Can Dogs Eat Mackerel?

can dogs eat mackerel
Photo by Samuel C. on Unsplash

Dogs like smelly things – the stinkier, the better. But it’s not always good for them. I mean, most of us like a salty, oily snack once in a while, but that’s definitely not good for us, and our pups are no different.

So, how about fish?

Specifically, can you feed your dog mackerel? If so, how should you prepare it and are there any provisos you should look out for?

Let’s find out, shall we?

[1] Can dogs eat mackerel?

Yes they can!

That is, if the fish is packed in pure water, not brine.

And if it’s cooked.

Raw fish contains some enzymes that wreak havoc with your pup’s digestive system – more on that later. Turns out, dogs love fish – the smellier, the better.

You could even make your dog some mackerel fudge or fish popsicles.

That sounds super gross, but pups have different tastes from their human parents.

After all, they lick their own butts and roll around in all sorts of smelly things. That’s something we humans definitely don’t do.

[2] What is the nutritional value of mackerel?

Mackerel contains lots of omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential to your pup’s health, especially healthy skin and hair.

It also has tons of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). This stuff enables your pup to run and play for hours on end.

These things with the complicated names also fight inflammation and enhance your pup’s brain function, both super crucial for sustained healthy living.

Adding this to your pup’s meals two or three times a week will definitely give him a much-needed boost.

Just keep moderation in mind. As they say, “too much of a good thing isn’t good.”

[3] What are the dangers of feeding mackerel to your dog?

Mackerel are large predatory fish. Their bodies contain a high concentration of mercury, and they catch and eat other fish that contain mercury, which is very bad for dogs (and humans), especially if ingested regularly.

Mercury builds up in our dogs’ bodies over time, because it’s challenging to get rid of it once ingested.

If the build-up is too large, your pup could experience all sorts of issues with his muscles that won’t contract properly.

This, in turn, leads to other, potentially severe health issues – lack of mobility, decreased gut function, and difficulty breathing, to name a few. It’s as bad as it sounds.

Fish also have an enzyme called thiaminase in their bodies. This naturally occurring enzyme digests vitamin B (thiamine), so your dog won’t be able to absorb any of the much-needed vitamin B in his food. You know, because the enzyme eats it before your pup can get at it.

When you cook your pup’s fishy meal, you’ll kill off this enzyme, so the vitamin B remains available for your dog to absorb into his body.

Then, fatty fish is calorie-rich, so it’s super easy to overfeed your dog when fish is on the menu. One cup of mackerel contains as many calories as ¾ cup of commercial kibble – about 300 calories. Control his calorie intake by limiting the amount of fish in his diet. No-one wants an overweight dog – it’s just not healthy. The appropriate amount of fish in your pup’s diet depends on his size, age, and level of activity. Large, busy dogs need a lot more food than tiny couch potatoes.

Also, check for allergies. When introducing fish into your pooch’s diet, do so slowly, watching him closely for any adverse reaction. If you see anything amiss, stop feeding him fish. Also, ensure that you introduce only one new thing at a time since you can then pinpoint the cause of any adverse reaction.

[4] How should you prepare mackerel for your dog?

Since mackerel contains thiaminase (the one that eats up all the vitamin B before your pup can get at it), you should definitely cook it. This enzyme dies when it’s heated above 140 degrees F (60 degrees C), so it won’t interfere with that essential vitamin B your pup gets from his food.

Once cooked, you can chop the mackerel up in a food processor to make it a bit easier to ingest. Don’t worry about the tiny fish bones – they’re soft, so they won’t cause any problems when your pup eats them. They’ll also get even smaller in the food processor, making it even less of a hassle.

If you don’t want to feed your dog plain fish but want to give him a gourmet snack, you could always add the mackerel to a yummy fish cake recipe, like this one. It’s always fun figuring out what your pup likes, and who doesn’t want to spoil their fur kid with a healthy snack?

[5] Can dogs eat peppered mackerel?

It’s okay for dogs to eat small quantities of pepper, so if the peppered mackerel you’re serving your pooch is prepared correctly and doesn’t contain too much pepper, it should be fine. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog will like it, though, since dogs generally aren’t all that fond of pepper.

Before serving your pup any peppered fish, check the label for ingredients. If it contains salt, oil, MSG (monosodium glutamate), or any other baddies, maybe give it a skip. It’s not worth risking your pup’s long term health for a quick treat.

[6] Should dogs eat mackerel in tomato sauce?

Tomato sauce isn’t great for dogs, since it contains all sorts of additives, like salt, sugar, and oil. That said, tomatoes in themselves, when consumed in moderation, are great for dogs. So, if they ingest a small amount of the tomato sauce with their tinned mackerel, they should be fine. As with most things, moderation is key.

If you’re not sure whether the tinned mackerel you got for your pup is safe, have a look at the ingredients listed on there. Does it contain lots of salt, preservatives, and artificial flavors? Then maybe don’t give that to your pup. If it doesn’t, it should be fine.

Tomatoes contain antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins A and C, all of which are good for your pup’s skin, teeth, and digestion. So, if the tomato sauce in question is of the healthy variety (you know, sans salt, sugar, and all the artificial nasties), then by all means, go for it. Your pup will, in all likelihood, love it.

[7] Should dogs eat mackerel in brine?

Brine is salt water, and salt is terrible for your pup. So, instead, use mackerel packed in pure water or tomato sauce. Giving your pup mackerel packed in saltwater adds so much salt to his diet that you might as well feed him a packet of crisps. Not good.

Closing Thoughts

Mackerel contains healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, which is essential for your dog’s long term health. That said, it also potentially contains other nasties, like mercury, which is bad for your pooch, and it’s calorie-rich. So, if you’re including mackerel in your pup’s diet, do so in moderation. Check the label for any nasties to avoid, such as salt, oil, and other artificial nasties often included in processed food. It’s also best to serve this treat to your pup well-cooked since that kills off the harmful enzymes usually found in fish.

James Grayston

My name is James and I love dogs. have owned four Golden Retrievers in the past 15 years. Currently I own two "Goldies"- a five year old and a seven month old. The photo shows me with our youngest when she was about 7 weeks old!