Brown dog sitting next to a bag of whole raw fish for dogs

How to Feed Whole Raw Fish for Dogs

All my dogs love(d) whole raw fish. My Boxer mixes Missy and Buzz did, and so does my Feist mix Wally.

And I love feeding my dogs whole raw fish because they’re a great source of:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin D
  • Protein

Now, when I say whole raw fish, I’m talking about the entire fish with bones, scales, fins, and the head.

So that said, they also have some calcium (bones), and animal fiber (fins).

Brown dog sitting on laminate floors licking his chops over an open, clear plastic bag with whole fish for dogs on a kitchen counter.

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

Can Dogs Eat & Digest Fishbones?

The question people ask me most about feeding whole raw fish for dogs is “But can dogs really eat fish bones?”

Yes, but only when the fish bones are raw.

My dogs Missy, Buzz and Wally have been eating whole raw fish with the fish bones since 2016 without any issues.

That’s because raw fish bones are soft and pliable – just like raw meaty bones from poultry or rabbit. 

So if your dog ate raw fish and you’re wondering what do I do?

Nothing. Your dog will be just fine.

brown dog eats a raw herring whole from Raw Feeding Miami
Wally eats a whole raw herring

Now, what you don’t want to feed is cooked fish bones because as with all bones, cooking changes the bone density and makes them brittle and sharp.

If your dog ate a whole cooked fish meaning your dog ate fish bones cooked, my tip is to feed them slippery elm syrup.

Related Reading: Slippery Elm for Dogs – What It Is, How to Feed It As A Syrup & More

It coats your dog’s digestive tract and also their trachea, and makes passing the whole cooked fish easier – both ways (vomiting and pooping it out).

So as far as how to cook fish for dogs – don’t! At least not with the bones.

Whole Raw Fish for Dogs: Can Dogs Eat Fish Heads?

Yes.

Not only can dogs eat fish heads, they should!

That’s because a raw fish head comes with its eyes and the brains.

Both count as secreting organs that are really hard to source by themselves.

And following the feeding model of like cures like, the eyes and the brains are great organ meats to feed your dog for their eye and brain health.

Related Reading: Raw Beef Eyeballs for Dogs

Here’s a video of my dogs Missy and Buzz eating whole salmon heads:

Feeding Raw Salmon Heads for Dogs

Best Whole Raw Fish for Dogs

Ok, so what’s the best raw fish for dogs that can you feed whole?

The answer is oily fish like mackerel, herring, trout, anchovies, sardines, and smelt.

Related Reading: What’s the Difference Between Mackerel and Herring?

Raw whole mackerel and whole herring lying next to each other on a green cutting board

I prefer to cut up larger fish like salmon into smaller pieces and have fed raw salmon heads to my dogs Missy and Buzz before.

The only reason why I’m not feeding my dog Wally salmon heads is because he is allergic to salmon.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is that smaller fish has much less mercury than larger fish.

So that’s another reason why I wouldn’t feed larger fish like salmon on a regular, weekly basis.

As far as which kind of fish to feed YOUR particular dog whole, use common sense and feed an appropriate size.

So for example, feed your Chihuahua a whole sardine, smelt or anchovy as opposed to a whole mackerel.

And do the opposite with your Pitbull!

Where to Buy Whole Raw Fish for Dogs

As far as where to buy raw fish for dogs, this depends on where you live.

If you’re in the States, you can get oily fish like mackerel, herring, sardines, anchovies and smelt from raw dog food retailers like Raw Feeding Miami.

Raw Paws Pet Food mostly carries ground fish options, but they also have whole smelt. Use my affiliate code K9Savings for 15% off.

Hare Today and My Pet Carnivore also have mostly ground fish, but they do have whole sardines.

If you’re elsewhere in the word, check your local grocery stores and research your country’s raw dog food retailers and what kind of fish they’re selling.

The only other country I’ve actively fed whole raw fish for dogs besides the US is Germany.

There, I can get whole mackerel from cit Tiernahrung and Barfers Wellfood.

Storing raw fish in Wally's upright freezer for his raw dog food
Storing whole mackerel from Barfers Wellfood in my raw dog food freezer

Frozen Raw Fish for Dogs

As far as feeding whole frozen raw fish for dogs, some dogs will do fine with that approach and others won’t.

I will say though that it works nice as a refreshing, cooling dog snack when it’s hot outside.

Related Reading: How to Keep Dogs Cool In Summer

But if your dog has a sensitive tummy, I wouldn’t offer frozen raw fish, but let it thaw before feeding it.

Now, do you have to freeze raw fish you intend to feed your dog?

Again, it depends.

If it’s from the Pacific or if it’s wild fish you caught yourself, you’ll want to freeze it for 3 weeks before feeding it.

Freezing raw fish for dogs gets rid of potential parasites.

If you bought the whole raw fish from a raw dog food retailer like Raw Feeding Miami, Raw Paws Pet Food, Hare Today or My Pet Carnivore for example, you don’t need to freeze it prior to feeding it.

How to Feed Whole Raw Fish to Dogs

As far as how to feed it, that depends on the size of the whole raw fish and what kind of raw dog food you feed.

If you make your own homemade raw dog food, the best way to feed your dog a larger whole raw fish is as an in-between snack.

For smaller whole fish like anchovies, smelts and herrings, you can add them into your dog’s food containers at raw dog food meal prep.

DIY raw dog food meal prep featuring duck feet, duck gizzards and ground lamb, thread herring, beef green tripe, and secreting organ mix Monstermash
Raw dog food meal prep with whole raw herring

Related Reading: Raw Dog Food Meal Prep for Beginners

Now, if you’re feeding commercial raw dog food that doesn’t have any fish in it, you can just add a smaller whole fish into your dog’s bowl at feeding time.

Or if it’s a larger raw fish, again, I’d feed it as an in-between snack.

Here’s a video of Wally eating a whole raw mackerel on my K9sOverCoffee YouTube channel:

Can Dogs Eat Whole Raw Fish with Bones?

Whole Raw Fish for Dogs: Bottom Line

So there you have it – whole raw fish for dogs is nutritious, fun for your dog to eat and safe!

Remember, dogs can eat whole raw fish with bones as long as the bones are raw.

But don’t feed your dog any cooked fish bones!

The eyes and the brains in whole raw fish are secreting organs that are valuable for your dog’s eyesight and neurological health.

Do you have any questions or comments about feeding your dog whole raw fish?

Leave them in the comment section below this blog post and I’ll answer them!

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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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