Fish is an all-natural product, we know that it’s great for humans, high in protein and a rich source of omega 3. Strong in smell and flavor it’s also pretty easy to see why a Labrador Retriever might be particularly interested too.
It’s actually an ingredient that you’ll often find in dog food, but does that mean that Labrador’s can eat any fish we might want to treat them to?
The answer is an interesting one, and a little more complicated than it might first seem. In this article, I’m going to run through whether Labrador Retrievers can eat fish, what kind of fish might be bad for them, and how much fish is safe for them.
As ever, I’m just presenting the information I know based on my knowledge and experience, if you have any particular concerns about your Labrador’s diet you should consult with your vet.
Yes, Labrador Retrievers can eat fish. Fish can have a wide range of health benefits for Labrador’s and is a great source of protein and omega 3, which are both great for a Labrador’s health. Labrador’s may have issues with fish prepared in a certain way or fish that contains lots of bones.
We’ll discuss which types of fish a Labrador should not eat later, but first, let’s look at the health benefits of fish.
Health benefits of fish for Labradors
A great source of protein
Protein, that nutrient that guys at the gym obsess over. But it’s not just for those aspiring bodybuilders, it’s actually an essential part of your Labrador’s diet and is the main reason you will find fish as an ingredient in many dog foods.
Protein has a whole range of benefits for your Labrador, it helps to maintain and repair cells and other tissue, such as skin, muscle, bone and hair.
That’s why bodybuilders obsess over it as high protein diets can help build muscle after exercise, so for any Labrador who is taken on long walks, protein is great for keeping their muscles strong.
It also helps to support the immune system and aids in creating hormones, antibodies and enzymes, so it really is an all-round great nutrient for you Labrador.
A great source of omega 3
The amount of omega 3 in fish varies from species to species. Some fish with high levels of omega 3 include; tuna, sardines and salmon whereas bass and cod only contain a small amount of omega 3.
The benefits of omega 3 for your pooch are wide-ranging. This fatty acid will help with supporting the cognitive development of growing puppies, reduce inflammation, strengthen the immune system, heart and kidneys as well as improve the skin and coat health of the Labrador, resulting in that nice shiny coat we all love to see.
Different fish have even more health benefits
It’s difficult to list all the health benefits of fish because it ranges from species to species.
However, you can find pretty much all the essential vitamins and nutrients which Labrador’s need in fish, varying in their levels based on which fish it is.
If you have a particular fish in mind then it’s worth doing a little research on what it contains as that will also help you introduce the fish as part of a Labrador’s balanced diet.
Too much of a certain vitamin can actually cause harm, so it’s always good to know exactly what you’re feeding your Labrador so that you can cut back on that vitamin source in their other food if needed.
Health risks of fish for Labradors
As good as fish can be for your Labrador Retriever, as with any food there will always be a risk. Here are some of the main issues to watch out for.
Preparation of the fish is vital
Whilst plain cooked fish is perfectly healthy for your Labrador in a modest quantity, such as steamed fish, we humans often like to cook fish in something more interesting.
Fish will usually be prepared in oil or perhaps battered. This is not good for your Labrador and you should not feed your Labrador fish which has been cooked with added ingredients.
The same is true of fish served with sources, such as a tomato or parsley sauce which might contain an unnecessary amount of carbohydrates and sugars.
If you do want to feed fish to your Labrador you should just simply cook it, preferably steamed.
You can actually easily steam fish in the microwave. Fish has enough water content to steam itself, so just pop it in a glass bowl with a lid for 4-6 minutes, and you’re done, the perfect fishy treat for your pooch.
Bones can be an issue
Bones can be a problem for humans so they can certainly cause your Labrador an issue.
Remember, that they lack the ability to pick out the bones like we do and are much more likely to just gobble them down and get them stuck in their throat.
This can cause them to choke and cause damage if the bone were to penetrate the skin of their throat.
Even quite small bones can cause an issue to try to flake the fish away from any bones before serving it to your Labrador Retriever.
If it’s a treat stick to the 10% rule
Whilst fish has lots of great benefits for you Labrador you will find that they will already get a lot of these nutrients and minerals from their dog food.
Most good dog food has already been carefully balanced to provide everything a dog needs, so if you’re feeding fish to your dog in addition to its normal food then you should regard it as a treat.
Treats should not be more than 10% of a Labrador’s diet, in fact, you should really try to keep it below that.
That also means that if your Labrador is getting other treats, such as apple slices, then the combination of fish and apple slices needs to be under 10% of their diet.
Can Labrador Retrievers eat raw fish
Your Labrador can technically eat raw fish, just like you can. But with that, there does come increased risk and it’s generally thought that you shouldn’t feed raw fish to your Labrador, the risk just isn’t worth it.
This is for many of the same reasons it’s risky for humans to eat raw fish if it isn’t stored and prepared correctly it can have the chance to develop harmful bacteria such as salmonella and listeria.
Severe cases can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and in severe cases can be fatal.
These severe impacts are quite rare, and studies indicate that somewhere between 3% and 20% of dogs have been infected with salmonella at some point, but for the sake of putting the fish in the microwave for 5 minutes it really isn’t worth the risk.
Can Labrador Retrievers eat canned fish
Canned fish is generally going to be very bad for your Labrador Retriever and should be avoided as a treat.
Canned fish are usually preserved using quite intense ingredients, whether it be large amounts of salt for brined tuna or olive oil for anchovies, these substances are not going to be a healthy food for your Labrador to eat.
Even if it seems healthy, like canned fish with tomato sauce, it probably contains too many harmful ingredients.
For example, a small tin of mackerel in tomato sauce will on average contain 18g of fat, 1g of salt and 247calaroies, that’s going to be pretty bad for your pooch.
How much fish can a Labrador Retriever safely eat
Only feed your Labrador Retriever simplify cooked fish, either steamed or oven cooked and remove the bones.
If it is a treat, in addition to their normal diet, then stick to the 10% rule.
Only feed your Labrador a treat in a 10% calorie content of their overall diet.
For an average-sized Labrador, that’ll probably mean a maximum around 3 oz (85g) of fish per day, that’s without any other treats. Of course, this depends on the size of your Labrador.
As a side-note, I’m not a huge fan of using the 10% rule as a blanket rule. Calories are not the only thing that can harm your Labrador so if a treat is particularly sugary, salty or has any other harmful ingredients I would stay significantly below the 10% rule.
Luckily, plainly cooked fish doesn’t have these harmful substances so the 10% rule works quite well.
I’ll finish with something very important. Always be cautious when giving new food to your Labrador.
All Labrador Retrievers are different and some will be naturally intolerant of certain foods. Older Labradors may also find certain foods harder to digest.
When feeding your Labrador any new food you should make sure to closely monitor them for the next day or so, checking for irregular bowel movements, vomiting or discomfort.
If you have any concerns then stop feeding them any fish at all and consult with your vet.