Are Canned Sardines Good for Dogs? Find Out Here

Are Canned Sardines Good for Dogs? Find Out Here

The Quick Answer: Canned Sardines and Dogs

Canned sardines can be a healthy and nutritious treat for dogs when fed in moderation. These small, oily fish are packed with beneficial nutrients that can support your dog's overall health. However, as with any human food, there are important considerations to keep in mind when feeding sardines to your canine companion. 

Understanding the Nutritional Profile of Canned Sardines

Before we delve into the specifics of feeding sardines to dogs, let's examine the nutritional content of these small fish. Sardines are nutrient-dense, offering a range of vitamins and minerals that can be beneficial for dogs:


Benefit for Dogs

Potential Concern

High-quality protein

Supports muscle development and maintenance

Excess protein can strain kidneys in some dogs

Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA)

Promotes skin, coat, heart, and joint health

High levels may thin blood

Vitamin D

Supports bone health and immune function

Excess can lead to calcium imbalances

Vitamin B12

Supports nervous system and digestive health

Excess is typically excreted


Supports immune function and thyroid health

Toxic in large amounts


Supports bone and teeth health

Excess can interfere with mineral balance


Supports red blood cell production

Excess can accumulate in organs

Low mercury content

Safer option compared to larger fish

Still a concern if overfed

This nutrient profile makes sardines an attractive option for dog owners looking to supplement their pet's diet. However, it's important to remember that a balanced commercial dog food should already provide all the nutrients your dog needs in the correct proportions.


The Potential Benefits of Canned Sardines for Dogs

Feeding canned sardines to your dog in moderation can offer several health benefits. Let's explore these potential advantages in more detail:

1. Rich Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

One of the most significant benefits of sardines for dogs is their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These essential fatty acids play a crucial role in canine health:

  • Skin and Coat Health: Omega-3s can help maintain a shiny, healthy coat and reduce skin inflammation, potentially alleviating symptoms of allergies or skin conditions.
  • Joint Health: The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s may help reduce joint pain and inflammation, benefiting dogs with arthritis or other joint issues.
  • Cognitive Function: DHA is important for brain health and may support cognitive function, especially in older dogs.
  • Heart Health: Omega-3s can contribute to maintaining a healthy heart and circulatory system.

2. High-Quality Protein Source

Sardines provide a concentrated source of high-quality protein, which is essential for dogs. Protein plays a vital role in:

  • Muscle development and maintenance
  • Supporting the immune system
  • Promoting healthy skin and coat
  • Aiding in tissue repair and wound healing

While most commercial dog foods provide adequate protein, the easily digestible protein in sardines can be particularly beneficial for senior dogs or those recovering from illness or injury.

3. Rich in Essential Vitamins and Minerals

Canned sardines are packed with various vitamins and minerals that can support your dog's overall health:

  • Vitamin D: Supports bone health and immune function
  • Vitamin B12: Important for nervous system health and digestive function
  • Selenium: Supports immune function and acts as an antioxidant
  • Calcium: Essential for strong bones and teeth
  • Iron: Crucial for red blood cell production

These nutrients can complement your dog's regular diet, potentially filling in any nutritional gaps.

4. Low Mercury Content

Compared to larger fish like tuna, sardines have a lower mercury content. This makes them a safer option for regular consumption, though moderation is still key. The low mercury levels in sardines reduce the risk of mercury toxicity, which can be a concern with some other types of fish.

Potential Risks and Considerations

While canned sardines offer numerous benefits, there are some potential risks and considerations to keep in mind:

1. Sodium Content

Many canned sardines are packed in brine or salt water, which can result in high sodium content. Excessive sodium intake can be problematic for dogs, potentially leading to:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • High blood pressure
  • Aggravation of existing heart or kidney conditions

To mitigate this risk, choose sardines packed in water or olive oil, and rinse them before serving to reduce sodium content.

2. Added Oils and Seasonings

Some canned sardines come with added oils, spices, or seasonings that may not be suitable for dogs. These additives can potentially cause:

  • Digestive upset
  • Allergic reactions
  • Consumption of harmful ingredients (like onion or garlic powder)

Always opt for plain sardines without any added seasonings or flavours.

3. Calorie Content

Sardines are relatively high in calories due to their fat content. While this can be beneficial for active dogs or those needing to gain weight, it's important to account for these extra calories in your dog's overall diet to prevent weight gain.

4. Risk of Nutritional Imbalance

Feeding too many sardines can lead to an imbalance in your dog's diet. Sardines are high in certain nutrients but lack others that are essential for a balanced canine diet. They should be used as a supplement or treat, not as a primary food source.

5. Potential for Allergic Reactions

While uncommon, some dogs may be allergic to fish. Signs of a food allergy in dogs can include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Ear infections
  • Gastrointestinal upset

If you notice these symptoms after introducing sardines to your dog's diet, discontinue use and consult your veterinarian.

How to Safely Feed Canned Sardines to Dogs

If you decide to incorporate canned sardines into your dog's diet, follow these guidelines:

  1. Choose sardines packed in water or olive oil, avoiding those in brine or with added seasonings.
  2. Rinse the sardines thoroughly to remove excess salt or oil.
  3. Start with a small amount to ensure your dog tolerates them well.
  4. Feed in moderation - a general guideline is one small sardine per 20 pounds of body weight, once or twice a week.
  5. Remove any large bones, although the small, soft bones in sardines are generally safe and can provide additional calcium.
  6. Always introduce new foods gradually and monitor your dog for any adverse reactions.

When to Avoid Giving Dogs Canned Sardines

While sardines can be beneficial for many dogs, there are situations where they should be avoided:

  • Dogs with known fish allergies
  • Dogs on a low-fat diet (due to pancreatitis or other health conditions)
  • Dogs with certain health conditions that require restricted sodium intake
  • If your dog is already eating a fish-based commercial diet, additional fish may not be necessary

Always consult with your veterinarian before making significant changes to your dog's diet, especially if your dog has existing health conditions.

Healthier Alternatives and Complements to Canned Sardines

If you're looking to provide similar benefits to sardines or want to offer variety in your dog's diet, consider these options:

  1. Fish oil supplements specifically formulated for dogs
  2. Other small, oily fish like mackerel or herring (in moderation)
  3. Commercial dog foods that include fish as a primary ingredient
  4. Omega-3 supplements derived from algae (especially good for dogs with fish allergies)

These alternatives can provide similar nutritional benefits while allowing you to closely control the amount and frequency of supplementation.

Conclusion: Moderation and Balance are Key

Canned sardines can be a healthy and nutritious addition to your dog's diet when fed in moderation. They offer valuable nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, high-quality protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. However, they should be viewed as a supplement or occasional treat rather than a staple food.

Remember, the foundation of your dog's diet should be a high-quality, balanced commercial dog food that meets their specific nutritional needs. Sardines and other supplements should complement this diet, not replace it.

Before introducing sardines or any new food to your dog's diet, why not try an at-home sensitivity test. Our basic dog food sensitivity test covers over 300 known allergens and can help you identify what your pup may have an intolerance to.

By understanding the benefits and potential risks of feeding canned sardines to your dog, you can make an informed decision about whether and how to incorporate this nutritious fish into your pet's diet. With the right approach, sardines can be a tasty and beneficial treat that supports your dog's overall health and well-being.