The sardine is not the first type of fish that comes to mind when discussing what food is good for your dog, but it is better to know than not to know. There are people who eat sardines regularly and need to know if sharing is good for their dog. (If you also have a cat they may be upset with you if they have to share.)
Though there is more to the story, including some cautions, the short answer is yes. Sardines are not only edible for your dog, they are actually good for them. Let’s walk through the benifits and see specifically where they help your dog become healthier.
One of the major benefits to the sardine applies to both dogs and human. The issue of mercury contamination in fish has been a huge issue for years, and because the sardine is small compared to the most popular types of fish, you can eat them and not worry about consuming too much mercury along the way.
Again, the presence of Omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial to both humans and dogs. (Omega-6 is always bad.) You can feed sardines to puppies and it will help them in their brain development. In general, the presence of Omega-3 will help prevent cancer (a major cause of death in dogs over 10 years old) and keep their immune system growling along.
Now for the bad news – for the dog. Though the recommended serving size may not do much for our appetite, one sardine per 25 pounds of weight is suggested, adjusting it proportionately for larger dogs. We know. If you dog looks at you like, “why did you bother at all?” he does have a point. But we just report the facts.
The amount that is allowed on a weekly basis is 3, mainly because your dog will start to smell like fish. This is a better explanation for your dog, though they may not understand why you are being so stingy with the fishies. There are other potential health problems, though rare, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Since you knew there would be a caution coming, here it is. Avoid feeding your dog sardines with a large amount of mustard or ketchup, and watch out for the sodium levels on the list of ingredients. Sardines often come packaged in oil, and while this makes them yummy for humans it’s something the dog will not benefit from. Not only will this not benefit your dog, it has the potential to harm them as well as feeding them too many.
Introducing any new food into a dog’s diet should be done slowly, though given the recommended amount of sardines per day it’s hard to see how much smaller and slower you can go. Watch for any changes in bathroom habits or unusual behaviors.
Earlier it was mentioned to avoid giving your dog sardines packed in oil or topped with your favorite secret sauce. The preferred packaging is sardines in water. That sardine water can be used to add flavor to their dry food, or even conceal the smell of the pill that is good for them that they won’t take.
From a bird’s eye view, feeding your dog a sardine sums up the bigger problem for dog owners that constantly tugs at their heart – deciding how much people food is too much. A sardine may not technically qualify as a people food since they can be eaten with virtually no preparation, but your dog will always do what you dog does when it comes to food – look for more.
It requires a certain amount of personal discipline not to give in to the sad eyes or schmoozing up that is the instinctive characteristic of dogs. If you are someone who is weak in this regard it may be best not to give the dog any sardines at all. Though there are significant health benefits that go along with the fishies, the tendency for many people is to see their size and think they are so small 5 or 6 won’t be a problem. But that’s when the problems can start.
Sardines are a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have. Their benefits to your dog far outweigh the negatives, but we all know what happens when we have too much of a good thing.