Can Dogs Eat Tuna Fish

Can Dogs Eat Tuna?Is it safe?What You Need to Know

Tuna is one of the most popular fish that humans consume. It’s versatile, budget-friendly, and packed with beneficial nutrients. But just because tuna is healthy for people doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for your furry friend. So can dogs eat tuna? Let’s dive right in and find out.

Is Tuna Good For Dogs? Health Benefits of Tuna for Dogs

Tuna is a species of fish that is consumed by humans around the world. The most common varieties of tuna eaten are skipjack, albacore, yellowfin, and bluefin.

Tuna contains a high amount of protein, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals that can provide health benefits. Some of the nutrients found in tuna that are beneficial for dogs include:

  • Protein – for building and maintaining muscles
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – reduces inflammation and benefits skin/coat
  • Vitamin B12 – essential for energy metabolism
  • Selenium – supports thyroid and immune system function
  • Niacin – helps convert food into energy
  • Phosphorus – supports bone health
  • Potassium – important for fluid balance and heart health

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in tuna have anti-inflammatory properties that can improve skin and coat health in dogs. The protein in tuna also makes it a great muscle-building food.

Tuna also contains vitamins and minerals like vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, potassium, selenium, and magnesium. Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve tissue and produce new red blood cells. Selenium boosts immune health, while potassium is needed for fluid balance and nerve signaling.

With all of these beneficial nutrients, it’s no wonder that humans opt for tuna as a lean source of protein that can be part of a healthy diet.

So in small amounts, tuna can be a healthy supplemental source of protein and beneficial nutrients for dogs as well. The omega-3s support skin or coat, the protein builds muscle. And the vitamins and minerals provide antioxidant and immune boosting effects.

However, there are also some potential risks of feeding tuna to dogs that must be considered. The main concern is the mercury content in tuna, especially certain types of tuna.

Risks of Feeding Tuna to Dogs
Can Dogs Eat Tuna Fish

Can Dogs Eat Tuna? Risks of Tuna for Dogs

While tuna can provide some nutritional value for dogs, there are a few downsides to be aware of:

  • Mercury content – Long-living, large fish like tuna bioaccumulate high levels of mercury in their bodies over time. Consuming too much tuna can cause mercury poisoning in dogs.
  • High sodium – Many types of canned tuna contain added table salt and preservatives that can be unhealthy for dogs, especially if consumed regularly.
  • Spices and seasonings – Some canned tuna for human consumption contains onions, garlic, or other seasonings that can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs.
  • Fat content – If packed in oil, tuna can contain high amounts of fats and calories that lead to weight gain or pancreatitis.
  • Inflammation – Too much omega-6 fatty acids without balancing omega-3s can contribute to inflammation in dogs.
  • Bones – Some tuna contains small, brittle bones that can pose a choking hazard or perforate the digestive tract.

So while tuna certainly provides some nutritional value, it does come with some risks if fed improperly or in excess. Moderation and caution are key when feeding tuna to dogs.

It’s also important to note that some types of tuna may be safer or more dangerous for dogs than others. We’ll cover the different varieties next.

How Much Tuna Can Dogs Eat?

When feeding tuna to dogs, moderation is extremely important. Because of the mercury concerns with tuna, dogs should only eat very limited amounts on an occasional basis.

Tuna should never make up a large part of a dog’s regular diet. At most, it can be fed as a supplemental treat or protein source a couple times a month.

The amount of tuna that is safe for a dog to consume will depend on the size and health status of the individual dog. Some general feeding guidelines based on dog size are:

  • Small dogs: Only a bite or two of tuna, once or twice a month
  • Medium dogs: 1 tablespoon of tuna, once or twice a month
  • Large dogs: Up to 3 tablespoons tuna, two to three times a month
  • Puppies: Should not eat tuna due to high mercury risk

Puppies and pregnant/nursing dogs have increased sensitivity to mercury, so tuna should be avoided completely. Elderly dogs or dogs with liver or kidney disease are also more at risk for mercury toxicity.

For humans, the FDA recommends limiting albacore (white) tuna to no more than 6 ounces (170g) per week due to mercury concerns. Dogs should have much lower amounts.

These portion sizes are meant as occasional treats. Avoid feeding dogs tuna on a daily or weekly basis, as the mercury can accumulate in their bodies over time.

For dogs that need more omega-3 fatty acids in their regular diet, there are healthier fish choices than tuna that offer similar benefits with less mercury exposure. We’ll go over some better fish options for dogs later in this article.

Can Dogs Eat Canned Tuna?

Canned tuna is one of the most popular and convenient forms of tuna for human consumption. But is canned tuna safe for dogs to eat?

The answer is yes, dogs can eat canned tuna in moderation, as long as certain precautions are taken:

  • Choose canned tuna packed in water, not oil. The extra oil and fat content can cause pancreatitis in dogs.
  • Look for cans with “no salt added” or low sodium options. The less sodium, the better for your dog.
  • Avoid any flavored tuna made for human consumption, like spicy Thai chili tuna or tuna with added spices or seasonings. These can upset a dog’s stomach.
  • Drain off any excess liquid before feeding the tuna to reduce unnecessary fat and sodium intake.
  • Double check that soft bones are removed before feeding canned tuna to dogs, as they pose a choking hazard.
  • Limit intake to very occasional small amounts rather than regular feedings.

When choosing canned tuna, it’s also important to pay attention to the species. Skipjack or light tuna contains lower mercury levels than white albacore tuna. So look for “skipjack” or “light” on the label when possible.

Check the ingredients list as well. Some brands add vegetable broths, sunflower oil, or other flavorings that are not toxic to dogs but best avoided. Ideally, look for simple canned tuna that contains only tuna and water.

It’s also smart to stick to reputable brands when choosing canned tuna for your dog rather than obscure brands, as standards and quality control can vary. Well-known brands like StarKist or Chicken of the Sea are good choices for quality canned tuna.

Overall, dogs can eat canned tuna safely, but only in strict moderation. Next up, let’s look at tuna steak for dogs.

Can Dogs Eat Tuna Steak?

Tuna steak comes from larger tuna fish and is a popular menu item served in restaurants. But is it safe for your dog to eat?

The answer is yes, dogs can eat tuna steak in moderation if it’s prepared properly:

  • Only feed dogs cooked tuna steak. Raw fish carries a high risk of parasites which can make your dog sick.
  • Choose tuna steaks from skipjack tuna, which has lower mercury levels than bluefin or yellowfin tuna.
  • Check that the tuna steak has no added seasonings, spices, oil, or salt. Plain tuna is safest.
  • Cook the tuna steak thoroughly until it flakes and is no longer translucent inside. This helps kill any potential parasites.
  • Remove any small bones before feeding to avoid choking hazards.
  • Limit portion size based on your dog’s size and only feed tuna steak occasionally, not regularly.

When preparing tuna steaks at home for your dog, aim for simple cooking methods like grilling, broiling, or baking. Avoid frying or heavily seasoning the tuna.

While tuna steak from species like skipjack can be safe for dogs, it’s still not the healthiest fish option for dogs.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Tuna?

Many dog owners may be tempted to feed their pets a bite of their fresh tuna sushi or sashimi. However, raw tuna is not recommended for dogs.

Here are the main risks with feeding raw tuna to dogs:

  • Parasites – Raw fish often contains parasites like roundworms, tapeworms, and flukes that can infect dogs and make them sick. Freezing or cooking fish destroys any parasites present.
  • Bacteria – Raw protein is more likely to contain harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. coli that can lead to food poisoning or infection in dogs.
  • Mercury content – Cooking fish reduces the mercury levels slightly. Without cooking, dogs ingest more mercury.
  • Digestive upset – Raw fish is more difficult for dogs to digest properly compared to cooked. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
  • Thiamine deficiency – Raw fish contains an enzyme called thiaminase that destroys vitamin B1 (thiamine) in the body. Dogs need thiamine for metabolism.
  • Bones – Any small bones in raw tuna can be a choking hazard for dogs or damage their digestive tract.
  • Fatty acid imbalance – Raw tuna skews the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio too far in one direction. Dogs need a balanced ratio to avoid inflammation.
  • Allergies – Some dogs may have fish or tuna allergies that could cause itchiness, hives, or anaphylaxis from raw tuna.

For all these reasons, raw tuna is too risky for dogs. It’s best to play it safe and only feed cooked tuna in small amounts if any at all.

If you want to supplement your dog with omega-3 fatty acids, try a fish oil supplement made from salmon, sardines, or anchovies instead of raw tuna.

Healthier Fish Alternatives for Dogs
Healthier Fish Alternatives for Dogs

Healthier Fish Alternatives for Dogs

While tuna can be fed to dogs in moderation, there are many healthier fish options with less mercury exposure:


Salmon is a great source of omega-3s for dogs and contains lower mercury levels than tuna. Look for canned salmon or cook fresh salmon to feed to your dog.

Salmon is high in vitamins B6, B12, and niacin as well as selenium. These B vitamins support metabolism and nerve function while selenium boosts thyroid and immune health.

Aim for wild-caught Pacific salmon which is lower in contaminants than farmed Atlantic salmon.


Sardines are small, low mercury fish that come packed with nutrients. Canned or fresh sardines are a great treat.

Sardines offer omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, and protein in a small package perfect for dogs.


Mackerel is another small, oily fish that offers omega-3s, protein, vitamin B12, niacin, and magnesium. Try canned or cooked fresh mackerel. Opt for Atlantic mackerel which has lower mercury levels compared to King mackerel.


Whitefish like cod, tilapia, and flounder are low in fat and mercury content. Great for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Whitefish serves as an easily digestible source of lean protein for dogs. It also contains magnesium, potassium, selenium, and B vitamins.


Oysters provide protein, zinc, copper, iron, and other minerals. Feed cooked oysters and avoid raw due to bacteria risk.

Look for Pacific oysters which tend to be smaller with lower contamination risk.

Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil is a mercury-free way to give your dog omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, sardine, and anchovy oils are excellent choices.

Aim to supplement with EPA/DHA omega-3s from fish oil 2-3 times per week according to your dog’s size and needs.

There are many healthier fish options than tuna that still provide great protein and nutrients for dogs. Variety is key when feeding fish!

Signs of Mercury Poisoning in Dogs

While rare, mercury poisoning can occur in dogs if they consume too much contaminated fish like tuna over a short period of time.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning in dogs include:

  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Loss of coordination or difficulty walking
  • Muscle tremors or seizures
  • Excess salivation or drooling
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite or anorexia
  • Fever
  • Ulcerations in the GI tract
  • Changes in gum color
  • Neurological problems like blindness or deafness

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms after eating a large quantity of tuna, seek veterinary care immediately. Diagnostic tests will check for elevated mercury levels in the blood or urine to confirm mercury toxicity.

Without treatment, mercury poisoning in dogs can be fatal as it causes damage to the kidneys, intestines, along with the central nervous and immune systems.

Treating Mercury Poisoning in Dogs

Treatment will focus on removing the mercury from the body as quickly as possible before it can do more damage. This may involve:

  • Inducing vomiting if ingestion was recent
  • Activated charcoal orally to bind with mercury
  • Gastric lavage to flush the stomach
  • Intravenous fluids for hydration
  • Medications to control gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms
  • Antioxidants like vitamin E to counteract some toxicity
  • Chelating agents that bind with mercury
  • Plasma exchange therapy
  • Dialysis in severe cases to filter mercury from the blood

Supportive care with IV fluids, antiemetics, and antioxidants helps manage symptoms and avoid complications while the mercury is removed from the body.

With aggressive decontamination and treatment, the prognosis for mercury poisoning can be good if caught early. But prevention is key – be very cautious and limit tuna intake for dogs.


In small, occasional amounts, tuna can be a healthy supplemental protein source for dogs. But it should never become a regular part of a dog’s diet due to risks of mercury exposure over time.

Safer fish options for dogs include salmon, sardines, mackerel, and whitefish. Always monitor your dog closely when trying new foods like tuna and ask your vet if you have any concerns. Moderation and variety are key when feeding fish to your furry friends!

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *