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Feeding Fish To Dogs and Cats

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Feeding fish to dogs and cats is a great way of providing your pets with some valuable nutrients.

I never discussed feeding fish in my original book for a few reasons. The two main reasons are as follows:

  1. When I mention fish, most people immediately assume it's okay to feed canned tuna, salmon, sardines, etc. This is not true. You never want to feed canned fish. Dogs and cats can become addicted to such foods and the high salt content is not healthy for our pets. Never feed canned fish to your pets especially since the canned fish is cooked and we want to feed raw meat.
  2. Not everyone has access to fish. Since more people have easy access to chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, etc, in my original book I preferred to keep things simple and clear by only talking about the foods that are most easily fed.

When I operated my cat sanctuary in the Philippines, the food I fed my cats every day was fish — but it was fresh fish.

Fish is a wonderful food to feed our pets but I personally would only feed fish if you are able to get a fresh whole fish or frozen whole fish. While you can buy a frozen fish fillet, etc, I personally would not feed that because it's missing so many important nutrients for our carnivore friends. But if you want to feed a raw fish fillet, you can — but make sure all of the bones are removed. I only feed fish bones that are part of a whole fish.

I like fresh whole fish because it's a whole food. Fresh whole fish contains the blood, the guts, bones, the head, the internal organs, the eyes and of course, the skin is still on the fish too. I personally don't feed fish with scales because I find my cats don't like the scales.

When you feed whole fish you provide a whole food. As a result, no supplements are needed because all of the calcium, enzymes, organs, etc are in the food — the way Mother Nature intended.

The bones provide some minerals, the blood provides the calcium, the meat provides the protein, the organs provide nutrient rich foods and so on. The fish eyes are very nutritious and are a high source of taurine, an amino acid, that is specifically beneficial to cats.


Fish Bones

Many people who feed fish are always concerned about fish bones, and rightly so. Nobody wants their pet to have a fish bone stuck in their throat, which will then require a vet to remove it. But this is why I only feed fresh whole fish. The fresh whole fish will have bones that have not been exposed to oxygen as long thus helping to ensure the bones are softer and easier for our pets to crush them. With whole fish, the bones are still surrounded by meat and skin, which helps to prevent and/or slow the oxidation process.

I personally buy fresh fish to feed my cats and then I freeze the fish — freezing the fish is not a problem.

The fish I buy for my cats are approximately 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) long. If I feed fish that are too large, then my cats will have a difficult time eating the fish due to its size and also, the bones will be too big for them.

If I had a large breed dog, then they can obviously eat larger size fish and/or smaller fish. But for my cats, I feed fish that they can easily eat. They easily crush the bones somehow — I really don't know how they do it to be honest but they eat the fish bones with no problems.

When I operated my cat sanctuary, the young kittens of about 4 to 6 weeks of age would also eat the fish. At first, the kittens would eat the meat and just leave the bones. But by about the third day, the kittens were eating the whole fish, bones and all. My own two cats have been eating whole fish, bones included, since kittenhood.

Although I've never had a problem with fish bones when feeding my cats or some of the dogs I help, there is always the possibility it could happen. But a problem with fish bones is more likely to happen if the fish has been cooked rather than raw. But when you feed fish that is size appropriate, and what I mean by size appropriate is feeding fish that is not too big for the size of your pet, then the fish bones are less likely to cause a problem because the fish bones are too small to get stuck in the first place.


Mercury and Pollution In Fish

One of the concerns about feeding fish is that a lot of fish contain mercury and/or other heavy metals. Additionally, a lot of fish are now full of pollution that is causing the fish to have cancer, etc.

This is, of course a concern. In my situation, I feed fish because in the Philippines, it's the more readily and easily available source of meat. Also too, it's a complete or whole food, which makes it easier for me to ensure my cats are getting all of the nutrients including calcium. It's ironic because although I provide pet supplements, it's difficult for me to bring the pet supplements I use and suggest to the Philippines because the postal service is essentially non–existent (although I do bring some while flying from Canada back to the Philippines but the space is limited). So for me, feeding fish allows me to ensure my cats are getting all of their nutrients for a healthy life.

In my situation, the benefits of feeding my cats a whole food outweighs the problems of mercury and pollution. The reality is, we will never have the perfect solution – just the best for our own situation. In your situation, it might be different.

The side effects of too much mercury have been well documented thanks to Dr. Huggins, the dentist who exposed dental toxicity relating to mercury.

Some people who have access to fresh fish they catch in non–polluted lakes don't have to worry about any of this and they are lucky because fish is really a great food to feed. Fish is the one food that more people will have access to in a whole form as opposed to buying meat from the butcher, which no longer has all of its blood, organs, etc.


How To Thaw Frozen Fish

Not everyone will be able to feed fish. But if you do have access to fresh whole fish, then you can always freeze the fish and feed it later.

Thawing frozen fish is different to thawing chicken, beef, etc. With most meat, we simply take the frozen meat out of the freezer and place it in the fridge and let it thaw overnight or for about 1 day. But with whole fish, if you do this, then the blood will start to drain out of the fish because the skin will weaken, the guts will start to pop out, etc. Having the guts start to pop out is no big deal but we don't want to loose the blood. The blood is just so nutritious.

So how can we thaw fish before feeding if the fish is frozen? Simple. You take the frozen fish and soak it in normal temperature water that you get from your tap. When the water gets too cold, replace the water with some new water. It will take, depending on the size of the fish, maybe about 10 minutes or so, maybe 15 in some situations, for the fish to thaw. Once you can gently squeeze the fish and feel nothing frozen then it's time to feed. Also too, once thawed, the fish will be more flexible rather than stiff.


How To Tell If The Fish Is Still Fresh

There are many ways to tell how fresh the fish is — or how well the fish has been preserved usually with ice.

First thing you do is look at the eyes. If the eyes are red, the fish is no longer fresh. Next look at the stomach area. If you see guts starting to pop out or if the stomach area is starting to open, then the fish is no longer fresh.

Although the fish may not be totally fresh, it doesn't mean the fish is not suitable for feeding. You need to make a judgment call as to whether the fish is still worth buying or not. For myself, I sometimes have no choice but to buy the fish even when it's not a fresh because I have no choice.


Additional Thoughts About Feeding Fish

Fish is a great natural source of Omega 3 essential fatty acid. The taurine in the fish eyes is wonderful — it's been said that mice are the highest source of taurine and so if your cat catches mice, then your cat is getting lots of taurine already but otherwise, the fish eyes are a great source of taurine.

With any whole food, don't be surprised if your cat decides it wants to play with its food before and/or after eating.

When feeding a whole fish, the general rule is that no supplements are needed as the food is whole and thus contains all of the necessary nutrients. But you may still find it beneficial, in some situations to use FloraZyme LP as a digestive aid — all you would do is sprinkle a little on top of the fish.

Although it's nice to feed fish, if you do feed fish then try to make sure you feed a variety of fish and/or feed other foods as well such as beef, chicken, lamb, eggs, etc. This is important because some fish, while beneficial, can lead to some nutritional deficiency if the same species is always fed. This is due to the fact some species of fish have enzymes that destroy certain vitamins within the body. This is only a problem when the same species is fed all the time. When there is a variety of species and/or other meats fed on other days then the natural variety helps to eliminate such a problem.


A Fishy Conclusion

When feeding whole fish, there are pros and cons. The biggest benefit is that the food is a whole food with all of the guts, blood, bones, eyes, brains, skin and so on. The con is that it can be high in mercury and pollutants.

When feeding fish, I feed fish that is size appropriate for the size of my pets. I don't chop the fish into smaller pieces — I feed it whole. My cats chew and cut the fish into the sizes they need to swallow it. My cats eat the fish from head to tail — all gone.

Bones are always a potential problem, but when you feed size appropriate fish along with raw fish, the chance of this happening is slimmer — it could still happen but less likely.

I personally don't feed fish that is not whole, although you can. But if the fish is not whole, then I would just make sure there are not bones left in the fish because those bones have been exposed to oxygen longer thus making them potentially more of a problem — not necessarily a problem, but potentially a problem.


A Picture Of Cats Eating Fish

The picture below shows me feeding fish to the cats in my cat sanctuary. You can see the size of the fish in relation to the size of the cats. Even kittens would eat this size of fish without any problems. Dogs and puppies are the same.

If you look at the one cat, closer to the top of the picture and near my head, then you can see how the cat is eating the fish using the side of her mouth to take advantage of her molars to slice through the fish. This particular cat started at the tail and is working towards the head. The cats will crush the head too without any problems.

To see a larger picture of the cats eating the fish, please click this link.

The following pictures show my cats eating fish.

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View larger pictures of my cats eating fish:

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