Can Dogs Have Tuna?

Julia Henriques
can dogs have tuna

We dog owners are always on the lookout for nutritious options to add variety to our dogs’ meals. 

So when it comes to seafood, tuna often comes to mind. With its rich taste and health benefits, it's a staple in many human diets. 

But what about our canine companions? Can dogs have tuna?

The short answer is yes, dogs can have tuna – but only in moderation. This fish has its risks too: and a big one is the potential for heavy metal contamination. Let’s take a closer look at the safest way to feed tuna to dogs. 

Is Tuna Safe For Dogs? 

Yes, as long as it’s fed in small amounts, tuna is safe for dogs. In fact, tuna’s high protein content makes tuna quite nutritious. 

But don’t rush to the kitchen and dump a can of tuna into your dog's bowl just yet. First it’s important to understand the benefits and potential risks.

Tuna Benefits For Dogs

Here are some of the biggest tuna benefits for dogs.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Tuna is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, known for their multiple health benefits. These essential fatty acids not only help maintain skin and coat health, but they also play a role in supporting normal inflammatory pathways in the body. 

Most dogs’ diets are very high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can contribute to inflammation, so it’s good to balance the omega-6 fats with some omega-3s. 

Omega-3s support cognitive function … so they may help keep your dog's brain sharp and alert.

With about 24g of protein per 3 oz serving, tuna stands out as a high-quality protein source. Protein is fundamental for your dog’s muscle growth, repair, and maintenance. 

By integrating tuna into your dog's diet occasionally, you're offering him a protein boost that isn’t just satiating but also energy-giving – and provides some variety in his menu! Plus, tuna’s a relatively low-calorie addition that could help your dog maintain or lose weight. 

Rich in Vitamins
Vitamins like B3, B12, B6, and D, found in tuna, contribute to several physiological processes, from energy production to bone health. 

Tuna For Dogs Risks: Heavy Metals 

Unfortunately it’s not all good news when it comes to tuna. Tuna, as a large predator fish, is at a higher risk of accumulating significant levels of heavy metals, primarily mercury. 

Due to industrial waste runoff into oceans, rivers, and lakes, mercury finds its way into aquatic ecosystems. The higher on the aquatic food chain the fish is, the more likely it is to accumulate mercury and other ocean toxins, from eating smaller marine creatures.

So fish like marlin, swordfish, shark, sturgeon, bluefish, walleye, and notably, tuna, are all larger species that tend to have higher mercury levels due to their size and position on the food chain.

Chronic exposure to mercury can lead to a myriad of health issues, ranging from nervous system disorders to endocrine complications, reproductive problems, and even accelerated aging.

If you prefer to avoid heavy metals for your dog, it may be best to steer away from feeding your dog any tuna. Even though he can “technically” eat it, it's not the safest seafood choice.

But there are ways to lower the risk by choosing better options. For example, when it comes to canned tuna there are differences between types. White albacore tuna, known for its mild taste, has mercury levels almost three times higher than skipjack tuna, which is commonly used in most light canned tuna varieties. 

If you're leaning towards canned fish options, Alaskan canned salmon might be a safer alternative for dogs, as it's typically lower in heavy metals. However, keep in mind, farmed salmon can contain other contaminants, like PCBs, dioxins and pesticides, or even antibiotics – so look for wild-caught canned salmon. . 

How Much Tuna Can Dogs Have? 

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Use tuna as an occasional treat rather than a staple in your dog’s diet. A good rule of thumb might be once a week or a couple of times a month, depending on the size and overall diet of your dog.
  • Keep any tuna your dog eats to a small amount (1-2 tablespoons), and make sure not to feed it daily. 

If you want to be a bit more scientific about it, you can follow National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) guidelines for safe fish eating, by body weight. It’s intended for people, so the lowest weight is 20 lbs. If your dog is smaller, adjust his tuna limit accordingly. 

What Kind Of Tuna Is Best For Dogs?

Given the risks associated with mercury accumulation in larger predator fish like tuna, it's crucial to make informed choices when considering feeding it to your dog. 

Let’s take a look at some of the popular kinds of tuna to see what’s best for your dog.

Can Dogs Have Canned Tuna? 

Yes, dogs can eat canned tuna, but go for tuna canned in water. Always read the label to be sure there are no harmful ingredients. 

Choose skipjack canned tuna, and not white albacore or yellowfin. Skipjack is lower in mercury than the others. 

Can Dogs Have Ahi Tuna? 

Ahi tuna has some of the highest levels of mercury, so only give it occasionally, if at all. 

How To Feed Dogs Tuna

If you decide to share a small amount of tuna with your dog, here’s the best way to do so:

  • Canned Tuna: After checking the ingredients, you can mix a small amount of canned tuna with your pup’s regular dog food. Drain off any excess liquid first.
  • Fresh Tuna: Serve in small, bite-sized pieces. Ensure it's fresh, and if you're unsure about serving it raw, you can lightly sear the tuna to retain most of its nutrients while making it safer.

Bottom Line | Can Dogs Have Tuna?

While tuna has benefits and can be a great protein source, the heavy metals risk might outweigh the benefits for some dogs owners. So don’t give your dog a lot of tuna and save it for a special treat, so you avoid mercury risk. 

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