When purchasing fish...
make sure its skin has a shiny appearance, is firm and elastic to touch, and it has bright clear eyes. Moreover, its gills should be pale red or pink, and overall, the odor of the fish has to be fresh and never displeasing.
However, certain things should be kept in mind when including fish to your dog's diet. Here's what you need to know before you decide to make seafood a dietary choice for your pet:
Raw Fish - A Strict No-No
Yes, fish is good for your dog's health but that does not mean you can give raw fish to your pet. Raw fish is a complete no-no and should never be a part of your dog's diet. This is because fish, particularly the popular salmon, harbors a parasite known as Nanophyetus salmincola.
The parasite itself is not a health concern but in case it harbors Neorickettsia helminthoeca bacteria, it can cause food poisoning. Simply put, raw fish can be toxic to dogs, hence feeding it is strongly discouraged.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning from Eating Raw Fish
- Poor appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes
The clinical signs usually occur within the first 6 days after the dog ingests the infected food. This type of food poisoning can be fatal if the symptoms are ignored. 90% of dogs usually do not survive within 2 weeks after consuming the contaminated fish.
Feed Cooked Fish
While feeding raw fish must be avoided, you can always give cooked fish to your pet. As cooking requires heat, the parasite gets inactivated due to heating. So simply cooking the fish properly can work wonders to keep your dog safe from food poisoning.
Giving cooked fish will surely protect your pet from infection, but you need to watch out for the serving size as overfeeding can cause mercury poisoning. Fish for your pet should be an occasional food and not an everyday part of your pet's diet. Giving it once or twice a week in small amounts is not a cause for concern.
Type of Fish
Also, the type of fish you choose to feed can influence the risk of mercury poisoning. Fish such as tilefish, swordfish, and king mackerel contain very high amounts of mercury. Even the tuna fish, commonly used to make a variety of dishes, contains moderate to high amounts of mercury. So, these types of fish should not be a part of your pet's diet.
Remove the Bones
Feeding a serving of fish that contains bones is a cause for concern. This is because dogs tend to swallow bones without chewing them properly. This can obstruct its breathing, which may cause the dog to choke every now and then.
Even if a piece of bone does not get stuck and passes down the throat, one cannot rule out the possibility of bone scraping the throat and causing lacerations.
In case it gets stuck in the digestive system, it may cause intestinal obstruction and damage. So, to avoid all these complications, a better option is to separate the bones from the fish before feeding it to your pet.
Avoid Processed Food
Be careful when choosing canned fish as they are often salty and contain preservatives that can be harmful to your pet's health. Commercial products such as fish meal that are specifically formulated for domestic animals are also highly processed and stuffed with preservatives that can cause a wide range health problems in dogs.
A healthy option is to buy sardines packed in water because they are minimally processed, low in salt and toxins, and high in nutrition. Make sure that you browse the package to check for expiry date and ensure that the product is still fresh. Wild caught salmon is another healthy variety of fish, as they also carry lower risk of contamination.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a veterinarian.