So, you've read all the positive testimonials from dog owners about the benefits of feeding fish and now you want to know whether it really is possible to feed your dog a fish based diet with amazing health results? To answer the question - is fish good for dogs? - we need to take a look at what nutrients our dogs need and examine whether fish can provide all of the vitamins and minerals our dogs would normally receive from other diets.
To get you the answers you need we've asked Bianca Boulton-Major, a Nutritional Consultant to Natural Instinct for her expert opinion on which dogs might benefit most from a fish-based diet and which types of fish should be avoided, and why.
The benefits of fish as a food for dogs
Fish is a great, easily digestible protein source for dogs. Especially for dogs following digestive upsets or with liver or kidney disease, whilst being relatively low in saturated fats and empty calories (good for weight control).
These facts alone makes fish a fantastic source of nutrition for dogs.
However, there's more. Bianca tells us that due to the high level of Omega-3 Fatty acids in fish, it is a natural anti-inflammatory to the body making it great for dogs with allergies or intolerances to other non-fish proteins. She says, "Fish is also great for dogs with joint issues and IBD issues."
If you purchase Omega 3 supplements you'll often find that cod liver oil is the main ingredient. By feeding a dog on a diet mainly made up of fish, you can ensure your pet is receiving these supplemental benefits as nature intended.
Is fish a good diet for dogs with allergies?
Bianca tells us fish is great for dogs who suffer from allergies.
She tells us the bioavailable essential fatty acids in fish can help to heal sore, flaky, damaged or itchy skin. This is because Omega-3 fats found in fish oil help to reduce inflammation, which can lessen the intensity of many allergies. Omega-3 fats can also reduce a dog's reaction to pollen and other common allergy triggers found in the environment.
"Feeding Natural Instinct Country Banquet Fish or Natural Instinct Working Salmon is one of the best ways to feed fish. Due to Omega-3 fatty acids being fragile they can easily become damaged by heat (cooking) or oxidation so feeding them in their raw natural state means they can be better assimilated by the body."
Will dogs benefit from a diet of fish mixed with other protein?
Naturally, too much of anything is a bad thing - whether it be fish, biscuits or any type of food. An imbalance of vitamins or simply taking on board too many calories is something dog owners would do well to avoid.
The real advantage to fish in your dog's diet though is its ability to impart so many good vitamins and healthy properties without the increased risk of weight gain or a protein overload causing your dog's internal organs to have to work harder to process the food.
Should dog owners avoid certain types?
We put the question to Bianca. She says, "I recommend avoiding fish that contain high mercury levels like tuna of swordfish and always use caution and moderation feeding shellfish/crustaceans as they can contain a high bacterium load, so if you are feeding them ensure they are cooked as they could cause tummy upset.
"Always check the sourcing of your fish because poor quality care or intensively farmed means increased toxin levels. The best fish to feed are smaller fish like Natural Instinct’s Whitebait because they don’t store high levels of toxins. Salmon and white fish are also great to feed, all of them are a great source of Omega-3 for dogs and used in Natural Instinct’s compete recipes – Working Dog Salmon and Country Banquet Fish."
Bianca tells us there aren't many negatives to feeding a fish based diet - and fishy breath will be short lived.
She says, "You may have to put up with a fishy breath straight after meal time but this should quickly pass, if not speak to your veterinarian as it could indicate an underlying health issue. Feeding an unbalanced fish diet can lead to dietary deficiencies just like in feeding any unbalanced diet."
Bianca tells us feeding a wide variety of protein sources is great for dogs because each source contains a different balance of vitamins and minerals.
"If you're just starting out on a raw diet for your dog, start with one protein source for 2-3 weeks before introducing the next protein source for 2-3 weeks again and continue like this until you have covered a wide variety of sources. This way you will easily be able to detect if your dog has an allergy or intolerance to a particular protein."
Is fish good for older dogs?
Fish, as the main staple of your dog's diet, is a great way to provide your dog with protein without overburdening their digestive system in the same way that some protein rich meats do.
Bianca tells us that this is one of the main reasons that fish is good for dogs, particularly older dogs. She says, "A fish based diet can benefit dogs of all ages, but the benefits are often more noticeable in older dogs who can find too much red meat no longer suits them."
So, is fish good for dogs? Here's the history of the dog's diet
Remember, every dog is different, and there are certain factors to consider when determining what diet will best suit your dog's age, size and lifestyle. However, there are also general rules that you can follow to make sure your pet is getting a balanced diet and all they need.
Years ago, when such a variety of dog nutrition wasn't available, dogs were fed foods that were most plentiful in the region. In the Arctic, dogs were fed mostly fish and whale blubber; in the southern United States, a dog's diet consisted mainly of cornbread; in Europe, potatoes were the main fare. These diets led to diseases such as black tongue (pellagra in humans), rickets, and other less commonly known ailments, many of them fatal.
In the wild, the canine did not just restrict himself to eating just the meat of his prey. He ate the entire animal, including the contents of the stomach. Wild dogs were known to kill each other while fighting over the stomach contents of their prey. Thus, nature provided the wild animal with a diet considered nutritionally complete.
Domesticated dogs were not allowed that luxury, and usually were fed table scraps. These poor diets resulted in serious nutritional imbalances and severe nutritional deficiencies.
After years of study, it was determined that even though the canine is considered a carnivorous animal, he requires certain carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to satisfy nutritional requirements - just as humans do.
Now, as a modern, forward-thinking dog owner, you have the advantage of not just the vast array of commercially prepared pet foods, you also have the advanced nutritional knowledge gained through the years of studies and scientific research conducted by nutritional experts from all over the world. You have access to just about any type of food and nutrition you choose to feed. You have access to the information and guidance on good vs bad dog food nutrition.
When it comes to the question of whether fish is good for dogs, the answer is an overwhelming, scientifically endorsed YES!