Can Dogs Eat Fish Heads? (To Feed Or Not To Feed)

can dogs eat fish heads

Do you know that in some cuisines, fish heads are known to be a delicacy? It can be cooked in curry or a hotpot and it’s usually craved after by many as opposed to body meat. Many of us tend to throw the fish head away and cook the body.

The head of a fish is tastier and more tender in texture as it is more concentrated in fats.

As delicious as fish heads are, can our dogs eat fish heads safely?

Dogs can eat fish heads as fish heads are rich in protein, omega 3 fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. However, do not feed your dog raw fish heads. Raw fish heads contain an enzyme that can interfere with the absorption of vitamin B in your dog’s body. This can cause health issues in the long term.

In this article, we will be looking at the pros and cons of feeding your dog fish head and the best way to prepare it for your pooch.

Are Fish Heads Safe For Dogs?

If you are currently feeding your dog fish heads or plan to, it is generally safe to do so as long as you stick to certain guidelines.

The two things that you should not do is to not let your dog eat raw fish heads or cooked fish bones.

I will be covering these two points in greater detail further down the article.

A fish head is something that you can add to your dog’s diet every now and then for some variety.

It isn’t a type of meat that should be given to your dog on a regular basis as it isn’t part of your dog’s natural diet.

Our dogs have evolved from wolves which makes them carnivores. Carnivores are animals that need meat to thrive.

Feeding your dog animal protein needs to be its main diet and not fish meat.

You might argue that fish is also considered meat but unlike bears, you don’t find wild dogs camping by the river or stream hunting for fish.

Health Benefits Of Fish Heads For Dogs

fish heads

Besides being a good source of protein for dogs, there are other health benefits that your dog can derive from the occasional fish head.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an important vitamin when it comes to your dog’s growth and overall well-being. It isn’t a vitamin that your dog can produce on its own and needs to be supplemented in your dog’s diet.

Vitamin A in dogs helps with:

  • Repair and regenerate tissue
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Promotes healthy vision
  • Promotes strong bones
  • A good source of antioxidants

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Ever since I was young, my parents were always bugging me to eat as much fish as possible. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of fish especially when it is steamed.

I find it kind of slimy.

It tastes a lot better to me when fish is grilled or fried.

Anyways, fish is good for us and our pets because it is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which is considered a healthy fat.

Omega 3 is the building block for a healthy life as it helps with many of our bodily functions.

The benefits of omega 3 include:

  • Support immune system in dogs (especially puppies)
  • Improve cognitive functions and brain health
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Improves dog’s skin and fur
  • Improves mobility in older dogs

Similar to vitamin A, Omega 3 can’t be naturally produced by your dog and needs to be supplemented.

Iron And Zinc

We don’t really think much about minerals such as iron and zinc when it comes to important nutrients for our dogs.

But these minerals definitely do have an important place in your dog’s diet.

Iron helps with the production of new red blood cells to replace the cells that are destroyed. This allows oxygen to be more effectively transported in the dog’s body.

Similar to iron zinc also plays an important role in your dog’s health.

Zinc helps to support healthy skin and coat, is involved in the production of hormones, supports better eyesight, improves the healing of wounds, etc.

Can You Feed Dogs Raw Fish Head?

Despite the health benefits that your dog can get from eating fish heads, feeding your dog raw fish heads isn’t healthy over time.

There is an enzyme called Thiaminase that is present in the flesh of raw fish and shellfish. This enzyme breaks down Thiamine or vitamin B1 in your dog’s body.

It might not seem like that big of a problem but it can start to spell danger for your dog if it consumes raw fish heads frequently.

The enzyme Thiaminase will break down and destroy the vitamin B1 in your dog’s diet even before it can be absorbed. Vitamin B1 is an essential vitamin which means that it can’t be naturally synthesized and needs to be supplemented.

Vitamin B1 helps with the metabolism of carbohydrates which is required by the dog’s brain and other major organs.

Symptoms of Thiamine deficiency in dogs include:

  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Increased heart rate

Thiamine deficiency is a serious health condition and can be fatal if left untreated for too long.

If your dog has been eating raw fish and is starting to show the above symptoms, please take it to the vet immediately for medical treatment.

Besides fish, eel is starting to become a popular treat for dogs due to its high nutrient content. But do not feed your dog raw eel as it is known to be toxic.

What Fishes Can Dogs Eat?

When choosing a fish for your dog, some fishes are more beneficial than others.

The first thing that you should do is to go for fish that contain very little to no Thiaminase at all.

These fishes include:

  • Cod fish
  • Bass
  • Halibut
  • Salmon
  • Pollack
  • Trout
  • Smelt
  • Mackerel

Many dog owners prefer feeding catfish as it is cheap and rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well.

Another point to note is to avoid fishes that contain high levels of mercury in them. Mercury is a metal that is present in the air and water.

Fishes tend to absorb mercury from the seawater and the food that they eat. The higher up the fish is in the food chain, the higher the levels of mercury it has.

Fishes that are high in mercury include:

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Grouper
  • Tuna

Too much mercury in your dog can lead to mercury poisoning which can effect its brain and vital organs.

Unlike Thiaminase, mercury in fish cannot be eliminated with heat.

Salmon heads are very popular with many dog owners due to the low mercury levels and absence of Thiaminase.

How To Cook Fish Heads for Dogs?

cooked fish head

Before giving your dog a fish head to eat, you have to ensure that the Thiaminase enzyme has been properly eliminated. And the best way to do this is by cooking the fish head.

You don’t have to deep fry the entire fish head to neutralize this enzyme.

Boiling or steaming the fish to ensure that it is properly cooked through is more than sufficient.

During the cooking process, you don’t have to add any other ingredients or seasoning to make it tastier for your dog.

If your dog likes the taste of fish, you can keep the water that you boil the fish head in and use it as fish broth. Adding some broth to your dog’s food can help with its water intake and increase the appetite of sick dogs.

Can Dogs Eat Fish Bones?

Your down will be fine even if it ate raw fish head a couple of times but one thing that you should never do is to allow your dog to eat cooked fish bones.

Cooked bones are very hard and brittle and can break very easily.

Given how fish bones are shaped, they can cause a lot of damage to your dog’s mouth and internal organs.

When preparing a fish head for my dog, I wouldn’t allow him to just eat the entire fish head. I will remove the flesh and all the edible parts before serving it to him.

Bones should only be fed raw to your dog to ensure that it is safe to eat.

Do Dogs Like Fish Heads?

It is one of those things that you need to let your dog try to find out. I’ve tested it out on both my cat and dog and my dog seems to prefer eating fish heads more than my cat.

I would think that most dogs are fine with fish even though it is not part of their natural diet. however, your dog might be particular about the type of fish so some trial and error might be required.

Can Dogs Eat Fish Organs?

Personally, I’ve never fed fish organs to my dog before. But I know that fish liver is eaten quite commonly by some people.

I do tend to stay away from the organ meat of animals/fishes that I’m not very aware of as the organs can be poisonous or contain parasites.

The puffer fish, for example, contains toxins that are found in its liver, skin and muscles. Ingesting the toxin can cause severe adverse reactions.

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