A dog licking his lips and eating out of a bowl.
A dog licking his lips and eating out of a bowl. Photography ©chendongshan | Thinkstock.

Can Dogs Eat Sardines?

We know you're thinking ... sardines for dogs? Can dogs eat sardines? It turns out this flavorful little fish has big nutritional value for people AND dogs. Let’s talk about why sardines are good for dogs, how to feed them to your dogs — and a few words of caution when it comes to sardines for dogs.
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Sardines for dogs? Yep, everyone in my animal house adores canned sardines. In fact, I’m not sure who loves them more— the dogs, the cats or me! I also appreciate the fact that you can buy sardines practically anywhere, at any time of the day or night. This is why I recommend stockpiling cans of sardines for dogs — and for other members of your household — in the event that a natural disaster strikes.

Sardines by Shutterstock.
Sardines for dogs? Let’s find out the details! Photography by rubensantos / Shutterstock.

Why sardines for dogs? What nutrition do sardines offer for dogs?

So, why consider sardines for dogs? It’s rare when a treat this tasty and convenient is also packed with beneficial nutrients.

“Sardines may be small, but they’re mighty when it comes to pet nutrition,” says nutrition counselor Celia Kutcher, aka the Food Healer. Actually, this fish’s petite size is a big plus. “Since sardines are small, they tend to have far less mercury than larger fish, which makes them an ideal choice for people, too.”

Here’s why sardines for dogs are healthy: “Sardines are full of omega-3 fatty acids and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10),” Kutcher says. “The fatty acids have many health benefits, like cancer prevention, reducing inflammation, and keeping the immune system strong. CoQ10 supports a healthy heart and circulation. The fatty acids also help brain development, which makes them good for puppies and kittens.”

CoQ10, aka Ubiquinol, is also excellent for preventing dental disease in canines, felines and humans.

Some words of caution when it comes to sardines for dogs

One caveat when we’re talking sardines for dogs: Skip sardines slathered in sauce — such as oil, mustard or ketchup — and check the ingredient panel for the lowest-sodium specimens available.

“When buying sardines, make sure to always buy wild-caught, packed in water,” Kutcher cautions. “There’s no need for more oil, salt or any other ingredients — some of them could be harmful. Also, sardines should not be fed daily, as too much fish can form crystals in cats.”

What to know when it comes to serving sardines to dogs

Another thing to keep in mind when talking sardines for dogs — one small sardine contains about 25 calories and 175 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, which can be a pretty substantial treat for dogs. To cut back on the calories, cut sardines for dogs up into a few pieces. “If you have a larger pet, give them more proportionally,” she advises. “A cat can go with half a sardine. No worries about the bones, for dogs or cats — they’re safe, and will supply some calcium as well.” If you’re still worried about the bones, cutting the sardines into small pieces will help.

When you start giving your pets and new foods (like sardines), always start slowly and with a small amount. They should not cause stomach upset, but it’s better to be safe than have a sick pet.

“If you feed your pet too many sardines, they may develop a fishy smell,” says Kutcher. “If that’s the case, reduce the amount and frequency of feeding sardines.” You could also feed a loving spoonful of coconut oil as a chaser, to counteract that pungent, oceanic odor.

More fun facts about sardines for dogs

The water the sardines are packed in also makes an excellent, flavorful gravy for dog or cat food. No less a health authority than integrative medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weil pours sardine juice over his dogs’ kibble. My dogs love it when I soup up their kibble with sardine juice, plus a dash or two of turmeric, which has its own lovely health benefits.

Sardine juice is also great for masking the unpalatable smell of hard-to-swallow medications, Kutcher adds: “If you need to pill your pet, you can crush up the tablets and mix it with the liquid. That usually works.”

Tell us: Sardines for dogs: have you ever fed them to your pup? What was his reaction? Please share in the comments!

Thumbnail: Photography ©chendongshan | Thinkstock.

This piece was originally published in 2017.

Read more about other human foods for dogs:

80 thoughts on “Can Dogs Eat Sardines?”

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  14. I feed my girl frozen fresh sardines twice a week whole. And she loves them! Was worried about bones but was told they should be okay. I used to get the tinned sardines in olive oil or springwater but found the sardines were too mushy and sometime the oil would go rancid. So now I’ve gone fresh local sardines. And they are bigger than the tiddlers in tins.

  15. Should I feed my 3 year old Husky male dog Sardines in water or oils of some kind. How many and how often should I do this, every day, once a week . THANK you for your help

  16. Is it safe to feed dogs the canned sardines with tomatoes sauce? I feed my dog (Kings Charles) this every day with kibble. I’ve tried her on all other sardines and this is the only one she likes. Very picky eater so thankful I’ve found something she will eat but unsure if it’s not safe or healthy for her.

  17. I have two Golden Retrievers – we have “Sardine Saturday” at our house – I open a can of sardines on Saturday morning & split it THREE ways. I get a piece also. The Girls love it on their Saturday Morning food.

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  19. I make my own dog food for 2 adopted pups for past year cause they wouldn’t eat. It started off with brown rice and chicken when one was diagnosed with heart worms. I have added safe vegetables, quinoa, apples, pumpkin and can’t find one they love. I will try sardines this week, they love salmon jerky. Any recipe ideas for picky eaters?

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  21. My Westies like the sardines with oil better than the ones in water. Maybe its the smell. Is soybean oil bad for dogs?

    1. Are you unable to get medication to deworm your pups? A vet can look at their stool and the medication to deworm should be pretty cheap, unless you’re talking about heartworm.

  22. I feed my Doberman a water- packed Sardine a day in one of his two daily meals, switching between Sardines, Salmon and Chicken. He loves all three of these “add ins” and our daily 6 – 8 mile walks keep him in great shape. I read that Sardines, Salmon and Chicken are good sources of Taurine and with all the concern over Taurine levels I decided these “add ins” would boost his nutrition and make him happy at the same time!

    1. I too am worried about taurine, I have a 77 lb lab. I have chicken hearts and now sardines. Any qty to feed on either selection?

  23. My Boxer/Pointer mix LOVES sardines packed in spring water; knows the shape of the can; and, goes BERZERK the second she sees one. She loves them so much that I have to conceal the cans and distract her when I put them in the cupboard, because otherwise, we have a full-scale riot of whining, then prancing, then whimpering, then if all else fails, loud repetitive barking demands for her favorite treat. Its adorable, and I give her about three cans a week instead of other kinds of food treats. Always try to surprise her, but she seems to be able to hear the pop of the can being opened; or, smell the contents, even from upstairs.

    I’m not sure if three cans a week is “too much” for a 65 lb. dog, but at fourteen years old, she is what the vet describes as “very athletic”. Her vet also advised me that Boxer breeds rarely live past 10 years of age, due to a pre-disposition to heart problems. Not sure whether her appetite for fish; or, daily 2-5 mile walks is responsible for her longevity, but the sardines certainly don’t seem to hurt!

  24. I have 4 westie and they have canned sardines for there breakfast with there kibble every other Day I use two tins between the four and there all fine

  25. I feed my tall young Newfoundland twice daily, 1.5 cups of Fromm Large Breed and either 1/3 can of water packed sardines (fish size various), or equivalent amount of mackerel, natural tripe, heart, or occasional yogurt, with human grade sockeye salmon oil on the days he doesn’t have fish. (also cooked green beans for filler) But his happiest day was when I dropped almost a whole can of mackerel on his kibble by accident and decided to let it go. Nothing like his ancestral diet!

  26. Pingback: Sardines for Dogs? Can Dogs Eat Sardines? – therightpuppy.com

  27. For me it is common sense when I feed my dogs I give them sardines, brown rice and blended mixed vegetables or sardines and mixed vegetables. I substituent the sardines for ground turkey or chicken.

    1. Agreed! Very similar to what I feed my dogs, and I add lots of fruits, beans & all the food I eat. As a vegan, it’s not easy for me: but I do my best to give them fresh, raw sardines to my 2 rescue dogs, Rica & Valentin!

      1. Like LOTS of them, as many as I can fit in my freezer & fridge. As a Holistic Nutrition Consultant & researcher, I am convinced it’s one of the very best foods we can feed our dogs on a consistent basis, period. Way better than any overpriced kibble!

        1. Hi…I enjoyed reading your post. Are you saying to not feed my dogs kibble? I have always been leary of the ingredients in their high priced kibble. Thanks in advance for your reply.

    2. I do the same. I use turkey, chicken, whole and cook it adding carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes or butternut squash.they won’t eat beef, haven’t tried pork. I use brown rice or quinoa or both. I have tried chicken livers and gizzards as the primary meat as well. I actually taste everything although it’s very bland i don’t understand why they don’t like it. I wish I could find a recipe they loved. I have added beans,peas corn they hated that combo. The sardines will be next. My mother gave dogs a can of mackerel every Saturday and cottage cheese every weekend my whole life. The gas is bad or was but I have salmon jerky they love so I am willing to try it. Any recipe ideas?

      1. Hi, I have fed both of my dogs, two meals everyday. Their breakfast consist of what I make, which is boiled chicken (dark meat only), white rice (they do not like brown), with boiled peas and carrots or just peas. They gobble this up, they are excited for it every morning. For supper I will give them dry kibble.
        They get treats, but these treats are put into a toy that they have to work for. I will also give one Raw chicken neck, which is also loved, they would probably do my dishes if they could. They are just head over heels for this. I give my 10 kg/22 lb puggle 1 sardine (out of a can of four), every other day. I have heard that too much omega-3 can be harmful. I’m sure too little is not good either.

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there,

      Thanks for reaching out! We suggest contacting your vet with this question to see what the appropriate amount is for your dog.

      1. Nope. A pet nutritionist is a better choice. Vets have very little nutritional knowledge (and the good ones know this and refer their clients).

  28. I have 2 male rescues – both are pit mixes – Coop is 3 yrs. old., tall, 95 lbs & high energy. Mel is 5 yrs. old., short, 75 lbs & low energy. They have dry food in front of them all day, however they eat dinner with us every night, and they are fed fish at least 2-3 times per week. They always eat mackerel or sardines, packed in water only & they love it – they are both high in omega-3 fatty acid‘s, it is good for their skin and coat. I just split the can in half between them and even though the difference in their size. Coop has too many allergies to begin mention and the fish may or may not help keep his coat looking great, all we know is they Love it & it’s good for them & we have had no adverse reactions considering he takes prescription medication, allergy shots, and is also on restricted diet! That’s at least been our experience anyhow

  29. I feed my pug fresh sardines daily. In fact his entire diet is sardines, meat ricotta and a bit of live unsweetened yoghurt with some apple. He loves sardines, i buy them fresh and I don’t feed him any kibble. Is this a good diet ?

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there Fran,

      Thanks for reaching out! We suggest contacting your vet about this specific diet for your dog.

  30. Do you de bone the sarndies first or can you give them raw with bones in? First time I will be giving my 2 sarndies and just after some advise please. There not tinned there the fresh one from the fish counter. Thanks in advance!!!

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there,

      Thanks for reaching out. To answer your question, yes we suggest you de-bone the sardines first.

      1. It say’s in the article above!!
        No worries about the bones, for dogs or cats— they’re safe, and will supply some calcium as well.

        1. Gail prasnicki

          The person who asked the question is feeding her dogs RAW sardines…from the fish counter, not canned sardines. Canned are fine.

          1. After reading comments and the article I’m still unsure about it being raw. I’ve never liked the idea of raw feeding because of bacteria. If I were to cook them how would I do that. Will I have to debone them if I do cook them so they don’t splinter? Will they still have all the vitamin if I cook them?

        1. Debone if you are feeding raw sardines. Bones in the canned ones have been cooked to the point where they basically disintegrate.

    2. They’re telling you to de-bone them because they can’t be liable for anything. But the bones are very soft and digest just fine (in humans and dogs). The bones are actually good for them…don’t worry one bit.

  31. I have 4 dogs that are fed a raw diet supplemented w/about 1/4 kibble. Sardines and mackerel are an important part of that diet to keep it balanced! my dogs love them.

  32. The6 been eating sardines for years, usually twice a week. They are a favorit3 meal and so easy, open a can and dump in over the kibble. They even recognize the word, when I say “sardines for dinner” they start bouncing with joy!

  33. I gave my granddog a little for the first time, he loved it!!
    The can says to refrigerate and consume in 2 days, that would be too much for him in 2days??
    Any suggestions?

    1. Hey Debbie,

      Thanks for reaching out! We suggest consulting your vet for the best suggestion on how many sardines your dog should eat.

    2. it depends on the weight of the dog , I have been sardines for over 8 yrs , only in spring water , each dog gets one whole fish per day , I do not use any commercial dog food at all , fresh vegs , fresh fruit , and fresh meat or salmon ,

  34. Oh yes my 2 Yorkies love sardines. However I never knew how much to feed and thanks to your article, now I know. And big thank you with your suggestions about using the liquid, I’m thrilled, I’m sure they will also be.

    1. Hi we have a 12 week frenchie and he loves sardines in water, he currently weighs 5kg/11 lb and we give him 100grams mixed in with his dog food 4 times a week. Is this too much?
      Thanks Karen

  35. i feed my shih tzu (17 lbs) sardines sporadically. she loves them. but i have dog food especially prepared for a problem she has, so for my little girl, sardines r a treat.

  36. hello! i give sardines to my dogs twice a week (1kg splitted to 5 dogs). It is worth saying though that ALL FISH should be lightly cookes and not absolutely RAW because as my vet suggested there is a special ingredient in their flesh that minimizes vitamin A. So, pls check with your vets and let us know the correct way of feeding these super foods! Thank you!!

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