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We consider our dogs to be members of the family, so sometimes we forget that they aren’t human and that their digestive systems can’t tolerate all of the foods that we eat.
We need to make sure that we are aware of what they can and can’t have. For example, can dogs eat tuna?
The short answer to that question is actually yes, and it can be a very healthy addition to their diet but with the caveat that it needs to be done with care.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about feeding your dog tuna: the benefits, the risks, how much they should be eating, and what kind of tuna is best for them.
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The Benefits Of Tuna
Tuna can actually be a beneficial addition to a dog’s diet, as it is high in the lean protein that helps them build healthy muscle and low in bad fats that can cause obesity and other health problems.
Tuna is also rich in essential vitamins and minerals that dogs need to thrive. Tuna is high in selenium, which is great for dogs’ joint health and immune systems.
It is also rich in magnesium and potassium, which are both essential for healthy cells and muscles, as well as phosphorus, which is essential for bone strength.
Tuna is also high in vitamins B3, B6, and B12, all of which support a healthy metabolism and good energy levels.
It is also packed full of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which not only leave dogs with healthy and shiny coats, but also helps to boost cardiovascular health, reduces inflammations, and can also lower cholesterol levels (this is all true in humans too!).
Tuna can make a beneficial addition to a dog’s diet as it represents a novel protein.
Dogs are most likely to develop allergies to the proteins that they eat the most, such as chicken and beef. As a result, it is a good idea not to feed dogs the same meats daily and to ensure that they have a mix of meats in their diet.
Meats that appear less commonly in dog foods are called novel proteins, as they are what dogs eat less often.
Venison and duck are often used as novel proteins, and increasingly tuna is being utilized for this diversifying function as well. This is another great reason to add a little tuna to your dog’s diet.
The Risks Of Tuna
While tuna is a beneficial addition to the diet of a dog, it is something that needs to be eaten in moderation. It should be added to their diet as an occasional treat, rather than being a daily staple.
First and foremost, this is because of the high levels of mercury in this type of fish.
Eating too much of this heavy metal can be poisonous to dogs, and people, but as dogs are usually smaller than their owners, their tolerance levels are lower.
If you are worried that your dog has been consuming too much tuna, these are the signs of mercury poisoning to look out for:
- Hair loss
- Vision problems
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of feeling in the paws
- Vomiting, often with blood in their vomit
- Watery diarrhea, again often containing blood
The high levels of sodium in tuna can also be a problem, because sodium is also poisonous to dogs when consumed in large amounts, so it is best consumed in moderation. Symptoms of sodium poisoning to look out for include:
- Extreme thirst
- Excessive urination
- Lack of appetite
- Tongue swelling.
While dogs need a lot of healthy animal protein in their diets, the very high levels of protein in tuna can also be difficult for some dogs to digest, especially if they aren’t accustomed to it.
While not poisonous, it can leave them with an upset stomach that is uncomfortable for them and unpleasant for you in terms of the cleanup.
Whenever introducing a new food into your dog’s diet, keep a close eye on them and how they are responding to it.
Keep an eye out for vomiting and changes in the consistency of their stool as clear signs that they aren’t adapting well to the new food.
How Much Tuna Can Dogs Eat?
As already said, tuna should be added to your dog’s diet as an occasional treat, and not become a regular daily staple, as too much tuna can be dangerous. But how much is too much?
Basically, if your dog is not a regular tuna eater, and they steal some off your plate while you aren’t looking, you shouldn’t be too worried about it since it won’t hurt them.
If you are feeding your dog fresh tuna, it is safe to feed your dog one or two small bite size pieces of tuna once or twice a week.
You should do this a little bit less often for small dogs and can afford to give large dogs a little more, as their weight largely dictates how much they can consume.
- If you want to feed your dog canned tuna, it is safe to feed a 20-pound dog one can of tuna about once every three weeks.
- A dog of 40 pounds can have a standard can of tuna once every nine days
- And a 90-pound dog can safely eat a can of tuna about once every five days.
What About Puppies And Seniors?
These general rules apply to healthy adult dogs. Puppies shouldn’t really be eating any tuna as part of their diet.
Dogs’ gastrointestinal and digestive systems are still developing for about the first year of their lives, and it is best to avoid risky foods such as tuna during this time.
Again, there is probably no need to panic if a clever dog manages to get their hands on a little bit of tuna, but you shouldn’t be actively feeding it to them.
While most older dogs shouldn’t have a problem with tuna, any dogs with sensitive stomachs or older dogs that are developing digestive issues also should not be actively fed tuna as part of their diet.
When our Lab mix, Linus got older we started feeding him new, tastier foods. One of his favorites was tuna. He actually got a taste for fish in his early days at obedience class. His favorite dog training treat was a super stinky salmon flavored treat.
What Type Of Tuna Can Dogs Eat?
Dogs can eat pretty much the same types of tuna as humans – raw, cooked, canned – but with some caveats.
If you plan to serve your dog raw tuna, make sure to thoroughly clean the fish and remove all the bones.
Dogs love the taste of raw tuna and will likely wolf it down, without giving proper heed to these sharp pieces that can pierce their throats and wreak havoc in their digestive system.
If you prefer to cook your pooch’s tuna, it is best to bake or broil it, and avoid using any additional spices, including salt.
Dogs prefer the “bland” tasting meat anyway, and dogs can often have trouble digesting seasoning, so adding salt and other condiments that leave them with an upset stomach.
If you choose to feed your dog canned tuna, make sure it is packed in water rather than oil.
Oil isn’t a dangerous ingredient for dogs to consume, but it is high in calories and doesn’t offer anything of particular nutritional value for dogs, so it is just empty calories that can lead to obesity.
Excessive oil in the diet can also lead to an inflamed pancreas. If this is chronic, it can cause serious health issues in pups.
If you are hoping to share your tuna-mayo sandwich with your dog, that is something that you can do, and they will probably really love the flavor of the mayo as well.
But be wary not to give them too much, as mayo is very fattening, and keep an eye on the other ingredients in the recipe to ensure it doesn’t contain any other ‘red-flag’ ingredients for dogs.
For example, onion and garlic are toxic to dogs. Always check the label carefully.
Tuna can also have tuna juice as part of their diet, which can be given to dogs more freely as it doesn’t contain the same innate issues as tuna meat.
However, it is a good idea not to give them too much of the juice and to build up their intake slowly.
Dogs have surprisingly sensitive stomachs and can react to foods that they aren’t accustomed to. Watch out for vomiting and diarrhea as clear signs of an issue.
When choosing any type of tuna, whether it be fresh or canned, pay attention to the source of the tuna.
While there are 29 different types of tuna, only about five of them appear on human plates. These are skipjack, yellowfin, albacore, bigeye, and bluefin.
These are considered safe for human consumption, and the same types of tuna should also be considered safe for your dog to eat.
What About Tuna In Commercial Dog Food?
As already mentioned above, commercial dog foods are increasingly adding tuna to some of their recipes in order to act as novel proteins, diversifying the types of animal-based proteins they can offer dogs and their owners.
However, dog parents should be wary of feeding their pets commercial dog foods containing tuna.
This is because it is difficult to know the source of tuna that is being used, how much mercury it contains, and exactly how much tuna is in each bowl that you are feeding your canine friend.
Cheaper dog foods are likely to contain tuna that has been deemed as unsafe for human consumption and therefore, are available as a cheap source of protein for dog food.
This can result in food that contains dangerously high levels of mercury.
If you want to feed your dog a commercial dog food with tuna in it, then do your research.
Make sure it is a reputable dog food company that sources human-grade tuna for their recipes.
This will probably mean that the food comes with a fairly hefty price-tag, which is another reason to feed your pup this food only in moderation.
So, what is the verdict on tuna? Feed it to your dog, but in moderation.
This fish can make an excellent addition to a dog’s diet, as it is high in healthy protein, low in fat, and crammed full of vitamins and minerals that dogs need.
It is also a novel protein that can act as an alternative to the animal-based proteins that dogs normally eat and often develop allergies to.
However, because tuna tends to contain a lot of mercury and sodium, eating too much of it can be extremely damaging to their health.
For this reason, tuna should never be a daily staple but should be a treat that is added to your dog’s diet maybe once a week, less often for smaller dogs.
While dogs can eat any kind of tuna, raw, cooked, or canned, they should be fed human-grade tuna, which has been verified as safe.
If you are feeding your dog tuna that has been prepared for humans, be careful how it has been prepared.
Dogs don’t digest seasoning well, and onion and garlic are also toxic to dogs, so they shouldn’t be fed tuna that has been prepared with these ingredients.
Beware of tuna that has been packed in oil, as that is just empty fat for your pet.
Also, be careful when looking at commercial dog foods containing tuna. Many lines will use tuna that is not considered suitable for human use.
Only buy commercial dog foods containing tuna from reliable brands that you trust.
How about you guys?
Do you feed your dogs tuna?
Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.
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