Components of a Fresh Diet

Dive into Seafood for Your Pup

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Dive into Seafood for Your Pup

Omega-3 fatty acid (EPA and DHA) and vitamin D deficiency in raw diets are two popularly discussed problems of feeding a raw bowl. These fatty acids are crucial to our dog's health and have a variety of duties in cellular functioning. As a result, a raw-fed diet is advised to include foods like fish and seafood with high amounts of EPA and DHA.

The Benefits of Seafood in the Diet

Seafood in the diet benefits every organ system in a dog’s body. Seafood is rich in selenium, which boosts the immune system, preventing tissue damage. The iron in seafood is necessary to form red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Zinc aids in forming new cells and enzymes and in the digestion of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. 

Fish, such as mackerel, also includes eight vitamin B-complex vitamins. These vitamins aid in the digestion and release of energy from food, as well as the maintenance of skin health, brain health, and hemoglobin formation.

The essential fatty acids Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) found in marine-sourced fats are essential for optimal canine health. They improve immune system function, provide healthier skin and hair coats, and improve cognitive ability. Certain types of fatty fish also meet vitamin D requirements. 

According to Dr. Conor Brady, dogs require approximately 9-13mg/pound of body weight (20-30mg/kg) of DHA and EPA daily for optimal physiologic activity. A whole can of sardines or mackerel can offer up to 300mg of DHA and EPA. 


Making Up for Soil Depletion

Without nutrient-dense soil, plants do not contain adequate levels of vitamins and minerals. Consequently, the animals feeding on the plants are not consuming the correct balance of nutrients. The impact includes the levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in the muscle meat of these animals, creating an overabundance of Omega-6, the inflammation activator fatty acid, in the meats your dog consumes. Feeding seafood aids in the balancing of Omega-6 and Omega-3. 

The loss of soil quality is a problem affecting people worldwide and has worsened over the past 50 years. The practice of industrial farming and the application of artificial fertilizers are the primary contributors to this resource loss.

Balancing Omegas with Seafood

Although poultry is a good protein source, it’s high in Omega-6. And chicken breast contains over double the amount of Omega-6 as chicken thighs. Unfortunately, most poultry animals (like chickens) have been fed high amounts of grain and corn, leading to the high Omega-6 content. This doesn’t mean your dog should never eat chicken. It means seafood should be offered to balance Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. 

Omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation in the body, whereas Omega-3s reduce inflammation. Our dogs need both Omega types to remain healthy but must be balanced. With the Omega-3s from seafood, your dog can have a more balanced bowl, reducing and maintaining inflammation in their body.

Facts About Thiaminase

Fatty fish should only comprise a small part of the entire diet, approximately 10%. Larger fish species that have the potential to have higher mercury content should be avoided. Feeding smaller fatty fish near the bottom of the food chain lowers the risk of mercury contamination.

Some fish species contain thiaminase, an enzyme that depletes thiamine found in red meat. Many people have heard that a thiamine deficiency can occur if red meat is in contact with seafood in a dog’s meal. However, the threat of creating a thiamine deficiency is minimal even if the components are added to the bowl side by side for two reasons: the amount of seafood (10%) to the amount of muscle meat (63-65%) and the thiaminase is only in the internal tissues and organs of the fish. Meals prepared in advance are frozen until needed, which reduces thiaminase activity. 

Smelt, anchovy, mackerel, Atlantic herring, and sardines are examples of thiaminase-containing fish.

Recommended fish include


  • Atlantic Mackerel: Compared to other fatty fish, Atlantic mackerel contains the most significant amounts of EPA and DHA. Furthermore, mackerel contains considerable Vitamin D, making it an excellent addition to a raw diet.
  • Atlantic Herring: High quantities of EPA and DHA are also found in Atlantic herring. Herring, on the other hand, has a lower Vitamin D content than mackerel.
  • Salmon: Salmon is another fatty fish widely available with a considerable amount of EPA and DHA fatty acids. Salmon has a higher vitamin D level than other fish species despite being somewhat lower than mackerel. Wild Alaskan salmon is the best choice. 
    • Wild-caught salmon from the Pacific Northwest states should be cooked to avoid salmon poisoning. While freezing can potentially reduce the risk of transmission of Nanophyetus salmincola and associated bacteria Neorickettsia helminthoeca, it is not a guaranteed kill method. Cooking fish to the recommended internal temperature (usually at least 145°F or 63°C) is the most reliable way to ensure that both the parasites and bacteria are killed, making the fish safe for consumption. 
    • Wild Atlantic salmon is farm-raised because it is endangered in its natural habitat and is no longer commercially available.
  • Sardines: Sardines are one of the most prevalent fatty fish selections on the market. They contain a high amount of EPA and DHA and a modest amount of vitamin D. Sardines' soft, digestible bones can help your dog with achy joints and mobility by reducing inflammation.
  • Shellfish: All shellfish must be cooked before feeding. Shellfish have been found to harbor Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite that infects humans and other warm-blooded animals worldwide. Steaming or boiling mussels and oysters will kill the parasite as it is destroyed at 153°F. All shells should be removed from the oysters and mussels before feeding them to a dog.
    • Oysters: Although oysters are seafood that contains very little EPA and DHA, they are an excellent source of zinc, manganese, copper, and vitamin D. Limited quantities should be fed to avoid zinc toxicity.
    • Green or Blue-Lipped Mussels: Technically considered a shellfish, mussels are also a good source of Omega-3s, zinc, and magnesium. They are most commonly known for their anti-inflammatory effects in dogs suffering from arthritis

Check the Sourcing

Many farmed fish are given hormones and medications to prevent disease, which may introduce dangerous chemicals into your dog's diet. Understanding where your farmed fish comes from and determining their farming procedures is crucial.

There still needs to be a USDA organic standard in place for aquaculture. Canada, Chile, and the European Union have enacted rules for aquaculture. In Canada, antibiotics can only be used when needed to treat an illness.

Kibble-Fed Dogs Should Still Eat Seafood

Oily fish, such as sardines, should still be a part of your dog's diet, even if he eats kibble. Canned sardines are acceptable if stored in water rather than oil without salt added. If you give your dog sardines or other fatty fish, you don't need to supplement their diet with fish oil. 

Although it is not required, feeding whole fish is recommended whenever possible. The amount of bone in some sections, such as fish heads, may require bone reduction. Watch your dog's poop and make adjustments based on their body's reaction. Remember that some dogs may not find fresh fish appealing. If your dog doesn't like fish in its bowl by itself, try mixing it with other protein sources.

Seafood Alternatives 

Of course, seafood is a great way to get the nutrients your dog's body needs for good health, but if your dog is allergic to fish or shellfish, you'll need to consider other foods. As previously stated, fish oil is generally not advised as a viable substitute. However, if that is your only choice, it is best to discover trustworthy vendors that produce small batches in dark-colored glass bottles. If your dog won't eat raw fish, try lightly cooking or searing it.

Although the quantities of zinc in elk, grass-fed beef, and lamb are roughly a third of what you'll find in oysters (per 100g), these food sources can substitute oysters. Green tripe can provide a source of manganese as a substitute for mussels. 

Meats and organs from grass-fed ruminants can be offered to increase the amount of Omega 3s in the diet. Grass-fed ruminants have higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Grass-fed beef also has higher levels of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin K2.

Takeaway Bites

  • Choose small, oily fish for optimal nutrition and to minimize mercury toxicity rather than large fish. If you purchase sardines, ensure they’re stored in water without salt.
  • Do your research to determine where the fish was sourced from and their practices.
  • Factory-farmed fish often contain antibiotics and hormones that aren’t healthy for your dog (or you). Opt for wild-caught fish when possible.