Can German Shepherds Eat Tuna? Is it Safe? - Answered

Through the centuries, dogs have become some of our most beloved friends. You can go back thousands of years and still find evidence of humans and dogs living and working together. From house guards and TV stars, to police officers and even rescuers, dogs have found their place in our homes and hearts.

One breed in particular, the German Shepherds –Or GSD, has gained a special place in our hearts. Being very smart and confident, great learners and incredibly loyal they have found they quickly become part of the family.

Most people (myself included) find it very hard not to want to spoil our loyal, loving canine companion. German Shepherd Dogs have different stomachs to us and it can be hard to tell if what we are giving them is a tasty little treat or something that can actually be harmful to our GSD’s.

Can they eat tuna?

The short answer is: Yes! But not to often

But it’s not as simple as that.

Dogs in general can’t process fish as well as human because it isn’t part of their natural diet, as it wasn’t part of their evolution. Their stomachs can handle the occasional fishy meal however it should not become part of their consistent diet.

However, tuna (especially canned, as it is most commercialized) comes with one big drawback: there are high mercury levels in the fish’s body.  As tuna is a relatively long-living species, which can grow to massive sizes they tend to collect mercury in their flesh as they grow. There is enough mercury in tuna that it can lead to the slow deterioration of a dog’s health if they eat it too often.

How often is too often, then?

Well, it depends on a key factor: weight. Just like chocolate, avocado and onions, dog’s capacity to digest tuna is linked to their size.

German Shepherds’ usual weight ranges from 66 to 90 pounds (from 30 to 40 kg) if it’s male, and 45 to 70 pounds (from 22 to 32kg) if it’s female. This means they are a medium-to-large dog breed, more capable than most of eating tuna without any side effects.

A good rule of thumb is this; the smaller your dog the less often they can eat tuna. If for example the dog weighs 40 pounds (18 kg) they are fine with one can every 9 days.

Since male German Shepherds are bigger, their bodies allows them to have one can every 7 days if they are on the smaller side and up to one can every 5 days if their body is on the larger size (90lbs).

If you avoid giving them canned tuna any more often than that then you’re German Shepherd should not show any negative symptoms from mercury at all. The actual amount of mercury they ingest in each of these meals can also be reduced by the type of tuna they eat.

Does The Type Of Tuna Matter?

With tuna, the bigger and older the fish, the more mercury they have in their body. The easiest way to minimize the harm is by paying attention to the tuna on the can label when you go shopping, as this can make a gigantic difference in the mercury levels in the fish itself.

The most common types of tuna that are canned and make their way into our homes are Yellowfin, Albacore and Skipjack. Look at the can to see the type you are buying.

Yellowfin tuna is one of the largest types of tuna in the sea, with an average weight of 400 pounds (180 kg). This means this is the least healthy type of the three that we can find, since its colossal body has more time to collect mercury.

Albacore tuna is commercialized when it weighs around 20 pounds (around 9 kg), which is a far healthier option than Yellowfin.

Last but not least, Skipjack tuna ranges from 7 to 22 pounds (from 3 to 10 kg) making it the healthiest option of the three.

Despite all this, even with a perfect day-and-meal count, we should always be attentive to mercury poisoning signs. Some common signs of mercury poison in dogs include: Hair loss, anxiety, blindness, abdominal swelling and/or pain, loss of coordination and tremors. Even just vomiting after a meal is a sign of rejection from the dog’s stomach.

So is it a good idea?

As stated before, fish isn’t part of any dog’s natural diet; they just weren’t built to eat it, whether it is tuna, sardines or salmon. Not giving them tuna at all is even better for them because it doesn’t present any risk at all for their delicate stomachs.
 
However, if for any reason at all, we find ourselves regularly feeding our GSD tuna, then avoid yellowfin and don’t make it part of their daily schedule.
 
Lastly, If a tuna-loving Shepherd shows any sign of sickness after eating, or shows any of the common symptoms of elevated mercury levels stop feeding them tuna and immediately take them to a vet for a checkup.
 
We ow it to our GSD’s to give them a healthy, high quality diet. Keep an eye on them around cat food and only use tuna as a treat and you shouldn’t have a problem.

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Thank you for this web site. Very informative and well written. I often advise my shepherd people to visit here for information. Again GREAT JOB.
Laura Page Warden

What a fabulous website!!! I really enjoyed reading about the history of the dogs. There is a ton of helpful information on here and defiantly something for every reader to enjoy!!!
Misty Weaver

Recently got a GSD again. Last time had GSD no internet etc. Cant believe how much info for free. Kenneth

I love and appreciate the helpful advice I found on your website!
Rachelle