Are Sardines Good for Dogs (They’re Packed With Omega-3!)

icon August 21, 2023

As devoted pet owners, we are constantly seeking ways to provide our furry companions with the best possible nutrition. With the growing interest in natural and holistic diets, it's not surprising that questions arise about incorporating human foods into our dogs' diets. One might wonder, "can dogs eat sardines?" The answer is yes! Instead of fish oil, sardines for dogs is another way to boost the support you give your dog every day. These tiny fish are not only a popular human delicacy but also seem to offer potential health benefits for our four-legged friends. Let's dive into the topic and explore the benefits and considerations.

Nutritional Value of Sardines

Sardines are a type of small, oily fish that are packed with nutrients beneficial to both humans and dogs. They are rich in protein, which is essential for muscle maintenance and growth. Sardines are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in supporting a dog's skin health, coat condition, and joint health. These fats also have anti-inflammatory properties that may aid in reducing joint pain and other inflammatory conditions.

Additionally, sardines contain a range of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium. These nutrients contribute to overall well-being and help maintain healthy bones, teeth, and immune systems in dogs.

What Are the Benefits of Sardines for Dogs?

Here are some potential benefits of feeding sardines to dogs:

Sardines are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Omega-3 fatty acids are known to

  • support skin and coat health
  • reduce inflammation
  • promote overall cardiovascular health in dogs
  • contribute to better joint health
  • support brain health and cognitive abilities

Sardines are a good source of high-quality protein. Protein is important for muscle development, repair, and overall body function in dogs.

Vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, and calcium, all of which play essential roles in maintaining a dog's health.

Sardines and Mercury

Sardines are generally considered a lower-mercury fish option compared to larger predatory fish like tuna, swordfish, and shark. This is because sardines are smaller and lower on the food chain, which means they accumulate less mercury.

Are There Any Risks To Feeding Your Dog Sardines?

When feeding sardines to your dog, there are a few important considerations:


Sardines are rich in fat, and an excessive intake of fat can potentially trigger pancreatitis in dogs, especially if your dog is prone to this condition. If your dog has a history of pancreatitis or other digestive issues, consult your veterinarian before adding sardines to their diet.

Related: How to Comfort a Dog With Pancreatitis


If you're feeding whole sardines, they typically contain soft, digestible bones that can contribute to calcium intake. However, be cautious and consider the size of the sardine bones in relation to your dog's size, as larger bones might pose a choking hazard.


Make sure to use fresh or properly stored canned sardines. Avoid sardines that are overly processed or loaded with additives, as these may not provide the same health benefits.

Allergies or Sensitivities

Some dogs may be allergic or sensitive to fish, including sardines. If your dog hasn't been exposed to fish before, start with a small amount to monitor for any adverse reactions, such as itching, vomiting, diarrhea, or skin issues.

Portion Control

Sardines should be fed in moderation. Too much fish in the diet can lead to an imbalance of nutrients, including excessive amounts of certain minerals. Consult your veterinarian to determine the appropriate portion size for your dog's size, age, and dietary needs.

How Much Sardines for Dogs?

The amount of sardines you can feed your dog depends on various factors, including your dog's size, age, weight, activity level, and overall health. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your dog's individual needs.

As a general guideline, you can consider feeding sardines to your dog a few times a week as a treat or supplement to their regular diet. Here's a rough estimate of how much you might feed based on your dog's weight:

  • Small Dogs (up to 20 pounds): Half of a small sardine (canned, bone-in) a few times a week might be a suitable amount.
  • Medium Dogs (20 to 50 pounds): One small sardine or half of a larger sardine a few times a week could be appropriate.
  • Large Dogs (50 pounds and above): One or larger sardines a few times a week could be considered, depending on your dog's size and dietary needs.

Are Sardine Bones Safe for Dogs?

Sardine bones are generally safe for dogs to consume, as they are soft and can be easily digested by most dogs. However, while sardine bones are soft, they can still pose a choking hazard if they are too large or if your dog has a tendency to swallow food without chewing. Even soft ones, in some cases, chewing on bones might lead to dental fractures. 

If you're concerned about the bones, you have a few options:

  • Feed Boneless Sardines
  • Crush or grind the sardine bones into a fine powder and mix it with your dog's food.

Are Sardines Better for Dogs in Water or Oil?

When it comes to choosing between sardines packed in water or oil for dogs, sardines packed in water are generally a better option. Here's why:

  • Sardines packed in water have lower fat and calorie content compared to those packed in oil. Choosing sardines in water helps avoid unnecessary extra calories and fat.
  • Sardines packed in oil often contain additional ingredients such as oils, flavorings, and preservatives. Opting for sardines packed in water helps avoid exposing your dog to potentially unnecessary additives.
  •  Sardines packed in oil can be messy to handle and may leave an oily residue on your dog's bowl, your hands, and other surfaces. Water-packed sardines are generally easier to handle and less messy.

Alternative to Sardines for Dogs 

1. Sardine oil for dogs

If you're concerned about providing omega-3 fatty acids, you can consider using fish oil supplements specifically formulated for dogs. These supplements are often tested for mercury and provide a controlled dosage.

2. Flaxseed Oil or Ground Flaxseeds

Flaxseed oil or ground flaxseeds are plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They can be added to your dog's food as an alternative to fish-based sources.

3. Lean Meats

If you're primarily interested in providing protein, lean meats like chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of beef can be included in your dog's diet.

4. Salmon

Like sardines, salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for skin, coat, and overall health. You can feed cooked, boneless salmon to your dog.


Sardines can indeed be a nutritious addition to your dog's diet, offering an array of health benefits thanks to their omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. However, as with any dietary changes, it's vital to exercise caution, practice moderation, and consider your dog's individual needs and sensitivities. By doing so and working closely with your veterinarian, you can determine whether sardines are a suitable and valuable dietary option for your furry friend.



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