Dogs are meat lovers that love to eat fish, and are not picky about which part they get to eat.
So, that begs the question: Can dogs eat fish heads?
Fish heads can provide a vital protein source for your furry friend’s diet. Fish are also packed with multiple nutrients that are beneficial for puppies and younger dogs.
Dogs can indulge in this part of a fish if they already eat fish regularly in their diets. The head portion is more challenging to eat due to its structure, so it would be best to cut it into small pieces if you want to feed it to your dog.
It would be best if you also were mindful of slow-growing fish, which contain sturdier bones that can be painful and even dangerous for dogs to eat. They also tend to contain higher levels of heavy metals and parasites, so can be bad for your dog’s wellbeing.
Your pup will appreciate fast-growing fish much more because they have softer bones that are easier to chew and digest, not to mention less negative health attributes.
As a dog owner, you should always take necessary precautions to ensure that your canine receives the optimal balance of nutrients while staying safe.
Can dogs eat fish heads and reap any health benefits from them?
Dogs love the smell and taste of fish- and that can be a very good thing for their health!
Fish is one of the leanest sources of protein available and contains only tiny amounts of saturated fats, so it helps dogs to build and repair muscle without impacting cardiovascular health.
Fish as a novel protein can also be helpful to dogs that have specific food allergies or dietary restrictions.
Fish heads are very high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for reducing cholesterol and maintaining optimal heart health. The fatty acids in fish also contribute to a healthier coat and skin. Salmon heads are a particularly good choice.
Fatty acids play a pivotal role in lowering inflammation, which in turn leads to more robust longevity for your best friend. They also reduce the chances of inflammatory disease or other joint problems like arthritis.
Your dog will look forward to playtime when it knows it can walk and run outside comfortably.
Other than omega-3, fish heads also contain extremely high levels of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, iron and zinc.
Vitamin A is an antioxidant which helps to make the immune system stronger, and is specifically very good for eye and brain health.
Zinc and iron are two of the most-used minerals in a dog’s body. Zinc in particular is also an antioxidant and necessary for many internal processes. Despite this, dogs’ bodies are unable to store zinc and therefore need to have a constant supply in order to function properly.
To make matters more complicated, zinc is not very bioavailable and how much actually gets absorbed by your dog’s body depends on the quality of the source. Thankfully, nutrients from fish are very easy to absorb compared to other animal sources like chicken and beef.
Lastly, fish heads contain a lot of collagen, which is critical in improving older dogs’ skin, coat and bone health. Again, fish collagen is absorbed a lot more easily (up to 1.5 times!) than collagen from beef or pork.
Collagen also helps with digestion and joint health, and is a wonderful nutrient for dogs overall. Read our complete guide on collagen for dogs here!
You may have noticed that a lot of dog food options include fish.
However, just because it is a standard option does not mean you should feed your dog any type of fish available. You must consult with your vet and make sure that you incorporate the healthiest choices that cater to your dog’s stomach, eating habits, and size.
Can dogs eat fish heads of all types? It depends heavily on the age, size, and stomach of your dog. There are many types of fish to choose from, but the typical types you will find in the store include species with shorter lifespans such as:
- Arctic char
These types of fish are generally safer for dogs to eat due to lower likelihood of high mercury levels and parasite infection.
They are also smaller species, which means that their bones are softer and easier to break down. This is very important because the last thing you want is for your dog to choke on a fish bone, or for a sharp bone to pierce an organ wall inside the body.
Fish that grow slower are not as healthy for dogs, but there is a list of fish that are completely unsafe for your furry friend. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the following types of fish are off-limits:
- King mackerel
- Orange Roughy
When these types of fish get harvested, they are generally older and more sizable. At this point in their lives, they contain high mercury levels that could get passed on to your dog.
Fish heads of longer-living fish species, such as swordfish, shark and tuna, may contain mercury and other harmful heavy metals.
Mercury will accumulate in a fish’s system over time and can create detrimental metal toxicity. As these types of fish get older, they can also harbor parasites in their muscle tissues, skin, and other internal organs.
Long-lived species also generally grow to become very large, and have bones that are hard and strong to support their weight. This can be a major choking hazard for your dog, and even if swallowed successfully can cause an internal blockage.
Internal blockages are very serious and can be fatal if left untreated. Treatment will most likely require a trip to the emergency department and surgery to remove the offending object.
It would be recommended to also avoid farm-raised fish, especially in areas with no regulations on the quality of diet and type. Farm-raised fish usually container higher residual antibiotic levels, toxins, and dyes, which could be dangerous for your dog.
Overall, most fish are not detrimental to dogs.
The way that you prepare fish, however, could cause long-term problems. If the fish heads you feed your dog get cooked in too much oil, it can cause GI issues or other severe conditions like pancreatitis.
Make sure to choose options that do not contain additional seasoning or salt- smoked or cured fish heads should not be fed to dogs. Seasonings with toxic ingredients like garlic can create significant health issues for dogs.
Fish allergies are rare in dogs, but there is a small chance that it could be allergic to seafood.
Many dogs are allergic to the common sources of protein like chicken and beef, but fish can also be grouped here.
As more people introduce fish as an alternative protein source for their dogs, there has also been an increase in instances of allergies related to seafood.
Symptoms of allergic reactions to fish are similar to that of other proteins. They include recurring ear infections, itchy skin and wheezing. If these problems persist when you feed fish to your dog, it is best to stop for the time being and consult with your vet.
On the surface, it may seem fine to feed dogs raw fish heads, especially if they are fresh. Sashimi, right?
However, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, feeding your dog raw fish heads is not the best course of action for your pet at any stage of its life.
Raw fish contains a higher risk of parasites in the muscle tissues, skin, and internal organs, and these could be passed on to your dog. It would be advisable to refrain from feeding raw fish heads to puppies or pregnant females.
If the fish is not cooked thoroughly before eating or if it is rotten, there is a risk of transmitting harmful bacterial organisms like Listeria, Salmonella, or Clostridium.
These bacteria are not only dangerous for dogs but also for humans. If you have small children, salmonella can then get passed through saliva and compromise their immune system.
If you decide to feed your dog fish heads, simply boil, bake or steam them before serving to ensure that it is safe to eat.
Can dogs eat raw fish heads at quantities that are too high to be safe?
Fish heads have many health benefits, but too much of a good thing can turn into a problem for your dog. Cooked, plain, or steamed fish should be eaten in moderation.
Though it is difficult to do, fish in excess can cause obesity, so you should consult with your vet on the proper meal sizes.
It all depends on your dog’s general health and nutritional needs, but fish can usually be provided as a treat or dietary supplement 3-5 times per week.
Another general rule of thumb is that fish can be provided in about 10% of your dog’s daily nutritional diet. That’s about one moderately-sized fish head a day!
If your dog needs a new protein source to manage conditions like arthritis, allergies, or inflammatory diseases, you may be able to substitute its original source with fish and fish heads.
It would be best for you to consult your vet to confirm the proper amount for your pup. All dogs are different, so the opinion of a health professional is the best way to go.
If you’ve ever polished off a whole salmon with your dog looking on and wondered to yourself, “Can dogs eat fish heads…?”, hopefully you’ve found your answer here today!
Fish heads can be an excellent source of protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals for a dog. The combination of these elements can significantly improve many different aspects of its health and wellbeing, both on the inside and outside.
However, just make sure that you choose the right type of fish and cook it in the right way. Small fish with short lifespans are the most suitable option for your dog due to their softer bones and lower levels of mercury and parasites.
Boiled, steamed or baked, fish heads will make an excellent supplement to your dog’s existing diet and make it livelier and more full of vitality than it is right now!
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.