Benefits of Fish-Based Dog Food

Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
By Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
Updated: 5/8/20242-4 minutes
A man walks with a dog

Some dogs love fish-based dog food—and so should you! Not the taste, of course, but the nutrition it offers your canine companion. Fish is widely known for its health benefits for humans, but did you know it offers many of the same benefits for dogs?

Read on to learn why fish is an important ingredient in your dog’s diet.

Why Choose a Fish-Based Formula?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fat that helps regulate circulation and inflammation. Commonly found in cold-water fish, it’s a valuable addition to your dog’s diet because it doesn’t occur naturally in their body.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for dogs’ growth and early development. Fish and fish meal are naturally rich in Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These aid in brain and vision development. Later in life, they also support joint health, alleviate symptoms from arthritis, and may strengthen cognitive function.

According to the American Kennel Club, omega-6 and omega-3 for dogs are both essential nutrients. Your dog needs both nutrients in balance.

Protein

Fish is an excellent source of protein to help support strong muscles. Protein consists of essential amino acids, which play an integral role in the functions of your dog’s body. Essential amino acids help the development of body tissue and carry nutrients throughout the body, among other things.

Like chicken or turkey, fish like tilapia, cod and flounder are lean but contain high levels of protein compared to fattier meats such as lamb and beef.

Flavor

Cats aren’t the only ones who love fish. Many dogs enjoy the distinct flavor and eagerly lick their bowls clean.

If you’re considering switching your pet to a fish-based dog food formula, there are many great options available. You’ll find formulas with different types of fish, like salmon, tuna and whitefish. You’ll also see formulas that pair fish with other nutritious ingredients, such as sweet potato or rice.

Evaluating Fish-Based Dog Food Formulas

So, which fish-based dog food is right for your pet? When choosing food, the formula should include:

  • Complete & balanced ingredients. In addition to fish protein, formulas should have essential nutrients that meet your dog’s dietary needs, life stage, weight and other factors. (Of course, if your dog has food allergies, you’ll want to be mindful of those as well.)
  • Real, high-quality fish. Salmon or tuna are healthy, reliable choices in formula ingredients. Note: If you see a “wild-caught” label, this means the fish was caught in a natural environment such as an ocean or river, ate a natural diet and wasn’t treated with antibiotics.
  • Antioxidants. With their ability to preserve and fortify food, antioxidants such as vitamins A and E support a healthy immune system.

Nutritional Standards

If you want to be sure fish-based dog food meets nutritional standards, check the bag for a label by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The association’s “complete and balanced” label indicates the food has been formulated to meet designated life stage. (Learn more about AAFCO dog food standards.)

Alternatives to Fish-Based Dog Food

If you’re reluctant to switch your dog’s current food formula but want the health benefits of fish, you have some other options. Here are a couple easy ways to add fish nutrition to their diet.

Fish Oil

Fish oil for dogs is a common diet supplement. Packed with the same omega-3 fatty acids found in fish formula, it helps joint, skin and coat health, and more.

There are different types of fish oil on the market, and the dosage will vary depending on your dog’s age and size. Speak with your veterinarian about their recommended products and quantity.

Fish-Based Dog Treats

Whether you use them as a supplement, training tool or special snack, treats are another way to provide the benefits of fish for your dog. Check the ingredients to make sure they contain real fish and consult your veterinarian if you have questions about how much you should be giving your canine. As a general rule of thumb, no more than ten percent of your dog’s daily calories should come from treats.

Treats also let your pet experience the flavor of fish without changing their main diet.

Learn more dietary tips from our experts. You can also visit our Pet Expertise page.  

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