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Can dogs eat sardines?

Why didn't the chef waste time at the sardine store? Answer: he had bigger fish to fry! Many dogs love the taste of sardines and it is an ingredient that you may be seeing more of in your local pet store. Good news is that sardines have some great health benefits for your pup!

Where sardines come from

Sardines are a small-sized fish that are found in oceans all over the world. Some can even be found in freshwater! Compared to other fish species, sardines are not the largest, they range in length from about 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches). Sardines are a social fish that live in dense schools, migrating along coastal waters and feeding primarily on plankton.

Eco benefits of feeding dogs sardines

Sardines are one of the more sustainable fish that you can purchase for your pup. At this time, all sardines are wild caught. The life cycle of the sardine does not lend itself well to farming. Even still, sardines are one aquatic species that are more sustainably fished. As a result, they do not put as much pressure on the planet’s fisheries as other fish species like cod or salmon do. 

If you want to ensure that you purchase sardines from a sustainable source, check that they are certified by one of the following organizations: Marine Stewardship Council, Friend of the Sea, and International Pole and Line. Sardines from North America specifically are not overfished and are considered to be more sustainable than sardine fisheries in other parts of the world.

Furthermore, since sardines are a small forage fish that gather in single-species schools, there’s relatively little bycatch. Meaning that fishers are able to catch these fish, and only these fish, without accidentally killing a lot of other marine life.

Bait Ball A huge school of sardines, packed together. Scientists call these behavior "bait ball". The fishes stay together to escape the attack of predators like sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. sardines swimming stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Are sardines healthy for dogs?

Yes! Sardines are one of the best fish you can feed your dog. They are packed with protein, rich in vitamins and high in omega 3s. Good news is that most dogs also find them incredibly tasty!

Packed with protein

Sardines are an excellent source of protein for doggos. They contain about 25 g/100g of protein! To put that into perspective, chicken and beef both have less protein, with 17g/100g and 19g/100g respectively. Not only does this extra protein make sardines taste good to dogs, they also use the extra protein for growth, healing and metabolism!

Rich in vitamins and minerals

Sardines are an excellent source of a number of vitamins and minerals. One of the most important vitamins being vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 helps dogs maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and helps supply them with energy.

These fish are also high in vitamin D and calcium. These vitamins and minerals are necessary for good bone health and growth throughout your dog’s life. 

Amazing omega 3s

One of the biggest benefits of feeding your dog sardines are the amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids (or omega 3s) that they will be consuming. Omega 3 fatty acids come from a class of polyunsaturated lipids that are extremely important for metabolism and daily physiological processes. There are 3 different types of omega 3 fatty acids; alpha linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). 

The omega 3s highest in sardines are EPA and DHA and are most notably involved with lowering inflammation and improving skin and coat health. EPA and DHA have also been shown to improve cognitive function, especially in association with conditions like Alzhimer’s disease and depression. These fatty acids are also involved in maintaining general cardiovascular function and are also important for proper fetal development, including neuronal, retinal, and immune function. 

What vets have to say

“Looking for a healthy snack to feed your pet? Sardines are a great choice! Sardines are a valuable source of omega 3 fats that can benefit your pet’s heart, brain, skin and kidney health. Whether dehydrated or straight out of the can, sardines are a snack that you can feel good about feeding your pet.” -Veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker 


"Sardines are a powerhouse of a snack for dogs!! Small in size, so they are lower in calories and great for all sizes of dog breeds. They are also a well balanced snack because of the protein and the omega 3’s. Now that it is becoming clearer that omega 3’s play an important role in the function of neurons and the brain, with evidence revealing that they are beneficial in enhancing cognitive functions in dogs showing early signs of dementia and cognitive decline. Sardines are an amazing functional snack that, in combination with a high quality diet, may help our aging dogs have a better life." -Veterinarian Dr. Suzee Camilleri

Can dogs eat fish and seafood? - The Inside Scoop

Can dogs have too many sardines?

Too much of anything is never a good idea. It will take eating A LOT of sardines but you may want to avoid feeding your dog too many at once.

Slow healing

Omega 3s come with a host of benefits, however they should still be consumed in moderation. The anti-inflammatory properties of EPA and DHA are excellent for reducing arthritic pain, but too much can actually slow the natural healing process that relies on inflammation. 

Furthermore, sardines are calorie and nutrient dense and can lead to weight gain and obesity if fed in excess. Too many oils (even if they are healthy oils) are not alway a good thing.

Mercury

Compared to predatory fish species, sardines are relatively low in mercury. However, they are still an aquatic species, meaning that their fat and tissue contains more mercury than terrestrial meat like chicken, pork or beef. If you are only supplementing your dog’s diet with sardine oil or sardine treats, they should still be fine as the mercury risk for sardines is quite low.

Can Dogs Eat Fish? The Benefits of Fish for Dogs

What is the best form of sardines for dogs?

Fresh is best! Whole, fresh sardines are the most palatable to dogs and are the most nutrient dense. However, fresh sardines are not always accessible or cost effective for all dog owners. That’s why dehydrated sardines are also a popular option for pet owners. 

Dehydrated sardines are still a natural healthy product form for dogs to consume. Good news is that they are also shelf stable and can be stored for a longer period of time! Dehydrated sardines are the perfect treat for doggos.

If you’re looking for a supplemental omega 3 sources, look no further than sardine oil. Simply add a few drops to your pet’s food to see improvements in their joint, skin and coat health!

While dogs can eat canned sardines, it may not be the best product form. Canned sardines are still packed with a ton of nutrients, but some cans of sardines may contain more than just sardines. Make sure you read and check the ingredient label for ingredients that may be harmful to dogs, like salt, artificial flavours, spices, preservatives, garlic, onions or sardines packed in oil.

Sardines swimming
Sardines swimming

View Sources

"Sardines ." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jan. 2022 https://www.encyclopedia.com

“Sardine fish”. Brittanica. 2021. https://www.britannica.com/animal/sardine#:~:text=Sardines%20are%20small%2C%20silvery%2C%20elongated,which%20they%20consume%20vast%20quantities

“Sardines: the safest food on the planet”. Mendolia seafood. 2019. https://www.mendoliaseafoods.com.au/post/2019/12/19/sardines-are-the-safest-fish-on-the-planet#:~:text=Sardines%20are%20all%20wild.,pressure%20on%20the%20planet's%20fisheries

“How to eat sardines sustainably”. Deep Sea News. 2012. https://www.deepseanews.com/2012/05/how-to-eat-sardines-sustainably/ 

“ANCHOVY - THE LITTLE FISH WITH A BIG ROLE TO PLAY” NOMNOM. 2021. https://www.nomnomnow.com/learn/article/anchovies-in-pet-nutrition?click_id=5b1b6bd3-fd06-42de-82a5-b992a514f862 

“Can Dogs Eat Sardines? 5 Benefits of Feeding Sardines”. HomesAlive. 2021. https://blog.homesalive.ca/dog-blog/can-dogs-eat-sardines 


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