Can Dogs Eat Sardines In Oil?

Photo by Andrew Malone on Flickr

As a pet parent you know that not all human foods are safe for dogs to eat, but when it comes to sardines they’re actually quite healthy.

There are, of course, certain things to keep in mind, like your dog having a sensitive stomach or weight issues, and we’ll examine in-depth all the concerns you might have.

We’ll also have a look at sardines’ mercury and strontium content, but,  given in moderation, sardines are a source of valuable nutrients for your dog.

What are the nutritional benefits of sardines for dogs?

Sardines are one of the best types of fish you can give your dog because, small as they are, they are packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins B12 and D, as well as calcium, phosphorus and selenium, which is a powerful antioxidant.

Let’s have a look at the benefits of feeding sardines to your dog.

  • Fatty acids strengthen a dog’s immune system and help prevent cancer.
  • Also, omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body, which is great for old dogs suffering from arthritis. They also reduce joint pain and improve mobility.
  • Fatty acids help with skin issues, like dry flaky skin, and will keep your dog’s coat shiny and silky.
  • One of the most important fatty acids to be found in DHA, which is vital for the cognitive function. DHA is essential for puppies whose brains are just developing as well as for senior pets, as it fights cognitive decline.
  • Sardines are also rich in the Q10 coenzyme, which, together with fatty acids, promotes heart health and sustains the circulatory system.
  • Last, but not least, fatty acids can prevent allergies in dogs or alleviate the symptoms.
  • The calcium in sardines will strengthen your dog’s bones, while the protein helps build muscle.

Can a dog choke on sardines bones?

Fish bones are a valid concern, but not when it comes to sardines. Canned sardines have very small and soft bones, so most dogs won’t have any trouble chewing them. If you manage to buy raw sardines, you might get some that are a bit larger than canned ones.

Now, if you have a small dog or one that has trouble chewing, you might want to exercise caution and remove the spine. Or you can cut the sardines in smaller pieces and there’s virtually no risk for a dog.

Can dogs eat sardines in olive oil? Is it better than sunflower oil?

If you want to feed your dog sardines, look for ones that are packed in water, which are the healthiest option. However, most of the sardines at the supermarket are usually packed in oil. On the whole, oil is not dangerous for dogs, but you might want to avoid giving your dog too much fat.

As a rule, fats should account for 10-15 % of your dog’s diet.

Olive oil is better than sunflower oil as it offers more health benefits. For instance, olive oil is rich in antioxidants, but you won’t find any in vegetable oil. More important, olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which have anti-inflammatory properties and promote heart health. Sunflower oil contains polyunsaturated fats, which can cause heart disease and inflammation.

If you are concerned your dog is getting too many fats in his diet, you can remove the sardines from the can and put them on a paper towel which will absorb much of the excess oil.

If you manage to find sardines in water, make sure to read the label and see about the salt content. Look for a product with no salt, flavorings or preservatives. This is why you should avoid sardines in brine, too much salt for a dog.

As for sardines in tomato sauce, again read the label carefully as some of the ingredients might not be healthy for your dog. Generally speaking, you should avoid giving your pet any commercially available sauce. Most of them are full of salt, sugar and loads of chemicals.

Are sardines in any way bad for your dog?

Sardines can become a problem if your dog already has a lot of fat in his diet. It’s not just about the dog gaining weight, but also about potential stomach issues. Too much fat can give dogs diarrhea. If you notice your dog has loose stools after eating sardines, cut the fish serving in half and see if there’s an improvement.

Too much fat can also cause pancreatitis so keep away from sardines in oil if your pet’s had similar problems before.

What about  mercury and strontium?

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about fish being dangerous because of its high content of mercury. This is a serious concern as our oceans are becoming more polluted, but sardines are among the safest fish out there.

The reason is pretty simple, sardines are quite low on the food chain and have a rather short life-span. Small fish, caught when very young, simply don’t have the time to accumulate much mercury in their bodies, so they’re pretty low risk.

As far as strontium is concerned there’s a risk of a radioactive isotope accumulating in your dog’s body. It’s not a high risk, but there are serious concerns regarding the sardines caught in Japanese waters, near Fukushima, site of the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Strontium accumulates in the sardines’ bones, so that delicious treat might contain the dangerous isotope Sr 90.

The danger is low, but keep in mind that this nasty isotope can accumulate in your dog’s bones as well. The problem is that canneries are not required to specify on the label where the fish was caught and you certainly don’t want to feed yours radioactive elements.

To avoid such a risk, try looking for sardine cans that specify where the fish comes from or, better yet, buy them raw from a local fishery. You can also buy a bag of frozen sardines, which will last you a long time.

What is the difference between sardines and pilchards?

Many pet owners are confused when it comes to sardines. Are they the same thing as pilchards? The answer is yes and no!

Technically, both terms refer to small fish belonging to the larger herring family.  The European pilchard can be found in the Northeastern parts of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The term sardines refers to small fish of the herring family that can live in all the oceans and seas around the world.

In the UK fish industry, for instance, sardines are classified as small pilchards.

Basically, there’s not much difference between the two or none that matters to your dog!

Is it ok to feed my dog sardines everyday?

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t feed your dog sardines every day, but it will have to be in a very small amount. There’s no such thing as opening a can of sardines and saying ‘Here you go, Fido. Dinner is served!’

For one thing you need to keep in mind that one measly sardine packs some 25 calories and 175 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. The fatty acids are not a problem, but the calories are, especially if your dog is prone to obesity.

How many sardines can your dog safely consume depends on his weight.

  • A very small dog, weighing less than 5 lbs shouldn’t get more than sardines per week.
  • A dog weighing between 6 and 15 lbs can be fed four sardines per week, while a middle-sized dog (25-50 lbs) can be treated to 8 sardines per week.

Many pet parents like to cut the sardine in small pieces and mix it with the dog’s regular food to add more flavour. If you’re having sardines for dinner (and you should once in a while), there’s no problem throwing one to your pet.

If you’ve never fed your dog sardines before, start with a small piece and see if your dog has any kind of a reaction. Increase the amount once you’re sure your pet doesn’t have a problem with them.

Tip: Don’t throw away the water in the can. You can pour it over your dog’s kibble to make it more palatable. Also, if your dog needs to take some medicine you can crush the pills and mix them with sardine water and your pet will lap that in an instant!

Closing Thoughts

Sardines are safe for dogs and have many health benefits, mainly because they are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids. Although sardines in oil are not harmful to your dog, it’s best to give him sardines packed in water or even raw ones.

Don’t overfeed your dog sardines, as too much fat might cause him problems and make him gain an extra pound. If served in moderation, sardines will help keep your dog healthy and his coat looking splendid! Oh, they also make him smarter!