Can Dogs Eat Mackerel?

They say that dogs do not look to their masters for guidance, but merely mimic them. If this were true I would be free of responsibility for my dog’s actions and could relax in luxury. However, I know it is a myth.

This is because of the mackerel incident.

Can dogs eat mackerel? Well, my pup has a strong appetite and the only thing she loves as much as barking is eating… so we’re perfectly fine with feeding her mackerel to eat over the years.

I think the popularity of mackerel amongst pet owners might be due to its high protein content, but in fact there are fish out there that also provide protein like mackerel does, and they are fine for dogs to eat.

Back to My Story…

One day, after my pup refused to eat her food and acted restless, I was worried that something was wrong with her. I gave her a bath and checked under her paws, but I couldn’t find anything.

Her energy also remained just above normal levels. I then decided to take her to the vet for a physical checkup. The vet told me that she was experiencing lower abdominal pain. From the symptoms, she deduced that the problem came from eating too much food containing high levels of mercury.

Could it be from the mackerel I’ve been feeding her? Let me break this down and share what I’ve gathered from our experience.

What is Mackerel?

Mackerel is a fish that belongs to the family of Scombridae. It is also known as “horse mackerel” and “sport fish”. It is an oily fish, meaning it contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which are good for your dog’s joints, coat, and skin. You may even see it labeled as “sardine” in some pet stores.

Health Advantages of Mackerel for Dogs

Is mackerel good for dogs? When fed to your pup in the right amounts, mackerel is a great source of protein for your dog, with about 25% being protein by weight.


It also contains B vitamins (including B12), selenium, iron and phosphorus. While these nutrients can be beneficial to your dog’s health, too much mackerel could cause stomach problems like diarrhea or constipation if consumed in excess amounts daily over time.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells and DNA synthesis. It also helps to maintain proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. Deficiency in this vitamin can lead to anemia, memory loss, and depression. Dogs get their supply of vitamin B12 from meat products such as fish, poultry, and beef liver.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for dogs as well as humans. It helps to regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the diet which can help strengthen bones, prevent diseases like osteoporosis, rickets, neuromuscular problems and other skeletal disorders.

Vitamin D is also essential for normal functioning of our immune system. Vitamin D also helps to improve your dog’s mood and make them feel more relaxed.


Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that your dog needs to have in his diet in order to stay healthy. It helps keep his coat shiny and soft, it helps him maintain good muscle tone, and it also helps boost his immune system.

And since mackerel is one of the few foods that contain omega-3 fats (the others are salmon, sardines, tuna, herring), it’s a great addition to your dog’s diet.

Risks of Feeding Mackerel for Dogs

Mackerel is high in mercury and other toxins. Mercury is a heavy metal that can cause neurological damage in dogs. It also causes damage to the kidneys and liver, which can result in organ failure or death if left untreated.

mackerel in a white container

These toxins are found in all types of fish but are especially concentrated in those that tend to swim near the surface like tuna or salmon (both of which are also bad for dogs).

Here are other risks associated with feeding dogs mackerel:

  • Dogs who are pregnant or nursing should not eat mackerel because it could cause them to go into labor prematurely or cause their puppies to be born with birth defects or developmental delays.
  • If you feed your dog too much mackerel at once, they could experience an upset stomach or diarrhea as a result of its high fat content.
  • Some dogs don’t like the taste of mackerel and won’t eat it if they’re given it on its own, as opposed to mixed in with other foods like canned dog food or treats like peanut butter biscuits (which can mask the taste).

How Much Mackerel Fish Can a Dog Consume?

It’s recommended that you feed your dog about one teaspoon of mackerel per day if you’re thinking of including it as a part of their regular diet—and only once every couple weeks at most!

If you’re going to feed this type of fish more often than once every two weeks, then it needs to be well-cooked first, because raw mackerel contains dangerous levels of mercury which can cause severe damage if consumed.

Is Mackerel Safe for Allergy-prone Dogs?

While it’s true that mackerel is high in beneficial nutrients and vitamins, it’s important to know that your dog might be allergic to this fish. If your pet suffers from skin allergies, then you should avoid feeding them mackerel.

Here’s why: Mackerel can cause an immediate reaction on your dog’s skin. Itchy skin is one of the most common symptoms reported by people who have allergies or sensitivities to fish. Your dog may also experience redness and irritation around his paws, ears or mouth area after eating mackerel.

Some dogs develop gastrointestinal problems after eating mackerel, such as vomiting or diarrhea. This could be due to a sensitivity to the fish itself or because they’re not used to eating fish on a regular basis (which can cause digestive issues).

Packed Like Sardines: Answers Your Frequently Asked Questions

Can Dogs Consume Canned Mackerel?

Can dogs eat canned mackerel? Canned mackerel is a great source of protein, but it’s also high in fat and sodium. This means you should feed your dog a small amount at a time and make sure he doesn’t have too much over the course of the day.

small dog walking on the beach

Is Spanish mackerel safe to eat? Yes, but like I said, it’s important to keep track of how much your dog eats, because too much sodium can lead to dehydration or even kidney failure.

In addition, too much fat can cause pancreatitis and obesity—which can lead to heart disease and diabetes. If your dog eats canned mackerel regularly, you should do regular blood work to check for these conditions before they become serious problems.

If you’re wondering if other types of fish would be more friendly to your pup’s tummy, here is a post I wrote specifically about catfish, can dogs eat catfish.

Can Dogs Consume Mackerel Bones?

Does mackerel have bones, and can dogs consume it?

Dogs can consume mackerel without any issues, but you need to make sure they don’t eat the bones.

If you’re feeding your dog mackerel in its original form—that is, as a whole fish—you should remove the head and tail before serving it to your dog. If you’re feeding your dog canned mackerel, check the label to make sure there aren’t any bones in there.

If you have a pet that likes to chew on things or has digestive issues, avoid giving him or her mackerel altogether. The bones can cause choking or intestinal blockages, which could be very dangerous for your dog.

Can Dogs Eat Mackerel in Olive Oil?

Yes, dogs can eat mackerel in olive oil. If you’re feeding your dog mackerel in olive oil, make sure that you’re using a high-quality brand that’s been canned in reliable facilities where there are no cross-contamination risks. You should also be sure to keep an eye on the amount of oil in the can—you don’t want too much or too little.


There you have it. Now you know and I know, too, that dogs can eat mackerel safely and that it tastes good. There are, however, several points to take into consideration: Mackerel has mercury, which can affect the nervous system.

Overall, while also a vitally important nutrient source, it’s very unlikely to cause any major disease or health problem either. Just make sure you’re buying the right type, having your pup consume it in moderation, and keeping an eye on what your pup is digesting under your watchful eye.

For more posts on what dogs can (or cannot) eat, check out these posts can dogs eat goldfish snacks and can dogs eat oysters.

Photo of author

Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

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