Yorkshire Terrier eating wet food containing tuna

Can Dogs Eat Tuna? Yes, But…

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My dog comes running with her nose in the air every time I’m opening a can of tuna. She loves the smell and begs to have a bite. I’m sure many dogs are this way, but can they eat tuna? There are so many foods out there and it is quite common to wonder if I can share a meal with my dog. There are many reasons we may want to offer “people food” to our dogs! Sometimes we are enticing them to eat and other times we are wanting to share our food because we just know our dogs love it. And there are certainly times our pups just sneak a bite off our plate, and we have to decide if what they ate is safe for them!

Remember dogs and people can eat lots of the same things, but not always. It is important to make sure we are sharing foods that won’t cause any harm to our pets. Read on to learn about feeding your dog tuna.

Is It Safe for My Dog to Eat Tuna?

Yes (but only when cooked)

Yes, dogs can eat tuna. Tuna, when fed to dogs appropriately, can have several health benefits. Keep in mind that I am discussing canned light tuna packed in water when I’m referring to tuna here.

Tuna is a good source of protein.1 One ounce of canned tuna packed in water contains 6 grams of protein. Protein is important for many reasons. Protein helps with the development of skin, hair, nails, tendons, ligaments, etc. Protein can also help with feeling full for longer periods. Finally, tuna is great because relatively small amounts can provide a tasty source of protein.

Tuna is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids.2 Omega 3 is a fat that is beneficial for many organs in the body, including the eyes, heart, and brain. According to Veterinary Partner, Omega 3 supplementation helps with many diseases including airborne allergies, lymphoma (a type of cancer), and heart disease.3 Tuna also contains vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D and selenium.4

If your dog’s appetite is decreased, which can occur for many reasons, sometimes tuna is used to encourage dogs to eat. Tuna has a strong smell and can entice pets to eat their food. If your dog is not eating normally make sure you consult with your veterinarian to determine why.

All of this being said, if we are not careful, tuna can have side effects. So, please also make sure to pay attention to the potential risks below.

Safety Concerns and Risks Associated with Tuna for Dogs

Dog paws near bowl of wet dog food containing tuna

As with most foods, there are limitations and cautions for feeding tuna to our doggy family members.

First, as with shrimp and similar foods, you should avoid raw tuna. Feeding raw foods to our pets can increase risks to our dogs, and in some cases risk the health of our human family members too. Raw tuna can carry parasites, such as liver flukes.5 These parasites can cause disease in dogs. Unfortunately, these diseases can also cause severe disease in people. Even if our dog does not show symptoms, they may be able to pass this disease on to us. So, for family safety, avoid feeding raw fish to your dog.

Many of us have heard about mercury accumulation in fish. Dogs can be susceptible to mercury and heavy metal toxicity as well. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include neurologic signs such as blindness, uncoordinated walking, tremors, and abnormal behaviors.6

The risk of mercury poisoning to dogs from canned light tuna is pretty low; however, if we fed too much tuna then toxicity is a possibility. According to veterinary toxicologists, the maximum volume of mercury dogs can consume is 1-2 ppm mercury. The FDA requires that canned tuna cannot have mercury levels that exceed 1 ppm.7 Therefore, theoretically, the levels of mercury in canned tuna will not harm a dog. However, mercury can accumulate in the system, so ideally, I would suggest short-term feeding of tuna or using it as an intermittent treat. Also, note that mercury can affect unborn puppies more easily. Avoid feeding tuna to pregnant dogs.

Thirdly, tuna packed in oil should be given sparingly or not at all. Oil can be irritating to the intestinal tract and may worsen certain underlying conditions, such as pancreatitis.8 Oil also dramatically increases the calorie content and can contribute to weight gain or difficult weight loss for dogs (if you’re not sure how much your dog should weigh, you can use our puppy weight calculator, sorted by breed).

Finally, dogs with food allergies can be allergic to tuna. If your dog is on a special diet for allergies, consult with your veterinarian before offering any tuna to your dog.

How Much Tuna do I Feed my Dog?

How much tuna you are going to feed depends upon your intention. If you plan to use tuna to help make up your dog’s complete diet, you need to consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary nutrition specialist to balance your pup’s diet.

If you would like to offer tuna as a once-in-a-while treat or even to entice your dog to eat every now and then, it is perfectly safe to do so!

Make sure that 90% of your dog’s calories come from his balanced dog food. 10% of your dog’s calories can be in the form of a treat, according to Preventive Vet.9 Canned tuna in water contains 24 calories per ounce.10 Ideally, you can calculate how many calories your dog needs and then limit the treats accordingly.11 For example, a 50-pound dog needs approximately 1165 calories per day. So, all treats would be limited to 116 calories per day for a 50-pound dog. Remember, each dog is an individual and his specific calorie needs may vary.

How to Prepare Tuna for my Dog

The best way to feed tuna to your dog is to offer plain canned light tuna that was packed in water.

You can feed this food directly, you can use it to top his balanced meal, or you could mix tuna with a little bit of rice to encourage your dog to eat.

I would recommend avoiding tuna salad, spicy tuna, or any raw tuna for your dog. The other ingredients used in these tuna recipes may be more difficult for your dog to digest.

Tips from Our Vets

The following is a list of tips on how to think about what human foods are (and may not be) safe for your dog from Dr. Jennifer Coates’ article on Foods Dogs Can and Cannot Eat.

There are some human foods that dogs can eat safely, as well as some human foods dogs can’t eat.

If you have a dog, you might be used to seeing adorable puppy eyes begging for a bite of, well, anything that you happen to be eating.

While it’s natural to want to share human food with your furry pal, many of the foods we eat are toxic to dogs. Some reasons foods may be harmful to your pup include:

  • Foods that are a problem due to our physiological differences (foods we can handle that a dog’s stomach can’t)
  • Other foods aren’t toxic, but are still potentially dangerous for dogs because they are hard to digest
  • Another category of foods that are a problem for dogs are foods that may contain high levels of fat

Some tips and words of caution if you are feeding your pet human foods:

  • Always keep in mind that new foods of any kind, including switching to a different dog food, can cause stomach upset.
  • When you find a human food you’d like to share with your pup, go slowly. Give small amounts at first and watch for any problems like vomiting or diarrhea before giving more.
  • Remember that treats should make up less than 10% of your dog’s diet. So all of the foods that are safe for your dog should be given in moderation to avoid weight gain and nutrient excesses and deficiencies.

What To Do if Your Dog Eats Something He Shouldn’t

Now that you know what foods are safe for dogs, it’s a good idea to know what to do if your pup eats food that’s toxic to dogs.

If your dog does end up eating something he shouldn’t, try not to panic. You have a few options for getting the help your dog needs:

  • The first is to call your dog’s veterinarian, who can advise you to either come into the office or to watch for signs of poisoning, obstruction, or other potential problems.
  • If it’s after hours, you can try calling an emergency veterinarian.
  • Another option is to call a pet poison control line. Be aware that there is a fee to use these services. Two that we can recommend are the ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435 and the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661.

In some cases, you might be told to induce vomiting in your dog. It is helpful to keep hydrogen peroxide on hand in case you need to do this.

Do not induce vomiting unless your veterinarian or someone from one of the pet poison control hotlines advises you to do so, however, because in some cases, vomiting can make the situation worse. [efn_note]Is it ever safe to induce vomiting? ASPCA.org. November 19, 2019. Accessed April 28, 2021.[/efn_note]

Final Thoughts

Now you know it’s ok to feed your dog tuna. Always monitor your dog closely.  If you notice any decrease in appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea make sure to stop offering people food and check in with your veterinarian. Just like people, some foods may be safe but still not agree with your dog’s tummy.

If you have additional questions about what dogs can and cannot eat, you can have them answered by our series of guides on the topic of foods your dogs can or can’t eat such as whether dogs can eat oatmeal, walnuts, lettuce, cinnamon, or pistachios.

You’re asking questions about what’s safe for your dog to eat, so I’m sure you’re interested in the quality of your dog’s food and your pet’s overall health. We have a ton of resources on that very topic.

One is a guide which lays out the best ways to add fiber to a dog’s diet or our guide to choosing the best puppy food high in fiber. If you’re worried about dealing with a situation where a dog has upset stomach we have a guide for that as well, and we can even answer the question of how fast does a dog digest food. If you’re portioning your dog’s food you can also check out our guide to choosing the best timed dog feeder. We even have a list of the human foods dogs can eat.

We also have a series of health and nutritional information for your dog. Our puppy growth calculator can let you know how big your dog is likely to be, and our dog breed weight chart can help you determine if your dog is the ideal weight, and we even have a collection of breed-specific growth charts such as goldendoodle weight chart, great dane weight chart, golden retriever weight chart, chihuahua weight chart, or labrador weight chart.

Article Sources

Pet News Daily uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. McGrane K. Is Canned Tuna Good for You, or Bad? Healthline.com. Published November 6, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2021.
  2. McGrane K. Is Canned Tuna Good for You, or Bad? Healthline.com. Published November 6, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2021.
  3. Brooks W. Omega Three Fatty Acids. Veterinarypartner.vin.com. Published June 10, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2021.
  4. McGrane K. Is Canned Tuna Good for You, or Bad? Healthline.com. Published November 6, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2021.
  5. CDC. Liver Flukes. Cdc.gov. Updated January 14, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2021.
  6. Kim HT, Loftus JP, Mann S, Wakshlag JJ. Evaluation of Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead and Mercury Contamination in Over-the-Counter Available Dry Dog Foods With Different Animal Ingredients (Red Meat, Poultry, and Fish)Front Vet Sci. 2018;5:264. Published 2018 Oct 25. doi:10.3389/fvets.2018.00264
  7. Mercury and Fish: The Facts. The FDA Action Level. Mercuryfactsandfish.org. Accessed May 2, 2021.
  8. AKC. Pancreatitis in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment. Akc.org. Published February 22, 2021.
  9. Rigley C. How Many Treats You Can Give Your Dog During Training. Preventivevet.com. Published April 11, 2018. Updated March 8, 2021. Accessed May 2, 2021.
  10. McGrane K. Is Canned Tuna Good for You, or Bad? Healthline.com. Published November 6, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2021.
  11. The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center. Basic Calorie Calculator. Vet.osu.edu. Accessed April 19, 2021.
Dr. Melody Aitchison-Steed
Dr. Melody Aitchison-Steed graduated with her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the University of California at Davis in 2005. Following graduation, she completed a 1-year rotating internship in small animal medicine and emergency care. After completing her internship, Dr. Aitchison-Steed has practiced small animal general medicine in Southern California. When she’s not practicing medicine, Dr. Aitchison-Steed is usually with her family (a husband and two sweet daughters, two dogs, and a cat!) enjoying the outdoors by hiking and camping, reading, or attending the kids’ sports events.