Dachshunds smelling salmon skin.

Can Dogs Eat Salmon Skin? Fact Checked By Our Vet

Written By Eloisa Thomas | Canine Coach, Double M.A in Anthropology.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 10th January 2024

Looking to add some healthy fats to your dog’s diet? Then you might have considered giving them salmon. But can your dog eat salmon, and what about the leftover skins?

Here’s what vets have to say about it.


Can Dogs Eat Salmon Skin?

Generally, yes.

According to veterinarians, most fish skin is perfectly safe for dogs to eat. As a rule of thumb, if your dog can eat the flesh, they can eat the skin too.

Current medical research has found that fish skin offers a concentrated form of the micronutrients found in whole fish. This means it provides all the same minerals, vitamins, and fats as the flesh but in higher amounts per kilo. Your dog needn’t eat as much for the same amount of goodness!

However, the final choice of how much and whether you give it to them depends on your dog and their individual health needs. The source of the salmon can also affect whether it’s a good idea for them to eat the skin.


Salmon Skin vs Salmon Flesh: What Are The Differences?

Even though they come from the same source, salmon skin and salmon flesh have slightly different compositions.

Salmon flesh, fresh or canned, is rich in protein and micronutrients. A portion of salmon packs more than 120% of a human adult’s vitamin B12 daily requirement and more than half of our vitamin B6 requirement. The flesh is also rich in other minerals such as phosphorus, selenium, and folic acid.

Salmon skin, on the other hand, is richer in healthy fatty acids than salmon flesh, but lower in protein. A recent study by researchers at McGill University in Canada found that compounds in salmon skin had more antioxidant properties than those in salmon flesh, due to their concentration [1]. Salmon skin is also richer in collagen and gelatine, which can be especially useful in improving joint and skin health. The rest of the nutritional profile is similar to salmon flesh.

Salmon skin strips in a dog bowl.

Is Salmon Good For Dogs? Benefits of Salmon Skin

Salmon is one of the healthiest fish options for humans. The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists it in their “best choices” for fish, meaning people are advised to have 2 to 3 servings a week [2]. But is salmon equally beneficial for dogs? Here’s what we know:

Omega fatty acids in salmon are healthy for any dog

Salmon is one of the food items with higher Omega-3 content. This essential fatty acid has tried-and-true anti-inflammatory properties and can especially help dogs with joint issues, such as arthritis [4]. Since salmon skin is especially rich in Omega-3, it’s a great choice to supplement this nutrient in your pup’s diet.

Salmon skin can help fight diabetes 

An Italian research group found that oligopeptides in salmon skin helped diabetic rats heal faster. This area of research is still being developed, but scientists believe these compounds have antioxidant activity that ultimately benefits the body. Therefore, dogs can likely also benefit from oligopeptides in salmon skin [3].

PRO TIP: If your dog is diabetic, always follow veterinarian advice. For dogs with diabetes, any change in their diet needs to be consulted with a vet in advance. Even if diet changes may positively affect their health, they are never a substitution for individualized medical care.

Could help improve osteoarthritis symptoms 

Arthritis and other joint issues are common problems among senior dogs. Unfortunately, this chronic condition cannot be cured, but diet and medication can help to manage it. Salmon skin can be a great supplement to help with joint pain and inflammation. On top of Omega-3 fatty acids, it’s also rich in collagen, adding some “oil” to your dog’s joints. Research shows pups supplemented with salmon oil have better mobility and improved quality of life.

Great for allergic dogs

Many hypoallergenic diets contain salmon skin and flesh as the main protein and fat sources. As we’ve mentioned before, food allergies in dogs tend to appear with common foods, such as chicken. Salmon is a great alternative protein most dogs tolerate well, and because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it helps alleviate allergy symptoms [5]. This includes relieving itchy skin, helping decrease redness and improving skin health [6].

It might lower heart disease risk 

The pink colour in salmon is due to an antioxidant called astaxanthin. Although research is in its early stages, astaxanthin appears to lower “bad cholesterol” levels while increasing good cholesterol. Over time, this reduces your dog’s risk of heart disease and helps their heart work better.


4 Tips To Keep In Mind Before Giving Salmon Skin To Your Dog

Keep an eye out for rickettsia 

Salmon can be infected with a worm called Nanophyetus salmincola, which can give your dog a bacterial disease called rickettsia [8]. Also called salmon fish poisoning, rickettsia can be a very serious condition. It’s difficult to prevent because the worm is too small to see clearly without a microscope. Common symptoms appear up to 12 days after fish consumption and can include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy and enlargement of lymph nodes. If your dog has any of these symptoms, get them to the vet ASAP! Untreated rickettsia can be fatal, so it’s vital to act fast, letting your vet know if your dog ate any fish before the symptoms appeared.

Moderation is key 

Salmon is a fatty fish, and salmon skin is especially rich in lipids. While these are healthy fats, you can always have too much of a good thing. According to the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), healthy adult dogs require a minimum of 5% fat in their diet, although around 14% is optimal to keep them lean [7]. If your dog already has a balanced diet, offer salmon skin an occasional treat. One or two bites a week is enough!

PRO TIP: If your dog has ever been diagnosed with pancreatitis, ask your vet before offering salmon skin. The high fat content, although healthy, can cause discomfort or trigger an episode. In these cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Never give your dog raw salmon skin 

Raw salmon can have bacteria, putting your dog at a higher risk of parasites, like the worm mentioned above. Properly cooking salmon skin before giving it to your dog lowers the chances of infection and makes it easier to digest.

Don’t give your dog fried fish

The extra fat won’t be good for your dog and can easily cause digestive troubles. Boiling salmon skin or simply cooking it on a dry skillet allows you to cook it through without adding unnecessary fat.


My Final Thoughts

Next time you want to treat your pup, consider a yummy piece of salmon skin. It can be a healthy extra, packed full of flavour and healthy fats. It’s especially useful if you have a picky eater – we’ve never met a dog that can resist a sprinkle of salmon as a topper!

As always, ask your vet before offering salmon to your dog if your pup has health conditions or other concerns.

Have you ever given fish skin to your dog? Which was their favourite?

If you’re curious about what other types of foods your dog can eat, check out our other guides:

Check out our full list below:

References

  1. Amissah et al. 2012. “Bioactive properties of salmon skin protein hydrolysates”. McGill University. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://escholarship.mcgill.ca/concern/theses/r781wk847
  2. Food and Drug Administration. 2021. “Advice about eating fish”. FDA. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/advice-about-eating-fish
  3. Lauritano et al. 2016. “Marine Organisms with Anti-Diabetes Properties”. Marine Drugs, 14(12). Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5192457/
  4. The Kennel Club. Omega-3. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health-and-dog-care/health/health-and-care/a-z-of-health-and-care-issues/omega-3/
  5. Voga, M., & Majdic, G. 2022. “Articular Cartilage Regeneration in Veterinary Medicine”. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 1401, 23–55. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/5584_2022_717
  6. Bauer, John E. 2007. “Responses of dogs to dietary omega-3 fatty acids.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 231(11). Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://europepmc.org/article/med/18052798
  7. MSD Manual. AAFCO Nutrient Requirements for Dogs. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://www.msdvetmanual.com/multimedia/table/aafco-nutrient-requirements-for-dogs
  8. Furtado et al. 2022. “Salmon poisoning disease in dogs: clinical presentation, diagnosis and treatment”. Brazilian Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 44. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://bjvm.org.br/BJVM/article/view/1271

Eloisa Thomas


Eloisa Thomas is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach & Anthropologist.

With a double master's degree in Anthropology and awarded a Chancellor's International Scholarship to pursue a PhD in History at the University of Warwick (UK), she's well equipped to write well written and factual canine information that will actually help people understand their dogs better.

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