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Is canned tuna OK to feed dogs?

Canned tuna is one of those human foods that many dog owners wonder about feeding to their pets. On one hand, tuna is a source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are nutrients dogs need in their diet. On the other hand, there are some potential risks with feeding tuna to dogs. So is canned tuna safe for dogs to eat or not?

The short answer is yes, dogs can eat canned tuna, but it shouldn’t make up a large part of their diet. Canned tuna has some nutritional benefits for dogs, but it also contains high amounts of sodium and mercury, which can be harmful in large quantities. As an occasional treat or supplement, canned tuna is fine for most dogs. But it shouldn’t become a dietary staple or make up more than 10% of their total caloric intake.

Below is a more in-depth look at the pros and cons of feeding canned tuna to dogs and guidelines on how much is safe to feed.

Nutritional Value of Canned Tuna for Dogs

Here is an overview of the key nutrients found in canned tuna:


Tuna contains high-quality protein, which provides dogs with amino acids they need for muscle development, tissue repair, energy, and immune function. The protein in tuna is very digestible for dogs. A 3 oz serving of canned light tuna contains about 22 grams of protein.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Canned tuna, especially albacore (white) tuna, is relatively high in omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These are anti-inflammatory fats that support dogs’ skin, coat, joint, heart, and brain health.

Vitamins and Minerals

Tuna provides several vitamins and minerals dogs need in their diet, such as:

– Vitamin B3 (niacin)
– Vitamin B6
– Vitamin B12
– Phosphorus
– Magnesium
– Potassium
– Selenium

However, the vitamin and mineral content can vary widely depending on the specific type and brand of canned tuna. Overall, tuna contains moderate amounts of most essential vitamins and minerals.

So in terms of its nutrient profile, canned tuna can be a healthy supplemental food for dogs. It provides high-quality protein, beneficial omega-3s, and a decent array of vitamins and minerals. However, there are also some risks with feeding tuna to dogs, discussed next.

Potential Risks of Feeding Dogs Canned Tuna

Here are some of the main concerns with using canned tuna as a significant part of your dog’s diet:

High Sodium Content

Like many canned foods made for human consumption, canned tuna contains very high amounts of sodium, often 300-500 mg per serving. Over time, a diet high in sodium can put strain on dogs’ hearts and lead to hypertension. Dogs with heart disease are especially susceptible to sodium overload.

High Mercury Risk

As large predatory fish, tuna can accumulate mercury in their bodies from the smaller fish they consume. In humans, high mercury intake is associated with neurological damage. While the effects of mercury poisoning take longer to manifest in dogs, it is still not safe for them to ingest high doses of mercury frequently through tuna. Albacore (white) tuna has 3 times the mercury level compared to light tuna.

Nutritional Imbalances

If tuna makes up a major part of a dog’s diet, it could lead to imbalances or deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals. Tuna is high in phosphorus but low in calcium, so excessive tuna could disrupt the balance of these minerals. Prolonged tuna feeding may not provide adequate levels of nutrients like iron, vitamin E, and vitamin C compared to a balanced commercial dog food.

Gastrointestinal Upset

Some dogs may experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea after eating canned tuna, especially if they are not used to fish in their diet. The high fat content of tuna could be problematic for dogs prone to pancreatitis. Introduce tuna in small amounts to avoid GI upset.

So while the occasional tuna treat or supplement is fine for most healthy dogs, feeding tuna-based meals long-term is not recommended due to the risks outlined above. Moderation is key when it comes to tuna.

How Much Canned Tuna Can Dogs Eat?

The general guideline is that canned tuna should not make up more than 10% of a dog’s total daily calories. A few ounces 1-3 times per week is a reasonable amount in most cases. The exact safe portion size for tuna depends on your dog’s weight and caloric needs. Here are some general tuna feeding guidelines based on dog size:

For small dogs (

– Maximum of 1⁄2 can (2.5 oz) per week
– Or about 1-2 tablespoons max 1-3 times per week

For medium dogs (20-50 lbs):

– Maximum of 1 can (5 oz) per week
– Or about 1⁄4 can (1.5 oz) 1-3 times per week

For large dogs (> 50 lbs):

– Maximum of 1 1⁄2 cans (7.5 oz) per week
– Or about 1⁄3 can (2.5 oz) 1-3 times per week

As long as tuna intake is limited to these conservative amounts, most healthy dogs should be able to handle it without issues. Still, consult your veterinarian for personalized feeding advice, especially for dogs with medical conditions. And always introduce new foods gradually to check for food intolerances.

Best Practices When Feeding Tuna to Dogs

If you want to share some of your tuna salad sandwich with your dog or stir a spoonful of tuna juice into their kibble, here are some tips to do it as safely as possible:

– Choose low-sodium varieties and rinse the tuna before serving to reduce excess salt.
– Opt for light tuna over white albacore tuna to limit mercury exposure.
– Mix tuna with dog food rather than serving it on its own so they still get a balanced diet.
– Avoid tuna packed in oil, which can cause pancreatitis. Instead, choose tuna canned in water.
– Introduce tuna in small amounts at first (a spoonful) to gauge tolerance.
– Make tuna an occasional treat or topper, not a regular meal.
– Consult your vet if your dog has medical issues before feeding tuna.
– Don’t exceed the recommended tuna serving sizes based on your dog’s size.
– Avoid letting your dog lick out the tuna can, which could introduce sharp edges that cut their tongue.

As long as you follow these tips, tuna can be a healthy supplement in most dogs’ diets. Just don’t rely on it as a main meal every day.

Can Dogs Eat Tuna Daily or Long-Term?

It’s not recommended to feed dogs tuna daily or as a major part of their diet long-term. The risks of excessive mercury exposure, sodium overload, nutrient imbalances, and GI issues are too high when tuna is fed regularly in large amounts.

While tuna is okay as an occasional treat or topper, dogs should primarily eat dog food formulated to meet all of their nutritional needs for complete and balanced nutrition. Tuna is not a well-rounded diet for dogs when used as a staple protein source.

Stick to the guidelines of less than 10% of your dog’s total calories coming from tuna to avoid health problems. For smaller dogs, a weekly tuna meal or two is plenty. Larger dogs can handle a bit more tuna, but it’s still best reserved for special occasions.

Best Dog Foods With Tuna

If you want to provide your dog the benefits of tuna more regularly without the risks of excessive tuna intake, consider a commercial dog food formula that contains tuna as one of the ingredients. Here are some top-rated dog foods with tuna:

Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dry Dog Food. Features salmon and ocean fish like tuna as the main protein sources. Contains tuna meal rather than straight tuna to reduce mercury risk. Has added vitamins/minerals for balance.

American Journey Salmon & Tuna Recipe Grain-Free Canned Dog Food. Combines tuna and salmon. Contains carrageenan as a thickener, which some dogs tolerate better than other canned food thickeners.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Denali Dinner Wet Dog Food. Made with wild-caught Alaskan salmon, tuna, halibut, and lake trout. Has added vitamins, minerals, and nutritious carbohydrates like peas and sweet potatoes.

Canidae Pure Sea Limited Ingredient Canned Dog Food. A simple but nutritious formula featuring wild-caught tuna as the sole animal protein source. Contains easily digestible carbohydrates.

Purina Pro Plan SAVOR Shredded Blend Salmon & Tuna Adult Dry Dog Food. Salmon and tuna complement lean chicken as the first ingredients. Dried tuna extract adds flavor. Fortified with probiotics and nutrients.

Choosing a high-quality commercial dog food that includes tuna can allow your dog to regularly enjoy the benefits of tuna in a balanced diet. Look for recipes specially formulated for dogs with tuna included in moderation alongside other nutritious ingredients.

Can Dogs Eat Tuna Everyday? Conclusion

In conclusion, incorporating some tuna into your dog’s diet occasionally is fine, but tuna should not be fed every day or become a major staple. While tuna provides protein, omega-3s, and other nutrients, too much can lead to mercury poisoning, nutritional imbalances, sodium overdose, and other problems.

Limit tuna to less than 10% of your dog’s total calorie intake. Follow the maximum weekly serving limits based on your dog’s size. Choose lower-sodium, water-packed light tuna when possible. Mix tuna with their regular dog food instead of tuna-only meals. And introduce tuna slowly while watching for any digestive issues.

For a more consistent way to provide tuna’s benefits, look for quality commercial dog foods containing moderate amounts of tuna as one ingredient in a balanced formula. Or save tuna for the occasional treat. But it’s best to keep it out of your dog’s regular diet plan. With some precautions, the majority of dogs can safely and enjoyably eat tuna in moderation.