Fish skins are an excellent source of omega oils for dogs, and provide a load of health benefits. However, they can be processed and packaged in many different forms, and it can be confusing which ones to buy. You might be wondering are all fish skin products fundamentally the same? And is there a specific type of fish which fish skin treats are made from? Maybe you want to check if fish skins are truly safe for your dog?
In this article, we will explore the different fish skin options, and answer some frequently asked questions, to help you decide whether they are right for your canine friend.
What are Fish Skins?
Fish skins are the skins from fish, including scales, which have been processed into delicious treats. Most commonly, white fish like cod are used, however, sometimes salmon, pollock or wolffish skins make up the treats instead.
Fish skin treats can be supplied from all around the world, so it is important to look for a local supplier that ensures their fish are sustainably caught and processed.
Fish skins are usually dehydrated into jerky-style treats. They can be left in the form of a strip of skin, or processed further by compressing into cubes or blocks, twisted or plaited together, or ground up and mixed with rice powder to form more processed treats and chews.
It is also possible to create your own fish skin treats. Some people like to feed raw fish skins, however these carry health risks which are discussed later. Therefore, cooking, grilling or dehydrating skins provides a safer treat for your dog.
Are Fish Skins Good for Dogs?
You can’t get much healthier than fish skins. They are high in easily digestible, high-quality proteins, oils and fats. These contribute to the rich concentration of omega-3, which helps to improve heart, eye, brain, skin and joint health.
On a dry matter basis, they are approximately 94% protein and 3% fat.
In addition to this, most jerky-based fish skin treats take a bit of effort to crunch through, which enables them to act as a toothbrush to clean away the plaque from your dog’s teeth.
While fish skins are very healthy for your dog, they should only contribute to your dog’s daily treats and not be their main source of nutrition. Therefore, even though there isn’t a set amount they should eat daily, only offer them in moderation.
Are Fish Skins Safe for Dogs?
Dried fish skin is very safe for your dog. There are rarely side effects, other than a gut upset if your dog has eaten too many or they naturally have a very sensitive stomach.
However, if you are thinking about preparing fish skins yourself, they can pose a risk to your dog, as they can carry harmful parasites and bacteria. Flukes can be found on the skin of fish, and roundworms in the muscles underneath. Tapeworms, however, are found in the fish’s intestines, and therefore are not usually a risk if your dog is only eating the skin. It is always a good idea to thoroughly cook or dehydrate fish skins to minimise the risk of infections.
Are Fish Skins Unpleasant to Have in the House?
Fish skins may be unpleasant for some people to have in the house. They have a distinct fishy odour, some more than others, which can linger on your dog’s breath too.
Also, depending on how they are prepared, some drop scales on your floor, so if your dog doesn’t snuffle them up afterwards, they can be a bit messy. This is less common for the compressed fish skins, and you’re more likely to find it’s a problem with the long, flat dried strips.
Fish Skins for Puppies
Fish skins can provide an excellent source of protein and fat for puppies who are growing. They help provide the building blocks for strong muscles, and contribute to healthy joint, eye, heart and brain development.
However, puppies should receive the majority of their nutrients from a balanced, commercial puppy food. Therefore, fish skin treats should only be fed in moderation, as a treat, and not as the main part of your puppy’s diet.
Puppies can enjoy fish skin treats from the age of 12 weeks old.
Can Fish Skins Cause Diarrhoea in Dogs?
Dehydrated, jerky fish skins don’t usually cause diarrhoea in dogs, unless they are given excessively, or your dog has a particularly sensitive stomach.
The exception to this is if your dog has been fed contaminated fish skins, which is more common if you are feeding home-prepared or raw skins. Diarrhoea, in this case, can cause serious illness, and you should seek veterinary care immediately.
Can Fish Skins Cause Blockages?
Fish skins are very unlikely to cause a blockage as they break down easily within the stomach acid. However, they can be hard, and therefore always supervise your dog to ensure he chews the skins. If a compressed fish skin cube is swallowed without chewing, this could cause problems in the oesophagus.
How Are Fish Skins Harvested?
Fish skins are usually harvested from white fish, caught in the North Atlantic Ocean. However, that is not the case for all fish skin treats. Fishing practices can vary in sustainability, so prior to purchasing fish skin treats, it is worth looking into where the fish has been sourced. This ensures they have been fished in an environmentally-friendly manner.
Alternatives to Fish Skins
If you’re thinking that you like the idea of fish skins, but aren’t quite sold on it, why not consider some of these alternatives?
Dried sprats: Sprats are tiny, dried fish, which you can feed your dog whole. They don’t last long, unlike fish skin jerky, but they are an excellent source of omega oils and other nutrients, much like fish skin. One nice thing about them, is that their scales are so tiny that they don’t tend to drop off.
Dried chicken feet: While chicken feet don’t contain the omega oils that fish skins do, they do contain chondroitin, which is also excellent for joint health. They also provide a crunchy texture, which helps improve dental health.
Dental chews: If improved dental health is what draws you to fish skins, you could try dental chews instead. They don’t tend to smell like fish skins, and provide a great texture to help clean the teeth. The downsides though is that they are generally high in calories, and have vague ingredient lists, meaning you never really know what’s in them.
Baked squid: Squid can come in the form of baked and dried chunks or calamari rings. They are extremely high in omega oils, which help contribute to a healthy coat, brain, heart, eyes and joints. They also have no scales to drop on the floor. The downside is that they have an extremely fishy aroma, which your dog will love, but you might not.
Dried prawns: Large, shell-off dried prawns are some of the best treats you can give your dog with joint problems. They are an excellent source of omega-3 and omega-6, as well as glucosamine. In addition to this, they help boost your dog’s health with anti-oxidants, and iodine for proper thyroid and brain function. The downside is that they are not very long lasting, and they are a bit more expensive than the average sea-based dog treat.
Fish skins for dogs are extremely nutritious and will benefit your dog’s health in many different ways. However, you should be careful of where you source them from, to ensure they have been made safely with no contamination, and fished in a sustainable manner. Dogs should never be allowed to eat a treat unsupervised, as if they are extremely enthusiastic, they might forget to chew! However, if you are keen to improve your dog’s dental, skin, eye, joint, heart and brain health, fish skins provide many different options to do just that.