Many pet parents know about the importance of feeding a nutritious, balanced diet to our dogs. Many of us add supplements for overall health, or certain foods – like fruits and veggies – to up the health factor.

So what about sardines for dogs? Are you a fan? Have you ever given your pup these tiny fish? You might even have some in your cupboard right now!

Trust us, whether you feed raw, home-cooked, or kibble, there are plenty of reasons to start!

The Benefits of Sardines for Dogs

Let’s start with the why.

Sardines may be tiny, but they’re packed from tip to tail with nutrition:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids – this is the most important thing! Omega-3s support heart health, promote a silky coat, reduce itchy and flaky skin, and can even help relieve allergies and joint pain. They also reduce inflammation, help prevent cancer, and keep the immune system strong!
  • Vitamins – excellent source of vitamin B12, which helps protect the cardiovascular system and provides energy, and vitamin D, which is great for bone health!
  • Calcium – another win for bone health, calcium is also an essential mineral that helps with muscle and cell health.
  • Coenzyme Q10 – supports a healthy heart and good circulation.
  • Protein – great for energy, and to help build healthy muscles and bones. Protein also helps your body create antibodies to keep the immune system strong.
  • Minerals – sardines contain lots of beneficial minerals, including: niacin, iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus.

See, these small but mighty fishies can form an important part of your dog’s balanced diet!

RELATED: Want to know more about omega-3s (or where else you can find them)? Read this next.

Concerns with Sardines for Dogs

For some, fish is a no-no in a dog’s diet, for a few reasons. The first is concern over mercury levels, and the second is the bones. To help ease your mind, let’s explore both.

When it comes to mercury, let’s face it – it’s out there in our oceans. Every living organism that either lives or eats something that lives in the ocean contains mercury. What you need to be concerned about here are the levels.

Sardines (even the larger ones) are small fish, which means they naturally have a very low mercury content. Their life cycle and diet makes it unlikely that they will have more than trace amounts of mercury in them. Bigger fish, especially those that eat other fish, have a higher mercury content. For example, big fish like salmon and king mackerel will have a much higher mercury content than small fish like sardines and anchovies.

So, in truth, there is a tiny risk, but it’s just that – tiny. If you’re feeding them occasionally, the build up isn’t something you really need to worry about. Feeding them only a few times a week, rather than every day, allows your dog to eliminate that mercury through their urine and waste.

Next, bones. Some people avoid fish completely because of the bones. Sardines, though, are a soft-boned fish, and your dog can digest the bones just fine. That said, to be safest, if you’re feeding fresh (or frozen) sardines, removing the thicker backbone before feeding is a safe bet.

How to Feed Your Dog Sardines

One of the best things about sardines, aside from the nutritional benefits, is that they’re super easy to feed. And there are lots of different ways to feed them.

The easiest way, by far, is to just plop them on top of your dog’s regular food. In our house, our dogs eat raw, and a few times a week I’ll just open a tin of sardines and split it between them. As I mentioned, don’t worry about picking out the bones – they’re good for them and easy to digest. They love them just like that.

You can also feed fresh or frozen sardines (just remove that tough backbone I mentioned earlier). If you choose to give them raw, maybe serve them outside or in a designated easy-to-clean area. You don’t want the mess all over your living room carpet!

Want to cook your sardines? That’s fine too. A light steam will help retain all that nutrition if you’re not keen on serving them raw.

You can also make them into treats – just add them to your favorite raw, frozen, or cooked treat recipe. They really are a versatile little snack!

A few tips when buying sardines:

  • Tinned sardines come packed in all different kinds of liquids – water, olive oil, soybean oil, hot sauce… Go with the ones packed in water.
  • Check the expiration date, both when you buy and any that have been sitting for a while at home on your pantry shelf. They can last a long time, but not forever.
  • Don’t make them a staple in the daily diet – feeding a few sardines (a small tin, for example) a few times a week is plenty.

If you’re looking for a way to make your dog’s mealtime even healthier, no matter what you feed, sardines are an easy way to do it. Enjoy!