Cats and Dogs
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Can tuna upset a cats stomach?

Can I feed my cats tuna?

We’ve all grown up on movies and cartoons in which cats are shown relishing fish. The association is so strong, that most of us don’t even think about it really. But what about tuna? Can cats eat it, canned, raw, or as the main part of their diet? You might love your tuna sandwich, but is it good for our feline companions? What does the research say about fish for cats, especially tuna? The answer is, yes, you can feed your pet cat tuna without worrying too much about its health. However, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind to make sure your cat stays safe and healthy with this food.

Feeding your cats tuna

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means their main food is meat. While fish can definitely be part of their diet, it is unlikely to include tuna naturally, since it is a deep saltwater fish. We don’t really see cats fishing for it in the wild, do we? But does the cat care about all that? Just a whiff of the fish and your cat will perk up immediately. There is something about the tuna that appeals to cats tremendously. And it’s good since there are numerous ways tuna can be helpful for cats.

#1 Adds hydration

Cats don’t drink as much water as dogs as they have low thirst drives. In nature, cats get their hydration from their food. At home, if you are in the habit of feeding your cat dry food or even canned, you might not be providing adequate water. Tuna can be a great way to add hydration to your cat’s diet. You can consider giving your cat tuna treats as long as it is the natural canned kind in water. Do check the label for artificial additives which are not good for cats.

#2 Encourages a picky eater

Does your cat turn up her nose for most food? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Cats are known to be fussy eaters, but there’s no magic like tuna magic. If you want to transition your cat to a new type of canned food and she’s not taking to it, simply place a small amount of tuna on to the top of the new food. For each progressive meal, push the tuna deeper into the canned food, and slowly phase it out. Word of caution: don’t feed just tuna if your cat isn’t eating. It could easily train your cat to only want tuna. You might end up with a pickier eater than before. Tuna is useful to encourage eating, but do not make it your cat’s only food.

#3 As a treat

  • A spoonful of tuna
  • Tuna mixed in with wet food
  • Tuna juice or brine on top of dry food

Is tuna safe for cats?

With so much going for itself, why can’t we offer our cats tuna all the time? Because, even though cats get seduced by just the smell of tuna, too much of anything can be bad for them, especially too much of tuna. Once cats start eating tuna regularly, they start to crave it and possibly reject all other foods. You can’t have that much fussiness in a pet, can you? But putting aside the inconvenience of feeding the only tuna, excessive intake of this fish can lead to numerous health conditions in your cat. Too much tuna has been shown to create thiamine issues and vitamin E deficiency. This can lead to steatitis, a condition characterized by intense body pain.

And there is also the risk of mercury poisoning with too much tuna.

fresh tuna

When you do feed your cat canned tuna, look for fish that is 100% real fish packed in water and not oil. Watch out for artificial fish flavoring, which can lead to hyperthyroidism. Just as you would do with your own food, check the label, especially if it is canned tuna that is meant for humans. Not all of it is suitable for your cat. Many canned foods contain excessive oil and salt which is a strict no-no for your cat. Of course, you can use a little of the tuna brine or oil on your picky eater just to encourage eating. However, do not add copious amounts of tuna juice to the cat’s food if your cat has high blood pressure or heart disease. The excessive salt content in the tuna juice is not good for them and can cause severe health issues. Use it very rarely, and only after consulting with your vet.

What about raw tuna?

Sushi is quite popular among humans (some, at least), but that doesn’t make it the ideal meal for your cat. There are quite a few risks associated with feeding a cat raw fish, some of which include bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Some studies have also shown that in extremely rare cases, where the cats were fed raw fish and nothing else, it was found that raw fish has also broken down thiamine. Some other fish too, like raw carp or raw herring, have led to thiamine deficiency in cats. But this has been observed when a cat is fed an only-fish diet. Another food that we love eating is a tuna fish sandwich. Should you let your cat eat that? She would love to, no doubt about that. However, just like sushi, you should exercise some caution. Other than the tuna, which could be covered in oil, the sandwich could contain pickles, olives, and even celery, along with a dollop of mayonnaise, none of which are suitable for your cat. They might not be toxic, but they could definitely give your cat a stomach upset.

Can Cats Eat Tuna Summary

Maybe you have an adult cat or have recently adopted a kitten. Irrespective of the age of the pet, you must follow the same precautions. It’s alright to feed your pet a little raw tuna now and then. However, do remember, a kitten is still growing and has special dietary requirements. Look for food that has been formulated keeping in mind their nutritional needs. Small quantities of tuna, given only as occasional treats, should be just fine for your cat. Simply make sure the fish is canned in water and not oil, and read all labels thoroughly. Feeding tuna once or at most twice a week should be fine. Do not make it the main part of the diet as it lacks nutritional value and is low on thiamine and vitamin E. Do not let the sweet purring fool you; no matter what your heart says, offer tuna in limited quantities and on occasional days only. Do write to us if you have any questions regarding feeding tuna to your cat.

Can Dogs Eat Tuna?

Did Fido sneak a bite of tuna from Kitty’s bowl? Gobble up your leftover lunch on the counter—or worse—in the trash?

As your full, sweet pup sits and smiles at you in delight, you might be thinking, ‘Can dogs eat tuna? Is it bad for dogs? Or is tuna good for dogs?’

We spoke with a veterinarian to find out whether your dog can safely eat tuna or if it’s best to avoid this fish at all costs.

dog with tuna pattern in the background; can dogs eat tuna?
Credit: bigacis / Getty / Eric Isselée / Adobe Stock

Should You Give Your Dog Tuna?

Whether you’re looking for a new healthy snack to feed, or your canine companion just treated himself to someone else’s meal, you may wonder if tuna is OK for your dog to eat. After all, tuna is known for being packed with nutrients, such as protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins for muscle gain, cardiovascular health, and cell health.

So, does tuna pose a risk to our pups?

«Tuna is not technically toxic for dogs and in small amounts, will not hurt them,» says Jamie Whittenburg, DVM at Senior Tail Waggers and owner of Kingsgate Animal Hospital in Lubbock, Texas.

It’s fantastic news that this savory fish is safe for dogs to eat, but there are a few things you should know before feeding your dog tuna.

RELATED: 10 Toxic Human Foods Dogs & Cats Should Never Eat

Why Tuna Is Bad for Dogs

We often associate tuna with cats since it’s no secret they totally love it. But even for our fish-fancying felines, veterinarians only recommend feeding tuna as an occasional snack.

Why? The same reason it’s bad for dogs—mercury. Mercury is a toxic metal found in water. As a result, all fish have varying levels of mercury in their systems. «Tuna can contain high levels of mercury,» Whittenburg says. «If a dog consumes large amounts, it could cause mercury poisoning.»

And mercury poisoning can cause irreversible neurological and renal damage. Signs of mercury poisoning in dogs include:

  • Stomatitis
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain
  • Shock
  • Blindness
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of coordination
  • Death

The possibility of mercury poisoning is indeed alarming. However, tuna can be fed in small amounts every once in a while! (Just keep in mind tuna is not nutritionally balanced.)

«Fish, including tuna, can have health benefits for dogs and are used in commercial dog food recipes,» Whittenburg says.

If you’d like to feed your pooch tuna, cook the tuna before serving a small amount proportioned to your dog’s necessary daily calorie intake. Be sure to also see how your dog handles eating it. While rare, some dogs may be allergic to fish.

Signs of food allergies in dogs include:

Additionally, it’s recommended to follow the 10 percent rule, where no more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily calories come from snacks. Tuna is nutritious. But it’s best to keep portion sizes small considering the risks of overfeeding.

If you’re looking for a safer option of fish to feed your dog, Whittenburg recommends tilapia, salmon, catfish, and whitefish.

What To Do if Your Dog Eats Tuna

If your dog has eaten tuna, how you should proceed depends on a few factors.

«If your dog accidentally ingests a small amount of tuna, this is likely not a cause for concern. Dogs with sensitive stomachs may experience some gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea,» Whittenburg says. «If your dog got into the trash or ate a dish that includes tuna, you need to make sure that there were not toxic foods in the dish, such as garlic and onions. If your dog ate a large amount of tuna, ate something toxic in the tuna, or is experiencing any gastrointestinal issues, they should be seen by their veterinarian as soon as possible.»

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