Can Dogs Eat Sardines (Nutritional Guide)
Yes, your pet dog can eat sardines. As long as you observe the same precautions in giving any kind of pet-safe human food, then sardines should be safe for your canine friend. This is a human food that is rich in coenzyme Q10 as well as the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Like all human foods that we give to our pets, sardines should never replace your dog’s regular yet complete and well-balanced meal.
Sardine Nutritional Facts
A member of the herring family, sardines are one of the world’s most nutritious fish. They are small yet packed with a lot of nutrients. Here are some of the key nutrient facts that you need to know about this fish.
- Low in Calories, High in Protein
A single piece of sardine contains only 25 calories. This makes sardines an excellent alternative to commercial dog treats. A quarter of the sardine’s weight is protein, while two-thirds of its weight is moisture. As such, if you have a 12-gram fish, you can expect it to provide your dog with about 3 grams of protein.
- Essential Fatty Acids
Sardines contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in 1:2.5 ratio. This is a lot better than the recommended ratio of 1:4. What is more important is that the omega-3 fatty acids that are found in sardines are EPA and DHA.
These essential fatty acids are more “clinically-important” than ALA because dogs can use them at once. If given plant-sourced ALA, dogs will have to convert this first to EPA before it can use them. Unfortunately, dogs are not known to be efficient in the conversion of ALA into EPA.
Eicosapentaenoic acid plays a major role in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease in dogs. Meanwhile, DHA is important in the maintenance of normal brain and eye function. Both EPA and DHA also play a role in the mitigation of inflammatory processes.
- Coenzyme Q10
Sardines are not the richest source of Coenzyme Q10; mackerel are. However, it still contains this antioxidant compound. A small piece of sardine contains about 130 micrograms of CoQ10. It does not look much. Regardless, it can still play a role in protecting the cells of the dog. This compound is also important in the development of the dog’s brain and teeth.
Sardines are excellent sources of calcium, potassium, sodium, and phosphorus. These minerals can help in maintaining the integrity of the dog’s bones and teeth. They can also help promote the more efficient transmission of nerve impulses. In addition to these minerals, sardines also provide trace amounts of magnesium, iron, selenium, and zinc.
One of the things that people do not know about sardines is that it is a good source of Vitamin D. It also contains modest amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K. There are also trace amounts of thiamine, niacin, choline, folate, Vitamin B12, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and Vitamin B6.
The Issue of Radioactive Strontium in Sardines
There are reports of dogs eating large amounts of sardines having increased levels of strontium. The same is true among dogs that consumed sardine-based fish oil supplements. Strontium is an element that is almost similar in function with calcium. It is one of the lesser known minerals that comprise the matrix of bones.
There are several types or isotopes of strontium. What dog lovers are concerned about is the isotope 90 of strontium or Sr 90. This isotope is not a common element in the Earth’s crust. Instead, it is a byproduct of nuclear fission.
During the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, following an undersea earthquake in the coast of Japan, large amounts of Sr 90 were released into the open sea. Japan is one of the world’s largest exporters of sardines. Unfortunately, the waters near Fukushima is the main breeding ground for Japanese sardines.
Japanese sardine exporters freeze the fish before they are delivered to canneries worldwide. Many of these canneries do not put the country of origin of the sardines used in their products. As such, no one knows if the sardine that you are giving to your pet comes from the waters off Fukushima in Japan.
Stable or non-radioactive strontium is not dangerous. It is the radioactive isotope of strontium that can put your dog at risk for nuclear radiation-associated health problems. Unfortunately, no one knows what the exact effects of eating radiation-contaminated sardines on dogs are.
How to Give Sardines to Dogs
When giving sardines to your pet dog, it is better to go for Atlantic sardines instead of Pacific sardines. If you can ascertain that the sardine you are buying comes from Morocco in North Africa, there is a good chance that it is free from radiation. Morocco happens to be Europe’s leading supplier of sardines.
Canned sardines in oil or tomato sauce may look very appetizing. The issue with these products is that they contain more than the fish. Salt is often added to these sardine products to help increase their shelf life while also adding flavor. One can also not be too sure about the oil used in the production of these canned sardines. These can be trans-fats or saturated fats that are not healthy for your dog.
The best sardine to give to dogs is wild-caught sardine, packed in water. Dogs can eat the whole fish. You also do not have to worry about mercury. Sardines are small fishes that their mercury content is almost negligible when compared to larger fish like tuna.
Look at a sardine as a snack or a tasty treat for your dog. As such, you should only give it no more than twice a week. While sardines contain EPA, DHA, CoQ10, and other nutrients, it is not a nutritionally-complete food. Allowing your dog to subsist only on sardines can expose it to micronutrient deficiencies.
You can also add a can of sardines to your pet dog’s regular meal. However, it is critical to account for the additional calories and make the necessary adjustments.
Sardines are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and other important nutrients. Like all human foods, however, you should always give sardines to your dog in moderation and with great caution.