What's the difference in mackerel and herring?

Difference Between Mackerel and Herring

Ready to learn about the difference between mackerel and herring in raw feeding?

Both are fatty fish. But what is fatty fish in the first place?

Well, fatty fish are also known as oily fish, a category of fish that are rich in healthy fats, particularly Omega-3 fatty acids.

Besides mackerel and herring, other oily fish are salmon, sardines, anchovies and trout.

That said, they all have a higher fat content compared to lean fish varieties.

Specifically, Omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

These fatty acids are beneficial for heart health, brain function, and reducing inflammation.

Because of these benefits, both mackerel and herring are an excellent alternative to fish oil for dogs!

The short video below features both fish in a recent meal prep batch:

YouTube Short comparing raw mackerel and herring for raw dog food

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you probably know that my pup Wally can have both mackerel and herring.

That’s a relief because after I did a dog allergy test with him, I found out that he doesn’t do well with several other oily fish!

For example, he can’t have salmon, sardines and green lipped mussels (GLMs).

That said, I rotate between mackerel and herring in Wally’s DIY raw meals.

Now without further ado, let’s look at the difference between mackerel and herring!

Difference Between Mackerel and Herring

The difference between mackerel and herring for raw-fed dogs

Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn compensation when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.

Mackerel vs Herring: Appearance

Mackerel: Mackerel typically have a streamlined, torpedo-shaped body with a metallic blue-green back, silver-white belly, and distinct wavy lines or spots on their sides.

Herring: Herring have a more elongated and slender body with a bluish-green or silver coloration on the back, fading to a silver-white on the belly. They usually have a single, prominent black spot behind their gill covers.

Mackerel vs Herring: Size

Mackerel: Mackerel tend to be larger than herring. They can grow up to around 1 to 2 feet in length, depending on the species.

Herring: Herring are generally smaller, ranging from about 6 to 12 inches in length, depending on the species.

Is mackerel bigger than herring?

Mackerel vs Herring: Distribution

Mackerel: Different species of mackerel are found in various oceans and seas around the world. For example, the Atlantic mackerel is common in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Herring: Herring species are also distributed in various oceans and seas. The Atlantic herring, as the name suggests, is prevalent in the North Atlantic.

Mackerel vs Herring: Comparing Mercury Levels

As a general trend, herring tends to have lower mercury levels compared to mackerel.

However, it’s essential to understand that the mercury content in fish can vary depending on several factors, such as the species, size, age, and the environment in which they live.

That said, herring is a smaller species of fish that is lower in the food chain. They typically have a shorter lifespan and consume smaller prey, which results in lower mercury accumulation in their bodies.

Mackerel includes various species, some of which are larger and longer-lived.

Larger and predatory fish tend to accumulate more mercury in their tissues. That’s why certain species of mackerel, such as King mackerel and Spanish mackerel, are known to have higher mercury levels.

The different levels of mercury in mackerel can be broadly categorized as follows:

  1. Low-Mercury Mackerel: Some smaller species of mackerel, such as the Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus), are generally considered to have lower mercury levels. These fish tend to have shorter lifespans and are less likely to accumulate high levels of mercury in their bodies.
  2. High-Mercury Mackerel: On the other hand, larger species of mackerel, such as the King mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla), Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus), and some other varieties like the Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri), have been found to have higher levels of mercury. These fish have longer lifespans and usually accumulate higher amounts of mercury in their tissues over time.

So it’s best to avoid King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel and Wahoo and stick with Atlantic Mackerel.

How Much Mercury Is Safe For Dogs?

The main concern with mercury in fish for dogs is similar to that for humans – the toxic effects it can have on the nervous system and other body functions.

However, it’s essential to note that dogs are generally more tolerant of mercury compared to us humans, and their bodies can handle higher levels.

Still, excessive mercury intake can be harmful and lead to health issues.

That’s why as with so many other things in life, moderation is key.

As long as you feed fish as about 8-10% of your dog’s overall daily raw dog food allowance, your pup will benefit from eating it!

You can even feed a meal that consists mostly of fish once per week.

Just don’t make it a daily habit.

Homemade raw dog food recipe with fish

Mackerel vs Herring: Nutritional Data

Below is a comparison table of the nutritional profiles of raw mackerel and raw herring per 100 grams = 3 oz of edible portion:

Nutrient (per 100g/3 oz)Raw MackerelRaw Herring
Calories205 kcal158 kcal
Protein18.6 g17.9 g
Total Fat13.9 g10.7 g
Saturated Fat3.6 g2.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat4.8 g3.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat4.1 g3.3 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (DHA)4,580 mg1,570 mg
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA)580 mg860 mg
Cholesterol70 mg73 mg
Carbohydrates0 g0 g
Fiber0 g0 g
Calcium12 mg27 mg
Iron0.9 mg1.1 mg
Magnesium29 mg29 mg
Phosphorus314 mg278 mg
Potassium372 mg408 mg
Sodium63 mg59 mg
Zinc0.4 mg0.4 mg
Vitamin C0 mg0 mg
Thiamin (Vitamin B1)0.2 mg0.2 mg
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)0.2 mg0.2 mg
Niacin (Vitamin B3)6.8 mg5.6 mg
Vitamin B60.2 mg0.3 mg
Folate (Vitamin B9)10 mcg10 mcg
Vitamin B128.7 mcg8.4 mcg
Vitamin A50 IU44 IU
Vitamin D511 IU680 IU
Vitamin E0.9 mg1.9 mg

Mackerel vs Herring: Nutritional Data Analysis

Let’s analyze the nutritional profiles of raw mackerel and raw herring based on the values provided in the table above.

Calories

Raw mackerel provides about 205 calories per 100 grams, while raw herring provides approximately 158 calories.

Both fish are relatively low in calories.

Protein

Both mackerel and herring are excellent sources of protein.

Raw mackerel contains 18.6 grams of protein per 100 grams, while raw herring provides 17.9 grams.

As you probably know, protein is essential for building and repairing tissues and is particularly important for muscle health.

Total Fat

Both fish have moderate amounts of total fat.

Raw mackerel contains 13.9 grams of fat per 100 grams, while raw herring contains 10.7 grams.

Fish fat is considered beneficial as it is a source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which support your dog’s:

  • Joint health. Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce joint inflammation and alleviate symptoms of arthritis and joint pain in dogs. This is particularly beneficial for older dogs or those with joint conditions.
  • Heart health. Omega-3s have been shown to support heart health in dogs by reducing triglyceride levels, improving blood flow, and reducing the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. They may also help lower blood pressure in hypertensive dogs.
  • Skin & coat health. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for maintaining healthy skin and promoting a shiny, lustrous coat in dogs. They can help reduce itching, dryness, and flakiness, making them particularly useful for dogs with skin allergies.
  • Brain development and cognitive function. DHA, one of the key omega-3 fatty acids, is crucial for brain development in puppies. It also supports cognitive function in adult dogs, helping maintain mental sharpness and memory.
  • Immune system. Omega-3s can help modulate the immune response in dogs, leading to a better immune system function and potentially reducing the risk of certain illnesses and infections.
  • Eye health. DHA is a major component of the retina in the eyes, and its presence in the diet can support good eye health and vision in dogs.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Both mackerel and herring are rich sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA and EPA.

Omega-3s are known to support heart health, brain function, and reduce inflammation.

Mackerel, in particular, stands out for its exceptionally high DHA content!

Vitamins and Minerals

Both mackerel and herring contain essential vitamins and minerals, including B-Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, B12), Vitamin D, Vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.

B-Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, B12)

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin, energy production): Thiamin is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, helping convert food into energy for the dog’s body.
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin, cellular health): Riboflavin is essential for cellular growth and function, promoting healthy skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin, energy metabolism, skin & coat): Niacin is crucial for the conversion of food into energy, supporting overall metabolic processes. Niacin also contributes to healthy skin and coat in dogs.
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine, enzyme function & nerves): Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in enzyme reactions involved in protein metabolism. B6 is also essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system and supporting cognitive function.
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate or Folic Acid, cellular growth and division): Folate is necessary for cell division and growth, making it important for tissue repair and growth.
  • Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin, red blood cells & nerves): Vitamin B12 is crucial for the production of red blood cells, which are essential for oxygen transport in the body. B12 also supports the proper functioning of the nervous system

Note: B-vitamins are water-soluble, which means they’re not stored in the body for long periods.

That’s why raw-fed dogs require a continuous supply of these vitamins in their raw diet to maintain good health.

Vitamin D:

  1. Bone Health: Vitamin D is essential for proper calcium absorption, which is crucial for bone development and maintenance. It helps regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in the body, promoting strong bones and teeth in dogs.
  2. Immune System Support: Vitamin D is involved in the functioning of the immune system, helping the body defend against infections and diseases.
  3. Muscle Function: Vitamin D contributes to healthy muscle function and can aid in reducing the risk of muscle weakness or wasting.
  4. Heart Health: Some studies suggest that adequate vitamin D levels may support cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of certain heart-related issues in dogs.

Vitamin E:

  1. Antioxidant Protection: Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that helps protect the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals. This protection is essential for overall health and can contribute to delaying the effects of aging in dogs.
  2. Skin and Coat Health: Vitamin E supports skin health and can help alleviate dryness, itchiness, and certain skin conditions in dogs. It also contributes to a shiny and healthy coat.
  3. Immune System Support: Like vitamin D, vitamin E also supports a healthy immune system, helping dogs better fight off infections and diseases.
  4. Reproductive Health: Vitamin E is involved in reproductive processes in dogs and can be beneficial for breeding animals and developing fetuses.

Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, And Zinc

Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc are essential minerals that play crucial roles in a dog’s overall health and well-being.

Here are the benefits:

  • Calcium (bone health): Calcium is the primary mineral component of bones and teeth, providing strength and structure. Adequate calcium intake is essential for proper bone development and maintenance, especially in growing puppies and lactating females.
  • Iron (oxygen transport): Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Adequate iron levels are necessary to prevent anemia and maintain proper oxygenation of tissues.
  • Magnesium (muscles & bone health): Magnesium is involved in muscle contractions and plays a role in maintaining muscle and nerve function. Magnesium also supports bone density and is necessary for the proper metabolism of calcium.
  • Phosphorus (bone and teeth, energy): Phosphorus, like calcium, is essential for bone and teeth formation and maintenance. It works in conjunction with calcium to provide strength and rigidity to the skeletal structure. Phosphorus is also involved in various energy-producing processes in the body.
  • Potassium (muscle & nerves): Potassium is vital for proper muscle function, including heart muscle, and for maintaining a healthy nervous system.
  • Sodium (fluid balance): Sodium helps maintain the balance of fluids in the body, ensuring proper hydration and electrolyte balance.
  • Zinc (immune system, skin & coat, reproductive health): Zinc is essential for a properly functioning immune system, helping dogs fight off infections and illnesses. Zinc also plays a role in maintaining healthy skin and a shiny coat. Last but not least, zinc is involved in reproductive processes and is essential for proper development and functioning of the reproductive system.

Other Nutrients

Both fish are low in carbohydrates and fiber, which is typical for most fish.

Where To Buy Mackerel For Raw Dog Food

You can find mackerel at well stocked fish markets and at several raw dog food retailers.

As far as raw dog food retailers who sell individual cuts of mackerel, I’m aware of the following in the States:

You can also get whole mackerel on Instacart.

how to feed raw fish for dogs - cutting up raw mackerel for raw dog food
Cutting up raw mackerel from Raw Feeding Miami

Premade Raw Dog Food With Mackerel: Raw Paws Pet Food

Raw Paws Pet Food uses mackerel in their Signature Blend Beef & Mackerel recipe (1 lb).

Here’s what’s in it:

Beef Round, Beef Meat, Wild-Caught Mackerel, Beef Bone, Beef Heart, Beef Tongue, Beef Liver, Beef Kidney, Beef Spleen, Beef Suet.

They also have a 3 lb bundle deal for their beef & mackerel.

Tip: Use my affiliate discount code K9Savings for 15% off.

You can also get a 20 lb order of their beef & mackerel on Amazon. My discount code won’t work there, but they usually have an option to apply a 5% off Amazon coupon.

20 lb of beef and mackerel for dogs from Raw Paws Pet Food on Amazon

Premade Raw Dog Food With Mackerel: Heart Pet

Hearty Pet uses mackerel in their State of Nature Frozen Atlantic Mackerel Burgers.

Here’s what’s in it:

Whole Dressed Atlantic Mackerel, Beef Heart, Beef Liver, Sweet Potato, Carrots, Zucchini, Romaine Lettuce, Spinach, Cilantro, Parsley, Ginger Root

They’re sold as:

  • 8 oz burgers (pack of 12)
  • 2 oz burgers (pack of 60)
  • 1 lb burgers (pack of 15)

Where To Buy Herring For Raw Dog Food

Just like mackerel, you can find herring at fish markets and also in select grocery stores.

Additionally, I’m aware of the following raw dog food retailers who sell herring in the States:

Air-dried herring from Icelandic+. 3 oz bag.

how to eat raw fish for dogs - wally likes his herring whole from Raw FEEDING MIAMI
how to feed raw fish for dogs - an air-dried herring alternative
Wally with his favorite herring treats.

Premade Raw Dog Food With Herring

I’m not aware of any premade raw dog food brands that include herring!

If YOU know of any, please feel free to share them in the comment section below this blog post for all of our benefit.

Difference Between Mackerel and Herring: Bottom Line

From a nutritional standpoint, both mackerel and herring are great oily fish options for raw-fed dogs.

They’re rich in high-quality protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals.

Mackerel stands out for its exceptionally high DHA content, which is beneficial for joint, brain, and eye health.

Is mackerel and herring the same fish?

Herring, on the other hand, is a good source of Vitamin D and Vitamin E.

It’s important to note that while Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for dogs, they should be balanced with Omega-6 fatty acids.

Since poultry and beef are particularly rich in Omega-6s, that’s easy enough to do.

While dogs can produce some omega-3 fatty acids internally, it’s not enough to meet their complete dietary requirements.

Therefore, raw fish like mackerel and herring is perfect to supplement their diet with omega-3s.

But remember, moderation is key as far as including fish in your dog’s raw diet!

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.


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