Can Dogs Eat Eel? (A Comprehensive Guide to Benefits, Risks & Preparation)

can dogs eat eel

I have a phobia of snakes. A very bad phobia. I can’t even stand the sight of anything that resembles a serpent. So imagine the fear when I tried eel for the first time.

To my surprise, eel tastes a lot better than it looks and it is rich in nutrients too

It does seem like eels could be a good addition to your dog’s diet but are they?

Dogs can eat eels in moderation but the eel has to be properly prepared before consumption. Eels contain a large number of bones and their blood can be toxic to both humans and dogs. Never give your dog raw eel.

In this article, we will provide a thorough analysis of letting your dog eat eel and precautions to consider.

What Is An Eel?

If you have a diving license, you would have probably seen a number of eels on your dive.

But the eel family consists of many species, ranging from freshwater to saltwater eels.

An eel belongs to the order Anguilliformes and there are more than 800 species of eels in the world.

Eels are nocturnal predators and prey on smaller fish and crustaceans.

Most of us a familiar with the electric eel but they aren’t that great as a meal due to a large number of bones and lack of meat.

The most commonly eaten eel is Unagi or freshwater eel which you can find in many Japanese restaurants.

Nutrional Value Of Eel

Here’s the nutritional breakdown for 100g of eel:

Calories: 234cal

Protein: 23.5g

Fat: 14.7g

Carbs: 0g

Sodium: 63mg

Cholesterol: 161mg

Can Dogs Eat Eel?

There isn’t much of a problem if you do wish to feed your dog eel. Based on the nutritional values of eel, your dog can derive some health benefits from it.

But eel meat isn’t part of your dog’s natural diet even though it is high in protein.

You will still need to moderate the amount of eel and know how to prepare it which I will be covering further down.

The Benefits Of Eel For Dogs

There are definitely some health benefits one can get from eating eel.

However, there aren’t any concrete studies done about the benefits in animals.

But since dogs and humans are both mammals and require the same nutrients to stay alive and healthy, we can extrapolate the potential benefits to dogs.

High In Protein

When I plan to give my dog something as a treat, being high in protein is definitely a big plus.

Dogs are direct descendants of wolves which makes them carnivores.

The best diet for them is one that is high in animal protein.

Even though eels aren’t considered animal meat, the high protein content makes them more digestible.

Good Source Of Omega-3

“The best type of omega-3 to give your dog is EPA and DHA…”

Omega-3 is a fatty acid that is considered essential as mammals cannot synthesize it naturally.

Both humans and dogs need to get it from our food sources.

Omega 3 is known to be a potent nutrient that helps with physical development and inflammation.

There are 3 types of Omega 3s:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid which is a plant-based omega-3 found in foods like flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and some vegetable oils
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which is found in fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring, and anchovies
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is also primarily found in fatty fish

The best type of omega-3 to give your dog is EPA and DHA as dogs are not able to utilize ALA in their body.

Benefits of omega-3 for dogs include:

  • Supporting brain development of puppies
  • Better skin and coat health
  • Supports arthritis and joint pain management
  • Lower the risk of cancer
  • Stronger immune system
  • Lower the risk of heart disease

Good Source Of Vitamins

Eels are rich in vitamins A and B12 which are both important nutrients for dogs.

Vitamin A helps to maintain healthy eyesight, especially in low-light conditions. It also helps to support your dog’s immune system and has antioxidant properties.

Vitamin B12 is important in helping to support your dog’s nervous system, red blood cell formation and metabolic processes.

Risks And Concerns Of Feeding Eel To Dogs

smoked eel

Although eel meat can make a good addition, there are still some things that you need to be aware of.

Eel Is High In Fat

As mentioned in the nutritional values, eel meat has a high-fat content.

100g of eel has close to 15g of fat. Chicken breast of that same amount only contains 6.2g of fat.

Some fat in your dog’s diet is required but avoid feeding your canine friend fatty food on a regular basis.

Too much fat in your dog’s diet can lead to health issues such as:

  • Canine obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Joint pain

Raw Eel Is Toxic

“This toxin can cause muscle cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death…”

Eel blood is toxic and a small amount is enough to cause a lot of damage to a living thing.

This is what discourages other predators from eating eels in the wild.

It contains a toxic protein called ichthyotoxin which means ‘fish poisons’.

When ingested, this toxin can cause muscle cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death in some cases from cardiac arrest.

The only way to remove this toxic protein from eels is to only feed your dog cooked eel.

One more thing to note is to not feed raw fish to your dog as it contains an enzyme called Thiaminase which interferes with the absorption of vitamin B.

Eel Contains Moderate Levels Of Mercury

There’s no escaping the ingestion of mercury when we consume seafood food or marine life.

Mercury is present in our lakes and seas.

Fishes that live long lives or prey on other marine life tend to have higher levels of mercury in them.

A study in Japan was conducted to ascertain the mercury levels in eels. Eel meat was found to contain 0.21 ppm of mercury1.

The mercury level of eel falls somewhere in the middle range when compared to other commercial fish and shellfish.

It has higher mercury levels than some fish like salmon and tilapia but lower levels than fish like swordfish and sharks.

I wouldn’t consider this to be dangerous for your dog but feeding it fish with lower mercury levels like salmon or sardines might be a better long-term alternative to eel.

How Do I Prepare Eel For My Dog?

You should be able to buy eel fillets from the market or grocery store.

There first thing that you need to do is remove all the eel skin, bones and dried blood from the fillets.

When cooking the eel, you do not have to use any form of seasoning for your dog.

Make sure that the eel is thoroughly cooked before feeding it.

I wouldn’t recommend feeding eel on a daily basis.

It should take up not more than 5-10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake.


References

1. Residues of total mercury and methyl mercury in eel products

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