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Salmon is the second most popular seafood consumed by people in the United States, second only to shrimp [1]. It’s no wonder as this fish has long been touted for its many health benefits. 

If salmon is healthy for us, it must be just as healthy for our dogs, right? Not necessarily. This article will discuss whether or not it’s okay to feed your dog salmon, how to safely serve it, and some potential risks and benefits of salmon for dogs. 

Can Dogs Eat Salmon? 

dog eating from bowl

Cooked salmon or salmon-based dog foods can be part of a healthy diet for dogs. Over the past few years, pet parents have seen an explosion in options when it comes to commercially prepared dog foods. No longer are the days of chicken or beef only options for our pups. Fish—especially salmon—is becoming an increasingly popular ingredient in pet food diets.

Besides feeding your dog salmon-based dog food, you can also feed her fresh salmon as an occasional healthy treat, provided it is boneless and fully cooked. 

Can Dogs Eat Raw Salmon

Dogs should never be fed raw salmon, including salmon sushi or sashimi. Feeding raw salmon to dogs can lead to salmon poisoning, a condition known to affect dogs. It is not truly a poisoning, but an infection caused by blood-borne bacteria, called Neorickettsia helminthoeca, that live within a fluke parasite that commonly infects salmon in the pacific northwest of the United States, the pacific coast of Canada, and as far north as Alaska. Infection with this bacterium will cause death in up to 90 percent of dogs within 10 days if not appropriately treated [2]. 

Common symptoms of salmon poisoning in dogs include fever, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea that may become bloody. 

Raw salmon from other regions may still contain other harmful bacteria and parasites, so salmon should always be heated to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit before it is served to dogs. If your dog has eaten raw salmon, you should consult your veterinarian immediately. 

Can Dogs Eat Cooked Salmon?

Cooked salmon is safe to feed dogs and can provide many nutritional benefits just as it can in humans. However, portion control is key when adding tasty treats to your pet’s diet. 

If you feed your dog a commercially prepared dog food, chances are that it is labeled as a complete and balanced diet. When food is added to that balanced diet at a proportion of over 10 percent of the diet it can cause the diet to become unbalanced and may lead to nutritional deficiencies or excesses. Care must also be taken not to overfeed your dog as added calories can lead to weight gain and contribute to obesity. 

When feeding cooked salmon to dogs, you should feed it plainly baked, steamed, or roasted without adding any seasoning, oil or salt. 

Can Dogs Eat Smoked Salmon

Feeding dogs smoked salmon can pose certain health threats. Neither cold smoked salmon—also known as lox—nor hot smoked salmon may be heated to a temperature that is hot enough to kill the bacteria associated with salmon poisoning in dogs. 

In addition, smoked salmon tends to be high in salt content which can be harmful to your dog’s health. 

Can Dogs Eat Salmon Skin

Salmon skin can be fed to dogs as long as it is fed in very small quantities as an occasional treat. Salmon skin is high in healthful essential fatty acids and vitamins. However, it also contains more fat and calories than salmon meat does. Feeding too much salmon skin could lead to intestinal upset and potentially lead to pancreatitis, a serious illness. Salmon skin is not an appropriate food for dogs that need to lose weight. 

Can Dogs Eat Canned Salmon

Canned salmon is okay to give to your dog. However, it’s best to pick canned salmon that is packed in water with no added oils, seasonings, or salt. 

Benefits of Salmon for Dogs

Just as salmon is recommended as part of a healthy diet for people, it can also be very beneficial when fed to dogs. Salmon is low in saturated fats and is high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, potassium and vitamin D [3]. 

Incorporating salmon into your dog’s diet may help improve the condition of her coat and skin, improve brain function, and help bone health. A salmon-based diet may also be helpful for some dogs with food sensitivities or allergies. 

Salmon Oil for Dogs 

salmon oil capsules

Feeding salmon oil supplements may be beneficial and recommended for some dogs. Salmon oil differs from whole salmon in that it contains concentrated amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may be recommended by your veterinarian to help with skin issues related to allergies, arthritisheart disease, or cognitive dysfunction. 

Salmon oil supplements for dogs come in capsules that are given orally or a liquid that you can mix with your dog’s food. 

Salmon for Dogs: Things to Consider 

salmon on ice with dog in background

Salmon can be a great food to offer your dog and may provide benefits to their health. However, feeding too much salmon or feeding salmon too frequently may cause problems. For some dogs, salmon may contain too much oil or fat and may cause an upset stomach. You should start by feeding your dog salmon in very small amounts to make sure it doesn’t cause any digestive problems

Salmon or any other foods or treats you are feeding your dog should never make up more than 10 percent of their diet to ensure that the diet remains complete and balanced. The other 90 percent of your dog’s diet should be made up of a commercial dog food that is labeled as complete and balanced. When feeding cooked salmon, choose boneless filets and closely inspect it to ensure there are no bones remaining in the meat. 

There are concerns about the levels of contaminants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, and heavy metals like mercury that can accumulate in salmon and may lead to cancer and other health issues when high doses are consumed. However, one study published in 2019 tested commercial salmon and non-salmon containing dog foods and did not commonly find mercury in these diets and, when present, the levels of mercury were unlikely to pose a health risk [4]. The FDA also sets maximum allowable levels of contaminants in salmon. To minimize risk, when feeding fresh salmon to your dog, choose wild caught salmon instead of farmed salmon as it is known to contain less toxins. 

When choosing a salmon oil supplement, ask your veterinarian for recommendations on trusted companies and make sure the manufacturer performs third party lab testing to ensure the product does not contain harmful levels of toxins. Also let your veterinarian know what food you are feeding your dog. Some diets already contain added omega-3 fatty acids, so salmon oil supplementation could potentially lead to an overdose of fatty acids, which could lead to GI upset or, rarely, blood clotting disorders. 

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