Dogs can eat anything, right? Well, they might try to, but that doesn’t mean everything is good for them—or safe!
If you’re a dog owner, you’ll know how important it is to feed your pup the right foods. But dogs are notorious for eating first and thinking later, and this makes it easy for them to accidentally chow down on something that isn’t good for them. Of course, dog owners may also be guilty of feeding their precious companion the wrong food. It’s easy enough to serve up something you think is okay, and then find out later that it’s a bad idea!
Fortunately, there are lots of human foods that are good for dogs, offering up excellent nutrition benefits and improving the variety of the diet.
One food that many dog owners might not have considered giving their dog is anchovies. These little fish are fantastic for humans—but can dogs eat anchovies, too?
Are anchovies good for dogs to eat?
Yes! Anchovies are one of the most nutrient-dense little fish in the sea. They’re also one of the best sources of healthy fats.
Anchovies are small, silvery fish that swim in large, dense schools. They grow rapidly and feed mainly on plankton, which is what provides them with their health properties. They’re also less likely to accumulate toxins such as heavy metals because they are at the bottom of the aquatic food chain. They also live relatively short lives.
Like other cold water fish, anchovies contain long-chain polyunsaturated fats called PUFAs. These include DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Sardines, salmon, mackerel, trout, and herring are also great sources of DHA and EPA.
The health benefits of giving your dog anchovies
Anchovies support brain development
Anchovies are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that provide a huge range of benefits to dogs. They’re necessary for healthy brain development in puppies, which is crucial in supporting your puppy’s ability to learn.
A dog’s brain is composed of 50 percent fat, and 10–20 percent of all fats are DHA. But more than 90 percent of the long-chain PUFAs are found in the brain. This is why DHA is so important for cognition and memory retention in dogs. This, in turn, impacts their trainability.
Anchovies can help reduce inflammation
Many dietary studies have suggested that high intake of omega 3 is linked to reduced risk of various disorders. These fatty acids can dampen inflammatory reactions, which are often the precursors to disease. Inflammation is important for combating infections, but chronic inflammation can be harmful. Omega 3 can also help reduce chronic inflammation in dogs. This is especially important in treating arthritis, diabetes, digestive disorders, and other conditions.
Anchovies can help your dog’s memory
Puppies fed diets fortified with appropriate levels of DHA appear to have better memory performance. This included learning, visual contrast discrimination, and psycho-motor performance tasks. Puppies fed a diet rich in DHA diet were also shown to outperform puppies that were fed a diet lower in DHA.
Anchovies are rich in other nutrients
Besides omega-3 fatty acids, anchovies are also packed with protein and high in calcium, iron, and other minerals.They’re a good source of the vitamins A, E, K, B6, and B12. These nutrients are vital for your dog’s everyday needs and the proper functioning of his heart, brain, and immune system.
Anchovies support the health of your dog’s coat
All of the nutrients in the anchovy can help keep your dog’s coat thick and shiny. Omega-3 fatty acids help to improve the quality and condition of his fur while also moisturizing his skin. This can help to prevent dryness, itching, and flakiness.
Can anchovies be bad for dogs?
Unfortunately, many fish species are now tainted with industrial toxins and pollutants. This mostly affects larger carnivorous fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna). But it’s still recommended that you check where your anchovies come from before feeding them to your dog. Make sure they have been fished from clean waters and tested for toxins.
The other potential problem with anchovies is their high amounts of sodium. Even varieties that contain no added salt may have high amounts of natural salts. In either case, too much sodium can lead to health complications for your dog.
According to the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, healthy dogs of around 33 pounds should have no more than 100 mg of sodium a day. Regular canned anchovies contain around 505 mg of sodium per 3.5 oz.
How to prepare anchovies for your dog
The best kind of anchovies for your dog are raw and fresh. You can get these directly from a fishery or the fish department of your supermarket.
Keep your dog’s intake moderate. Two to three anchovies per day are safe enough for a small dog, while larger dogs should be okay with up to five. Talk to your veterinarian before adding anchovies to your dog’s diet to check how many are appropriate.
Anchovies are great as a snack or treat. You can also mash them up and add them to your dog’s usual meal. It’s quite safe to give your dog the whole anchovy—head, tail, and all! The bones are very soft and fully digestible, so there’s little or no risk of choking. For puppies or very small dogs, you may like to break the fish up into pieces or at least cut it in half.
Avoid dried or canned anchovies that are packed in salt or oil as the sodium content is simply too high to be safe for dogs. Canned anchovies packed in water are typically ok.