Can Dogs Eat Mackerel? What You Should Know

I buy smoked mackerel in a vain attempt at being healthy. I do really like it, and you don’t even have to cook it, which is nice – Jo Brand

While, at first glance, it seems like an almost disingenuous question to ask as dogs regularly consume and enjoy fish, the more you think about whether or not dogs can eat mackerel, the more you actually begin to question what you thought you knew about a dog’s dietary needs. 

After all fish, and mackerel are common ingredients in leading brands of dog food, so why would it be included in dog food if canines couldn’t eat it? That’s a salient point, even if we do say so ourselves, and one that we’ll address as we attempt to answer the mackerel canine conundrum.

Mackerel And Dogs – The Indisputable Truth

Let’s cut straight to the quick. Can dogs eat mackerel? The short, simple and sweet answer is yes, of course, they can, but the longer, more complicated answer is yes, but… And as there’s always a “but” in the best answers, we thought that we’d find out what the “but” in the longer answer means. 

Dogs And Mackerel – The Dietary Truth

Can dogs eat mackerel? Yes, they can, and as long as it forms part of their diet and isn’t the only thing that they eat it can actually be good for them. Now that we’ve done the easy stuff, we can move on to slightly more puzzling and problematic issues surrounding dogs and mackerel. 

How Should Dogs Eat Mackerel?

There are, according to the best and most freely available scientific and nutritional evidence, the right way and multiple wrong ways that your dog can, and can’t eat mackerel. The best way to feed your pooch mackerel is the same way that most of us like to eat it, cooked. 

Skin On Or Skin Off? 

While a lot of humans prefer to eat the fish with the skin removed, dogs like it just as much with the skin on, as they do with the skin off. In fact, mackerel skin is a rich source of omega fatty acids, so it’s actually good for dogs provided that they don’t have too much of it. 

Why Is Too Much Mackerel Skin Bad For Dogs?

Too much of that skin-based fatty acid can make dogs a little chunky and help them to pile on a lot of unwanted pounds, but we dread to imagine how much mackerel skin a dog would have to eat in order for it to be the main cause of his potential weight problem. 

Raw Mackerel And Dogs

Now that we’ve covered the biggest of the mackerel tick boxes for dogs, we’ll shed a little light on the main mackerel elephant in the “can they or can’t they eat it” room. And again, it’s something that they have in common with their human companions, as dogs can’t eat raw mackerel. Well, technically, they can but they shouldn’t eat it for the same reasons that we shouldn’t. Because it can, in theory at least, kill them. 

Dogs are just as susceptible to salmonella and the other bacterium that can be present in raw fish as we are, and like us, they can also be made deathly ill by the parasites (like roundworm) that while being present in fish, are usually killed during the cooking process. So, to answer the question, yes dogs can eat mackerel as long as it’s cooked and they don’t eat too much of it, but they can’t eat it raw, because it could kill them. 

The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Mackerel Truth… Well, Not Quite

Is that everything? Well, not quite as there’s a little more to the whole dogs and mackerel riddle than that, and because we’re tenacious and aren’t satisfied by half-baked answers, we’re going to tell you everything else that you need to know about mackerel dinners and dogs. 

The Other Doggy Mackerel Don’ts

That’s right folks, there’s a few more no-no’s on the list of doggy mackerel don’ts, and rather surprisingly they all involve tinned and smoked fish.  As much as we might be suckers for smoked and tinned mackerel, it isn’t really good for dogs.

Why Is Tinned Mackerel Bad For Dogs? 

Tinned fish, regardless of the type of fishing that it is, is bad for dogs for the same reasons. Because of the extra fat and salt that the smoking process produces and the long list of preservatives (and extra salt) that tinned mackerel includes.

Dogs And (Tinned) Tomato Sauce

And while we’re on the subject, they shouldn’t be allowed to eat mackerel in tomato sauce either, mostly because of fact that it usually comes out of a tin and is far saltier than fresh mackerel and laden with all sorts of preservatives that aren’t found in nature, but also because of the higher sugar content in the sauce. 

Wait A Minute, Doesn’t Mackerel Contain Bones? 

Even though dogs love bones, fish bones can get stuck in their gums, throats, and tummies, are a choking hazard, and can cause them serious digestive pain. The best way for dogs to enjoy mackerel is by eating the deboned, fresh fillets that can be bought from, and in any supermarket. 

Why Mackerel Is Good For Dogs 

It is, and that’s why it’s commonly used in a lot of dog food. Why is it good for dogs? Because mackerel is a rich source of Omega oils and fatty acids, which have all sorts of incredible health benefits. 

Omega oils and fatty acids ensure that all the neurons in a dog’s brain are firing correctly, they help to keep their skin and fur in good condition and their joints supple, which is especially beneficial to any dogs that are prone to, or already suffering from arthritis. 

Mackerel is also a protein, which dogs need in order to keep their muscles lean and strong, which means that it is almost a secret canine superfood, provided of course that dogs don’t over-indulge in it. 

Why Mackerel Is Bad For Dogs

Too much of a good thing is almost always bad for someone or something, and mackerel is no exception. While the old wives tale about mackerel containing mercury is true, there isn’t usually enough of it in the fish to be harmful to dogs (or humans), and it isn’t heavy metal poisoning that you need to worry about with mackerel, it’s a naturally occurring enzyme called thiaminase.  

In large quantities, the enzyme can cause Vitamin B to break down, and be responsible for creating a deficiency of the vital vitamin, which in turn can lead to all sorts of other health problems. But like the potential skin obesity issue, the amount of mackerel that a dog would have to eat for thiaminase to actually become problematic is simply staggering, and realistically it’s not something that you or your dog will never have to worry about. 

The Truth Shall Set You Free From Mackerel Worries… 

And that ladies and gentlemen, is the irrefutable truth about whether or not dogs can eat mackerel. They can, as long as it’s freshly cooked and they don’t eat too much of it.