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Can a Dog Eat Fish Bones? Dangers, Benefits, and Preparation Tips (2024)

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can a dog eat fish bonesYou should never feed your dog fish bones.

These sharp, brittle fragments can easily lodge in your pup’s mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines, causing severe pain and potentially perforating organs.

This can lead to internal bleeding, blockages, and the need for emergency veterinary care or surgery to remove the bones.

While fish itself can offer nutritional benefits when properly prepared, ingesting fish bones poses serious risks that no responsible pet owner should ignore.

To learn more about the right ways to safely incorporate fish into your dog’s diet, read on.

Key Takeaways

  • Fish bones can easily lodge in a dog’s mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines, causing severe pain, internal bleeding, blockages, and the need for emergency veterinary care or surgery to remove the bones.
  • While raw fish may contain harmful bacteria, parasites, and other contaminants, thoroughly cooked, boneless fish can be a healthy protein source rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
  • When introducing fish to a dog’s diet, start with small portions, monitor for any allergic reactions or digestive issues, and consult a veterinarian to ensure proper portion sizes and nutrient balance.
  • Avoid feeding dogs high-mercury fish like king mackerel, swordfish, shark, tilefish, and canned tuna or sardines, as these can be toxic and harmful to their health.

Can a Dog Eat Fish Bones?

No, dogs shouldn’t eat fish bones. Fish bones are small, sharp, and brittle, and can easily get stuck in a dog’s mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines, potentially causing serious injury and requiring veterinary care.

Dangers of Fish Bones for Dogs

Dangers of Fish Bones for Dogs
Fish bones are extremely dangerous for dogs. They’re small, sharp, and brittle, which means they can easily lodge in a dog’s mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines, potentially perforating organs and causing excruciating pain that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Small, Sharp, and Brittle

Fish bones may seem harmless, but their small, sharp, and brittle nature poses a serious threat to dogs. Swallowing these bones can lead to painful perforations in your pup’s digestive tract, requiring urgent veterinary care. Steer clear of feeding fish bones to your canine companion to keep them safe and healthy.

Can Lodge in Mouth, Throat, Stomach, or Intestines

Fish bones can easily lodge in your dog’s mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines, posing serious risks:

  • Bone fragments can become stuck, causing pain and difficulty swallowing.
  • Intestinal damage from sharp edges can lead to internal bleeding or blockages.
  • Surgical intervention may be required to remove lodged bones.
  • Consult your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog has eaten fish bones.

Can Perforate Organs, Causing Pain and Requiring Veterinary Care

Fish bones, though small, can pose a serious threat to your dog. Their sharp, brittle nature means they may perforate your pup’s delicate insides, causing immense pain and requiring urgent veterinary attention. Closely supervise your dog when feeding fish, and choose fresh, boneless varieties suited to their size and chewing ability.

Risks of Raw Fish for Dogs

Risks of Raw Fish for Dogs
While fish can provide valuable nutrients for dogs, raw fish poses serious risks.

Uncooked fish may contain harmful bacteria like salmonella and listeria that can cause digestive upset or even life-threatening infections, especially in young puppies or dogs with compromised immune systems.

Raw fish can also transmit parasites that may lead to conditions like salmon poisoning disease.

For dogs on home-cooked diets, it’s essential to thoroughly cook any fish to kill off potential contaminants.

Stick to cooked, boneless fish to safely incorporate this protein source into your pup’s meals.

Proper Preparation of Fish for Dogs

Proper Preparation of Fish for Dogs
To make sure your dog’s safety when feeding fish, you’ll want to fully cook it to an internal temperature of 145°F and choose dog-safe varieties with lower mercury levels. Thoroughly clean and debone the fish, avoiding cooking it with oil, butter, or seasonings that could upset your pup’s stomach.

Fully Cook Fish to an Internal Temperature of 145°F

To safely feed fish to your dog, fully cook it to an internal temperature of 145°F. This kills any harmful bacteria and makes the bones soft and digestible. Grill, steam, or bake the fish without added oils or seasonings.

  • Grilling fish is a great option
  • Steaming fish retains nutrients
  • Check for low mercury levels
  • Omega-3 fatty acids provide benefits

Choose Dog-safe Species With Lower Mercury Levels

When choosing fish for your pup, opt for varieties with lower mercury levels like salmon, whitefish, and cod. These smaller, oily fish also provide beneficial omega-3s. Portion control is key – treat with fish sparingly to avoid obesity.

Safe Fish Mercury Levels
Salmon Low
Whitefish Low
Cod Low

Clean and Debone Fish Thoroughly

Thoroughly clean and debone fish before serving to your pup. Proper filleting techniques remove sharp bones that could puncture or lodge in their digestive tract. Dispose of fish bones safely to prevent access and cross-contamination. Prioritize your dog’s safety when preparing seafood.

Avoid Cooking With Oil, Butter, or Seasonings

When preparing fish for your dog, avoid cooking with excess oil, butter, or seasonings. Opt for gentle cooking methods like baking, grilling, or steaming to preserve nutrients. Unseasoned, cooked fish makes a healthy, low-fat treat for your pup.

Cooking Method Pros Cons
Baking Retains nutrients, easy Potential for overcooking
Grilling Flavorful, quick Risk of charring
Steaming Gentle, preserves moisture Bland flavor
Poaching Tender texture Potential for overcooking
Pan-Frying Crispy exterior High in fat and calories

Benefits of Cooked, Boneless Fish for Dogs

Benefits of Cooked, Boneless Fish for Dogs
Cooked, boneless fish can be an excellent addition to your dog’s diet. It provides high-quality protein, beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation, essential vitamins and minerals to support overall health, and nutrients that promote a shiny coat.

Excellent Source of Protein

Fish is an excellent source of high-quality protein, providing your dog with the essential amino acids needed to build and maintain lean muscle. Incorporating fish into your dog’s diet can help prevent protein deficiency and support healthy growth and development.

Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids With Anti-inflammatory Properties

Omega-3 fatty acids in fish provide anti-inflammatory benefits, supporting your dog’s cardiovascular health, brain function, and joint mobility. However, be mindful of mercury levels and avoid feeding raw fish or shellfish to prevent potential health risks.

Contains Essential Vitamins and Minerals

In addition to omega-3s, fish provides essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, and iodine that support your dog’s overall health. These nutrients can supplement your dog’s diet and promote well-being.

Beneficial for Skin and Coat Health

Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can improve your dog’s skin and coat health. The essential vitamins and minerals in fish also support a shiny, healthy coat, while the low mercury content makes it a safe dietary addition.

  • Omega-3 benefits skin and coat
  • Essential vitamins nourish fur
  • Low mercury content is safe
  • Fish oil promotes skin health
  • Fish diet boosts coat quality

Recommended Fish Varieties for Dogs
When selecting fish for your dog’s diet, some safer options include salmon, whitefish, cod, catfish, and flounder. These varieties tend to be lower in mercury and other potential contaminants that could pose health risks for your canine companion.


Salmon is an excellent choice for dogs, rich in omega-3s to reduce inflammation. However, monitor for allergies and be wary of salmon poisoning from raw salmon. Cooked, deboned salmon makes a healthy, tasty treat.

Salmon Health Benefits Salmon Allergy in Dogs Salmon Poisoning Disease
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids Some dogs may be allergic Caused by a parasite in raw salmon
Reduces inflammation Watch for skin, digestive issues Can be fatal if left untreated
Supports skin and coat health Introduce slowly, monitor closely Avoid feeding raw salmon to dogs


Whitefish, a versatile fish for dogs, offers a healthy protein source low in mercury. Farmed or wild-caught, whitefish is a great choice for veterinary-approved diets, especially for short-lived species prone to pancreatitis.


Cod is another excellent fish choice for dogs. It’s low in mercury, high in omega-3s, and can be served:

  1. Baked with potatoes
  2. Boiled with rice
  3. Steamed with carrots and peas


Catfish is another excellent fish option for dogs. It’s low in mercury, high in protein and omega-3s. Avoid bones, and monitor for allergies. Catfish makes a tasty, sustainable addition to a homemade dog diet.


Flounder is a safe, low-mercury fish that provides lean protein and beneficial omega-3s for dogs. Serve it cooked, deboned, and unseasoned to avoid digestive issues or allergic reactions.

  1. Flounder is a lean, low-mercury fish that’s an excellent source of protein for dogs.
  2. The omega-3 fatty acids in flounder can help reduce inflammation and support skin health.
  3. Prepare flounder by baking or steaming it without any added oils, seasonings, or sauces.
  4. Monitor your dog for signs of fish allergy when introducing flounder or other new proteins.

Fish Species to Avoid for Dogs

Fish Species to Avoid for Dogs
When choosing fish for your dog, you’ll want to avoid certain species like king mackerel, swordfish, shark, tilefish, and canned tuna or sardines due to their higher mercury levels, which can be toxic if consumed in large amounts. These fish should be limited or avoided entirely in a dog’s diet to prevent potential health issues.

King Mackerel

Steer clear of king mackerel for your pup – it’s high in mercury, a toxic element that can harm your dog. Stick to safer fish options with lower fatty acid levels.


Swordfish is a no-go for Fido – it’s loaded with mercury that can poison pups. Steer clear of this predatory fish and its sharp bones that pose choking risks. Opt for safer seafood options instead.

  1. Swordfish accumulate high levels of mercury over their long lifespans.
  2. Mercury toxicity in dogs can cause hair loss, kidney issues, and neurological problems.
  3. Swordfish bones are rigid and brittle, posing a serious choking hazard.
  4. Safer fish choices include salmon, whitefish, and cod – low in mercury and bones.


You should avoid feeding shark meat to your dog due to potential toxins and high mercury levels. While fascinating for shark fishing or diving, shark meat is unsafe seafood for homemade dog diets or veterinary nutritionist recommendations.


You should avoid feeding your dog tilefish. This fish contains high levels of mercury, which can be toxic and harmful to your pup’s health.

Canned Tuna or Sardines

Along with tilefish, you’ll also want to avoid feeding your pup canned tuna or sardines because:

  • High mercury levels are toxic
  • Sodium content is excessive
  • Intended as human food
  • Better fish options exist

Portion Sizes and Frequency of Feeding Fish

Portion Sizes and Frequency of Feeding Fish
When introducing fish to your dog’s diet, it’s critical to start gradually and keep an eye out for any digestive problems. The suitable portion size depends on factors like your dog’s age, weight, and activity level, so speaking with your veterinarian is advised to establish a safe and balanced serving.

Amount Depends on Dog’s Age, Weight, and Activity Level

When feeding fish to your pup, portion sizes are vital based on their age, weight, and activity level.

Younger, smaller, and less active dogs need less protein content and omega-3s than larger, more energetic ones.

Overfeeding fish can lead to digestive issues, obesity, or even allergic reactions.

Research appropriate portions for your dog’s needs.

Can a dog eat fish bones safely?

Only in tiny, flexible bones.

Avoid raw fish to prevent salmonella food poisoning.

Practice portion control with fish for the best nutrition.

Introduce Slowly and Monitor for Any Digestive Issues

When introducing fish to your dog’s diet, go slowly.

Some dogs have fish allergies or digestive sensitivities, so monitor for signs like vomiting or diarrhea.

Fish bones also pose choking hazards, so cook fish thoroughly before serving.

Try smaller portions first, then increase gradually with home-cooked meals or raw meat diets.

This is wise.

Talk to your vet about ideal serving sizes based on your dog’s age and activity level.

With caution and vigilance, fish can be a healthy, animal-based source of nutrients.

Homemade Fish Treats for Dogs

Homemade Fish Treats for Dogs
While fish can be a healthy treat for dogs, you should prepare homemade fish snacks with caution to guarantee they’re safe and nutritious. Recipes like baked salmon patties, simple cooked fish purees, homemade salmon jerky, and salmon swirl cookies permit you to monitor ingredients and avoid any harmful additives or bones.

Baked Salmon Patties

If you’re concerned about fish allergies or digestion issues, try baked salmon patties – a tasty, homemade treat. Mix:

  1. Canned salmon (boneless, skinless)
  2. Egg
  3. Breadcrumbs
  4. Parsley

Bake until firm. Packed with omega-3s, these patties provide benefits without risks.

Simple Purees of Cooked Fish

Simple purees of cooked fish offer bite-sized serving sizes in a smoothly pureed consistency. Freeze leftovers, or mix with dog-safe ingredients like plain yogurt or pumpkin for flavor pairings. Storage options include airtight containers in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Homemade Salmon Jerky

You can also make homemade salmon jerky for your pup by dehydrating thin strips of cooked salmon. It’s a nutritious treat that can be stored for weeks. Try using different fish like cod or whitefish. Serve in moderation, and check with your vet for safe portion sizes.

Salmon swirl cookie bites are a delightful homemade fish treat for your pup. Bake up a batch using cooked salmon, whole wheat flour, and a touch of honey for a healthy, chewy snack your dog will love. These fish-based treats make a great addition to your dog’s diet.

Risks of High-Fat Fish and Nutrient Imbalances

Risks of High-Fat Fish and Nutrient Imbalances
While homemade fish treats are a great way to incorporate fish into your dog’s diet, be cautious of feeding too much high-fat fish or large portions of whole fish at once. This can lead to:

  1. Gastrointestinal issues from excess fat
  2. Nutrient imbalances from overconsuming certain vitamins and minerals
  3. Weight gain if your dog’s overall nutrient intake exceeds their energy needs

Moderation is key when adding fatty fish to your pup’s diet. Consult your vet to make certain proper nutrient balance and portion sizes.

Allergies and Sensitivities to Fish

Allergies and Sensitivities to Fish
While fish can be a nutritious addition to your dog’s diet, it’s important to be aware that some dogs may develop an allergy or sensitivity to fish. If you introduce fish into your pet’s meals, closely monitor for any signs of an allergic reaction, such as skin irritation, digestive issues, or respiratory distress.

Some Dogs May Be Allergic to Fish

Some dogs may be allergic to fish, just like humans can develop fish intolerance or other food allergies. It’s essential for pet health to watch for signs of diet sensitivity:

Vomiting Diarrhea Itchiness
Gas Bloating Skin Rashes
Lethargy Weight Loss Sneezing

If your pup exhibits any allergic reactions after introducing fish, discontinue feeding and consult your veterinarian immediately.

Monitor for Signs of Allergic Reaction When Introducing Fish

Always watch closely when introducing fish to your pup.

Fish allergies, while uncommon, can manifest in symptoms like itchy skin, ear infections, and gastrointestinal issues.

Start with small portions and gradually increase, noting any adverse reactions.

If concerned, consult your vet about alternatives like rabbit or venison.

With proper precautions, fresh fish can be an occasional treat or training reward for most dogs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can dogs eat fish skin?

Every time a dog swallows a fishbone, it’s like playing Russian roulette. Imagine a sharp sword dangerously poking your insides – that’s what those bones risk doing. Skip the skin too; it’s just not worth potential perils when feeding fishy treats.

What about canned tuna for dogs?

Canned tuna has higher levels of mercury which can be toxic, especially for smaller dogs. It’s best to avoid giving your furry friend any canned tuna.

How often should fish be fed?

If your senior pup had pancreatitis after overdoing it on tuna, for example, you’d want to feed fish sparingly. Aim for 1-2 small portions per week as an occasional treat.

Are there any homemade fish treats?

You can make salmon jerky treats by baking thin strips of cooked salmon. Simple purees from cooked fish blended with water are another easy homemade option.

Can fish cause obesity in dogs?

Yes, fish can cause obesity if you overfeed your dog. Although nutritious, fish’s high calories and fats make moderation key.


Ultimately, while fish can provide nutrients, ingesting fish bones poses grave risks.

To safely incorporate fish into your pup’s diet, thoroughly cook and debone it. Opt for low-mercury varieties like salmon or whitefish.

Closely monitor portion sizes and your dog’s reaction when introducing new proteins.

With proper preparation and moderation, fish can be an occasional healthy treat for many canine companions.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief with a team of qualified veterinarians, their goal? Simple. Break the jargon and help you make the right decisions for your furry four-legged friends.