Sardines are a tiny fish with a very big nutrient profile! In fact, they’re often called one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. They’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids (perhaps their claim to fame), protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium, calcium, and the list goes on. While there’s a buzz around the many health benefits, today’s question is: Can dogs eat sardines?
Short answer: Absolutely!
A Little About Sardines
Sardines are small, oily forage fish that belong to the herring or Clupeidae family. While many fish in the sea are contaminated with mercury and other toxins, that’s not really an issue with these little guys. Sardines are considered to be very low in contaminants due to their low spot on the food-chain (they only feed on plankton) and small size.
A Look At The Nutritional Value
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one sardine packs about:
(Note: The numbers below reflect one individual sardine – not one can)
- Protein – 2.9g
- Total fat – 1.3g
- Calcium – 45.8mg
- Iron – 0.35mg
- Magnesium – 4.68mg
- Phosphorus – 58.8mg
- Potassium – 47.6mg
- Sodium – 36.8mg
- Zinc – 0.157mg
- Selenium – 6.32µg
- Folate – 1.2µg
- Vitamin A – 3.84µg
- Vitamin B-12 – 1.07µg
- Vitamin D – 0.576µg
- Vitamin K – 0.312µg
The Health Benefits Of Sardines
When looking at the health benefits of sardines (for both humans and canines), experts shine a spotlight on their omega-3 fats. These fatty acids help fight inflammation and are linked to heart health, brain function, kidney health, eye health, healthy skin and coat, and more.
- Anti-Inflammatory – Chronic inflammation is at the root of nearly all diseases. In fact, cancer, arthritis, and digestive disease are all linked to inflammation (in humans and dogs). Good news: Fish that are high in omega-3 fats and low in mercury, like sardines, are said to be a great choice for lowering inflammation in the body.
- Strong Immune System – Sardines tout various vitamins and minerals that help support a strong immune system.
- Heart Health – Omega-3s are linked to improved heart function.
- Brain Power – Omega-3s are also linked to improved cognitive health. In one study done with 48 Beagle puppies, researchers found puppies fed diets enriched with omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) had improved cognitive, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions.
- Eye Health – Speaking of retinal function, the omega-3 fats and vitamin A in sardines are also great for vision and eye health.
- Kidney Health: It’s widely reported that certain types of fat – polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids – can help slow the decline of kidney function in dogs with chronic kidney disease. With that said, omega-3 fatty acids can be increased by offering your dog proper supplements or, better yet, by feeding them foods such as sardines. *If your dog suffers from chronic kidney disease, speak with your vet about the proper diet for your dog’s unique needs!
- Digestive Health: Yet another benefit of omega-3s! Sardines are said to be a great constipation reliever.
- Ease Joint Pain: Giving your dog a good dose of omega-3s can be a natural way of decreasing inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. Plus, it can help relieve mild stiffness and improve mobility.
- Great for Skin & Coat – Dietary deficiency of omega-3s can cause excessively flaky skin in our pets. The nutrients in sardines help promote healthy skin and a shiny coat.
What To Look For When Buying Sardines For Dogs
When in the grocery store, you’ll find tins of sardines packed in water, oil, and tomato sauce. You may also find packs in mustard, hot sauce, and other flavorings.
When buying sardines for dogs, look for a pack that’s:
- In water
- No extra salt added
- Plain – no additional flavorings
- Skinless and boneless
How To Feed Sardines To Your Pooch
Since sardines pack a big nutritional punch, a little goes a long way. One whole sardine a couple of times a week is great!
Before I started feeding my dogs The Farmer’s Dog, I was home-cooking. In my meals, I always added a sardine. While not a main source of protein, if you’re home-cooking, sardines are a great way to boost omega-3 fats and other essential vitamins and minerals.
If you’re not home-cooking then you can still bust open a can of sardines and use as a food topper of a wonderful treat. Either:
- Give your pooch a sardine straight out of the can.
- Mix sardines with an egg and a little almond flour to create sardine burgers. Check out my Fish Paws recipe HERE to see how simple they are to make.
- Mash and mix a sardine with other dog-friendly foods to create a healthy KONG stuffer. Watch for my 3-step method:
- Dehydrate sardines either in a dehydrator or the oven to make a healthy, crispy fish chip!
Get More Doggy Food Facts
This feature on sardines is part of a weekly web series called Food Facts Friday. Every Friday, we share foods that are great for our canine companions. Check out other foods highlighted in this series HERE!