, Washington, and Vancouver Island in Canada.
If your dog ingests undercooked or raw salmon, steelhead, trout, or Pacific Giant Salamanders that are infected with flatworms, the worms can lodge themselves in your dog’s intestines, which allows the bacteria they carry to enter your dog’s bloodstream.
The bacteria then spreads to your pup’s internal organs – and it’s about that time your dog will begin to show symptoms of salmon poisoning.
Symptoms of salmon poisoning in dogs
The signs of salmon poisoning can take between 6 and 10 days to manifest. If your dog has been infected and remains untreated, they can die in as little as 14 days after eating raw and contaminated salmon.
None of us want to lose our best furry friends, so it’s super important that you prevent potential salmon poisoning by being vigilant around your dog when raw salmon is present.
If your dog somehow manages to find and eat raw salmon, and displays the symptoms of salmon poisoning – it’s essential to take them to a vet as soon as possible.
Know the signs of salmon poisoning:
- Loss of appetite
- Increased breathing and heart rate
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Discharge from eyes or nose
What should I do if my dog eats raw salmon?
If your dog eats raw salmon, you should contact your vet and get professional advice. If your pup shows symptoms like the ones mentioned above, and you think they may have eaten raw salmon recently, you should take them straight to the vet.
Getting treatment as soon as possible for your dog can significantly improve their chances of surviving salmon poisoning.
Salmon poisoning diagnosis in dogs
If your dog is showing signs of salmon poisoning, take them to your vet and tell them you suspect your dog has eaten some raw salmon. The vet will take samples from your dog, which may be fecal samples or needle samples from a lymph node that can show the presence of salmon poisoning bacteria.
If the vet discovers the parasitic eggs in your dog’s stools, this will support a diagnosis of salmon poisoning – as the parasites are likely to be carrying the toxic bacteria that is making your dog sick.
This bacteria can also be seen under a microscope in the cells taken from your dog’s lymph nodes. If the vet suspects this is salmon poisoning bacteria, they may also undertake a PCR test of the bacteria to detect its DNA.
Your vet will often carry out blood tests to check the hydration levels, organ function, and blood cell health of your dog.
Salmon poisoning treatment for dogs
As long as your dog gets diagnosed in time, the treatment for salmon poisoning is fairly simple. Your vet will prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria – and a dewormer to kill the parasites. These are the most common and effective methods, and your dog will show signs of improvement within a day or two of starting the treatment.
If your dog is seriously ill, or their tests come back showing other negative health signs, they may require hospitalization. This can include intravenous drips to rehydrate your pet, anti-diarrhea treatment, blood transfusions, and anti-nausea treatment.
The good news is that most dogs recover completely from salmon poisoning if they’re diagnosed early and taken to the vet for the appropriate treatment.
As prevention of salmon poisoning is much easier (and less expensive!) than curing it – make sure your dogs don’t have any access to raw fish, fish parts, or salamanders (particularly if you’re in the Pacific Northwest). If you live rurally, or go fishing or camping for vacation – make sure you keep your dog away from fishing docks, trash cans, and other places where there may be discarded raw fish.
Can dogs eat canned salmon?
Tinned salmon is completely safe for your dog, but it should only be given in small amounts.
This is because the salt content of salmon in cans is generally quite high, especially if they are preserved in brine. Salmon preserved in oil is obviously very oily – and too much oil or salt can be harmful for your pets.
If you can find canned salmon that’s preserved in water, with no added salt or other additives– this is the healthiest option for your dog as an occasional snack.
Can dogs eat salmon skin?
Your dog can safely eat salmon skin as long as it’s cooked and served plain with no added salts or flavoring.
You should cut the skin into manageable pieces for your dog’s size. Giving them an entire side of salmon skin is difficult for them to eat, and can be a choking hazard.
Salmon skin contains all the nutrition of salmon flesh, so it’s healthy for your pup – but make sure you don’t overdo it! The skin has high fat content, so can cause unhealthy weight gain in your dog if they eat it on a regular basis. Feed salmon skin to your dog in moderation as a tasty treat, and avoid feeding the skin to your dog if it’s already overweight.
Can dogs eat smoked salmon?
Your dog shouldn’t be given smoked salmon to eat. This is for the same reasons as not giving your dog raw salmon.
As smoked salmon is cured and not cooked, it may still contain the live parasites and bacteria that can cause salmon poisoning in your dog. While the chances of infection are less in smoked salmon, it’s still better to avoid the risk to your pet.
Smoked salmon can also contain excessive amounts of salt, sugar, and other additives and flavorings which aren’t healthy for your dog. Dogs only need a small amount of salt in their diet, and if they get too much they can be at risk of dehydration or potential sodium poisoning.
Can dogs eat salmon eggs?
If you’re feeling generous and have some spare salmon eggs or caviar lying around – these are safe for your dog to eat.
Like canned and smoked salmon, processed caviar can be very high in salt content, so only give it to your dog as a small, very occasional treat.
Dogs can eat salmon eggs, if they have been processed into caviar. However, it should be noted that caviar has a higher amount of salt and other seasonings. So make sure only to give it to your dog in extreme moderation.
What are the safest types of salmon for my dog?
Your dog can safely and healthily enjoy salmon as meals or treats when prepared properly. This includes:
- Freeze-dried salmon
- Dehydrated salmon
- Cooked salmon
This is a safe, fast process where the salmon is frozen and the moisture is extracted. It’s a good, healthy option when the process is done correctly, and it’s a popular technique for preparing pet food that ensures the rich flavor and nutrients of the salmon are kept intact.
This process extracts all the moisture out of the salmon, and ensures a long shelf life. It also kills any bacteria that may be present, while still retaining flavor and nutrition for your dog.
Cooking fresh salmon is the healthiest way to prepare this fish for your dog.
You can bake, grill, poach, fry, or broil salmon – pretty much any way you like to prepare it is fine, as long as it’s well cooked before you give it to your dog.
It’s important that you cook the salmon plain, with no other garnishes or ingredients that might harm your dog (such as garlic, tomatoes, salt etc).
How do I cook salmon for my dog?
Make sure you choose fresh, boneless salmon fillets if you’re preparing a salmon treat for your dog.
Be sure to check the fillets carefully before cooking just in case there are still one or two tiny bones lurking in there that could harm your dog. Salmon bones can easily get stuck in your dog’s throat or intestines and cause discomfort…or a large vet bill!
You can cook the salmon any way you like (bake, grill, fry, poach) – as long as you don’t add salt or other seasonings, or vegetables like onion, garlic, or tomato that can make your dog ill.
Your dog doesn’t need garnish – they’ll love the salmon plain, and it’s much healthier for them that way.
Next time you’re preparing salmon for you and your family, include a small serving for your dog – and he’ll love you for it!
How much salmon should I feed my dog?
Limit your dog’s salmon intake to once a week as a treat. This is the key to keeping your dog healthy. If they binge on too much fatty, rich salmon, it may cause an upset stomach or result in unwanted weight gain.
Your dog can safely have up to 10 grams of salmon per 500 gram of body weight at a single serve.
Can dogs with food allergies eat salmon?
If you have a dog with food allergies, they can be sensitive to traditional dog foods with chicken or beef ingredients. Foods containing salmon can be a good alternative for some sensitive dogs to ensure they’re getting enough protein.
Commercial dog foods containing salmon
Salmon is growing in popularity as a commercial dog food ingredient due to its nutritional qualities, and the fact that it doesn’t trigger allergies like other meats such as chicken and beef.
When you’re choosing any salmon dog food off the shelf, make sure it’s made with real salmon, and includes other high quality ingredients that ensure your dog is getting a balanced diet and all the essential vitamins and minerals they need to thrive.
Dog food labels should mention they are “complete and balanced” and are approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or a similar recognized pet food quality authority.
Salmon dog food can be beneficial for dogs with dull coats and persistently flaky or itchy skin. And if your dog is a fussy eater, they usually love the taste of salmon in their food!
Before you make any decisions about your dog’s diet, consult with your vet to ensure that this is the right option for your best furry friend.
Recommended salmon dog foods
Recommended salmon dog treats
In summary: Can dogs eat salmon?
Dogs can eat fresh salmon and salmon skin as long as it’s served plain and cooked well. Freeze-dried and dehydrated salmon are also safe for your dogs if prepared properly.
Never ever feed your dog smoked or raw salmon – even if it’s a tiny morsel, it can still put your dog at risk of salmon poisoning, which can be fatal for your pup.
Canned salmon and salmon eggs are safe for your dog as an occasional treat, as they can be high in salt and other additives.
Your dog should only be given salmon in moderation, once a week, to avoid stomach upsets and unhealthy weight gain.
Many commercial salmon-based dog food formulas are safe to feed daily, as the high-quality brands include all the nutrients of the salmon, together with additional healthy ingredients that form a complete, balanced diet for your dog.
About the author
Rachael is the co-founder and head writer at Barkzine. Owner of one elderly pug, she’s dedicated to helping other dog owners create healthy, happy, lives with their furry best friends.