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What Is Fish Meal in Dog Food? Vet Approved Safety Facts & FAQ

Written by: Elizabeth Gray

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

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What Is Fish Meal in Dog Food? Vet Approved Safety Facts & FAQ


Dr. Tabitha Henson  Photo


Dr. Tabitha Henson

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’re a dog owner who likes to read pet food labels, you’ll probably find quite a few unfamiliar ingredients listed. One such product is fish meal, commonly found in allergy-friendly diets. But what is fish meal in dog food, and is it safe for your pup to eat?

Fish meal is a concentrated, processed product made from dried fish parts and is a safe ingredient for your dog to eat. In this article, we’ll discuss how fish meal is made, what kind of nutrition it offers, and whether your dog will enjoy the taste of it. We’ll also cover how this ingredient helps reduce waste and contributes to an eco-conscious lifestyle.

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How Is Fish Meal Made?

Fish meal is produced from either whole fish (typically small, bony ocean fish that are not suitable for humans to eat) or discarded fish remnants such as bones and guts. The fish are rendered or dried out and then ground into a fine powder. Because fish contain a lot of water, removing it creates a very concentrated source of nutrition.

If the ingredient is labeled simply “fish meal,” it contains multiple species of fish, which may not be consistent from batch to batch. Some fish meal contains only a single species of fish. For example, some brands contain salmon meal or cod meal.

dog eating
Image by: dmytro Zinkevych, Shutterstock

Is Fish Meal Safe and Nutritious?

In general, whole, unprocessed food ingredients are considered the most nutritious. Because of this, some owners only feed dog food made of whole meat products, though they tend to be more costly.

However, fish meal is still a good source of protein, amino acids, fatty acids, and other nutrients. Because it is so concentrated, manufacturers don’t need to use as much fish meal in food as they would whole fish to achieve their nutritional goals.

Recent research has suggested that the nutrient quality of the fish meal is impacted by what parts of the fish are used to make the product. In the U.S., all ingredients used in pet food must be safe and properly labeled, according to the Food and Drug Administration, including fish meal.

What Foods Contain Fish Meal and Do Dogs Like Them?

Fish-based diets are less common for dogs than they are for cats. Because of this, fish meal is most commonly found in allergy-friendly or novel protein diets. The most common way to diagnose food sensitivities in dogs is to feed them a diet with a new (novel) protein and carb source their body has never encountered.

For many dogs, fish-based diets are a good option if they are experiencing signs of food allergies or sensitive stomachs. Concentrated fish meal tends to give off a strong odor in dog food, which humans may find unpleasant. However, dogs typically don’t mind the aroma.

Fish meal may also be used in diets as a source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids even if the main protein base is not fish.

Whether or not a dog enjoys food made with fish meal is largely a matter of individual preference. Fish meal can make dog food tastier, but some dogs may not like it.

West Highland White Terrier dog at home eating
Image by: Alejandro rodriguez, Shutterstock

How Fish Meal Can Be Good for the Environment

The processing of fish for human consumption creates an enormous amount of waste each year. Heads, skin, bones, and guts all need somewhere to go and can be difficult to dispose of. Instead of storing the discarded fish waste at a landfill, it can be turned into fish meal. This helps reduce food waste while providing a useful and nutritious product.



With high-profile recalls and other issues with dog food ingredients over the past few years, it’s understandable that pet owners want to be cautious about what is in their pup’s meals. While fish meal may not sound very tasty to you, it is a safe source of nutrition for your dog. When comparing dog food ingredients, it’s important to keep in mind that your dog’s palate is wildly different from yours. After all, most dogs will happily consume a dead fish they find on a river bank. With that standard, fish meal is practically gourmet dining!

Featured Image Credit: Yuriy Golub, Shutterstock

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