Can dogs eat Mackerel?

Updated 19 March 2024
Read time: 7 mins
article author
Written by Corinne Homer
article author
Reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon
Team Vet

Yes - you’ll be glad to know that in moderation, dogs can eat mackerel. Mackerel is a delectable and nutritious food for dogs, great as a snack or as part of a balanced meal. There are recommended ways to serve mackerel to your pooch, however - so let’s go into some more detail about the oily fish.

Is mackerel good for dogs?

Absolutely - mackerel is one of the healthiest fish a dog can eat. It should be fed in moderation, as with any food, but when served as part of a balanced diet, it can provide dogs with a host of powerful benefits.

What are the health benefits of mackerel?

Rich in Fatty Acids. As an oily fish, mackerel is packed with fatty acid omega-3 which is greatly beneficial to a dog’s health. Fatty acids contribute to a dog’s healthy skin and coat, cardiovascular health, joint protection and reduced inflammation. They also boost immunity and brain function.

High in Protein. Fish is a great protein source for pooches, which is essential for muscle development and strength. 

Vitamin D. Dogs don’t get much vitamin D from the sun, and instead get it from food such as mackerel. This vitamin balances minerals in the body and ensures healthy skin and bone growth.  

Vitamin B12 enables your dog to absorb iron, a lack of which can cause anaemia and low energy levels. It’s also an important brain nutrient. 

Super tasty. Dogs love the taste of fish, so it’s a great way of boosting their health while giving them a delicious treat.

Can puppies eat mackerel?

Yes - the nutrients in mackerel are particularly good for a puppy’s growth and development. It’s a good source of protein for building strength, and the essential fatty acids and vitamins are important for brain and bone growth. Be sure to feed in moderation to your pup, and serve cooked, without bones, cut into tiny puppy pieces. 

Is mackerel unsafe for dogs? 

Mackerel is only unsafe for dogs for the same reasons it might be unsafe for humans. It should be fresh and of good quality, with bones removed. It’s a good idea to feed only fresh fillets that are deboned and cooked, without any added marinades or sauces (read on for the best way to serve mackerel to your pooch!). 

There is a small chance your dog might have a mackerel allergy, in which case it might be unsafe for them to eat. 

Can dogs be allergic to mackerel? 

Dogs can be allergic to anything, so it’s best to keep a close eye on them if you’re feeding it to your pooch for the first time. Feed a small amount to introduce it to them. If they show any of the following signs, don’t serve mackerel to them again, and perhaps test if they show the same symptoms to any other fish. 

  • Reddening skin, itching or a rash 
  • Swelling 
  • Breathing issues (wheezing, etc.) 
  • Severe or extended sickness or diarrhoea
  • Bloating or pain
  • General change in behaviour (low energy, lethargic, etc.)
  • Ear infections

Can mackerel make dogs sick?

Mackerel can make dogs sick if it’s not fresh, if it comes in sauces and marinades, or if your pooch has an allergic reaction to it. Be sure to serve it safely to avoid your dog getting a tummy upset. 

How to safely give mackerel to your dog?

The best way to safely give mackerel to your dog is to make sure it’s fresh and cooked plain. Bear in mind the following advice to serve the perfect fishy mackerel portion: 

  • Choose fresh, sustainably-sourced fish. 
  • Ensure the fish is deboned or has soft bones (ask the shop assistant or fishmonger about this). 
  • Cook the fish fresh, or if you’ve frozen it, be sure it’s thoroughly defrosted. 
  • Don’t cover the fish in salt, pepper, sauces or seasonings. Plain fish, either pan-fried, oven-cooked or steamed is the safest way to cook mackerel for a pooch. 
  • Serve mackerel as part of a balanced meal or as an occasional treat. 


How much is safe to give your dog?

If you’re feeding a pooch mackerel, be sure it’s in moderation. Too much mackerel has a high fat content (even though it’s healthy fat), so it needs to be balanced with other veggies, proteins and botanicals as part of a well-rounded doggy diet. 

Portion sizes will depend on your dog’s breed, size and health condition. Ask your vet if you’re not entirely sure. 

Can dogs eat mackerel everyday?

Though a dog could eat mackerel every day, it’s a good idea to mix up the types of proteins your dog eats to ensure they get a full range of nutrients. You could feed your dog other fish such as salmon or cod, or other lean proteins such as turkey or chicken. 

What types of mackerel can dogs eat?

We know that your pooch is safe to eat a well-prepared portion of mackerel! Next, let’s get into the different types of mackerel they can either tuck into safely, or should avoid:

Can dogs eat raw mackerel fillets?

It’s not a great idea to feed your dog raw fish of any kind - it’s much safer to ensure the fish is cooked. This is because raw fish carries the risks of harmful bacteria like salmonella, or parasites such as flukes and roundworms that can cause serious illness to you or your dog. 

If you have some raw mackerel fillets, either steam, pan-fry or roast off the fillets and serve them to your pooch plain. 

Can dogs eat smoked mackerel?

No - unfortunately not. Smoked or cured mackerel has too high a salt content. These vacuum packed mackerel fillets often come with lots of added flavourings such as pepper, lemon and chilli marinades, which should also be avoided. Stick to fresh mackerel that has been cooked plain. 

Can dogs eat tinned/canned mackerel?

This depends on what the mackerel comes in. Generally, fresh mackerel is always better than canned due to potential preservatives that could be present. When mackerel is canned or tinned, a lot of its powerful nutrients diminish. 

Dogs should not eat the following canned mackerel due to harmful salt content, additives or flavourings: 

  • Mackerel in tomato sauce 
  • Mackerel in brine 
  • Mackerel in sunflower oil  

  • Dogs can eat mackerel in olive oil; that’s likely to have the most nutrients - however it should be deemed a treat and fed in moderation. The olive oil adds extra fat to the mackerel that could lead to obesity in your pooch. 

    Can dogs eat mackerel skin?

    Yes - mackerel skin is delicious to dogs and very nutrient-dense. Skins can be fatty though, so make sure they’re fed in moderation, like the rest of the mackerel. Remember, the skin should also be cooked and served plain with no added seasoning.

    Can dogs eat whole mackerel including heads?

    Dogs can eat the head of a fish but only if it’s soft and fresh. The fish has a lot of nutrients in it, like the rest of a mackerel - but if it’s too hard or has bones in it, definitely leave it out of their bowl. Only feed a whole mackerel to a dog if it has been deboned or you know that the bones are soft. The safest serving choice is to feed a deboned and cooked mackerel fillet to your pooch.

    Can dogs eat mackerel bones?

    It’s recommended you only feed dogs mackerel without the bones, however, some mackerel have very soft bones and shouldn’t do too much harm. Check with your fishmonger if the mackerel has been deboned or has soft bones when you’re buying the fish. 


    Overall, mackerel is a delicious, nutrient-dense food for your dog to eat either as a snack or part of a well-balanced meal. It’s packed full of omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein and vitamins. 

    However, be sure it’s served cooked, ideally without bones. Serve plain, without any added salt, sauces or seasonings, and feed in moderation, as it can be very high in fat (even if it’s healthy fat!).

    What other foods can dogs safely eat?

    If you’re keen on feeding mackerel to your dog but want to look for alternatives, why not try the following? 

    Take a look at Pooch & Mutt’s full range of healthy food for dogs - lots of our recipes contain nutrient-rich oily fish as a lean protein, alongside vegetables, carbohydrates and other powerful supplements.

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