Feeding Fish to Dogs: A Tribute to the Mighty Sardine
There was a time when I used to pass the canned sardines on the grocery store shelf and think 'yuck'! I remember my grandfather enjoying white bread sandwiches of whole canned sardines (head, eyeballs, tails, and all) and mustard, and I couldn't imagine 'modern' people eating them! Well, my grandfather knew what he was doing - sardines are a great addition to the diet for people.... and sardines are excellent for dogs as well.
You can feed both whole sardines (you can often find them frozen in grocery stores that carry a good selection of fish), and water-packed canned sardines.
Whole frozen sardines are an excellent way to add 'whole prey' into your dog's diet. Water packed canned sardines are certainly no slouch either, and are packed with many key nutrients that your raw fed dog requires. Since sardines are a small fish, they are less likely to have toxins such as mercury accumulated in their bodies.
Sardines are a very good source of marine sourced omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for your dog's health. Each 3.5 ounce of canned sardines contains 1500 mg of omega-3s. These omega-3 healthy fats promote brain, skin, coat, joint, heart, and eye health. As well, the omega-3s in fish work to balance the omega-6s in the diet, which have a tendency to creep up in raw diets, particularly diets that are high in poultry.
Omega-3s fats have been proven to reduce inflammation in the body.
Sardines are high in vitamin D and they are a natural source of Vitamin E. Sardines also provide a range of trace minerals such as selenium, zinc, and iodine - which are frequently lacking in raw diets.
Sardines are a good source of taurine.
As much as possible, I like it when vitamins, minerals, fats, and amino acids come from whole food sources - the bio-availability of nutrients is best when combined with their natural co-factors. When we feed whole fish to our dogs, we don't have the same concerns we might when we feed fish oil; such as purity, quality, and the potential of the fish oil becoming rancid due to improper storage.
For dogs who need higher amounts of omega-3s than can be provided through diet alone, using sardines (or another type of fatty fish) in conjunction with fish body oil could be a good strategy.
Sardines and anchovies are classified as white fish, while salmon is an orange fish. Interestingly, some dogs will be intolerant to white fish, but not to orange fish, and vice versa.
The next time you pass sardines on the shelf at the grocery store, show them a little love and appreciation for being top of their class at school!
Kibble Fed Dog Tip!
Water packed canned sardines can be an excellent way to add fresh food to your kibble fed dog's diet! For healthy adult dogs, substitute 20% of her calories from kibble with sardines (or other fresh food such as eggs, veggies, fruit, etc.) For healthy puppies, feed the sardines as treats or as kibble toppers.
The sardines will give your kibble fed dog a natural source of omega-3 fats, which are impacted due to kibble's processing, heating and storage methods.
As with any new food, start small, watch for a reaction and build up over time.