Are Sardines Good for Nursing Dogs? [Nutrient Powerhouse?]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

I personally love sardines, more so after my vacation in Portugal (seriously, you have to try them out!)

Sardines are nutritious and flavorful fish that are rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, and although you might not hear of them often, they are recommended as a healthy addition to a dog’s diet.

What if your dog just gave birth then? Are sardines good for nursing dogs?

Nursing dogs have unique nutritional needs, requiring extra calories, protein, and nutrients to support milk production and the growth and development of their puppies. While sardines provide these essential nutrients, they also contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful to both the mother and her puppies if consumed in excess.

Therefore, it’s important to weigh the potential benefits and risks of feeding sardines to nursing dogs, and that’s what we are going to talk about in this post today.

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Nutritional Benefits of Sardines for Nursing Dogs

Nutritional Benefits of Sardines for Nursing Dogs

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Sardines are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for a nursing dog’s health.

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA and DHA, help support the immune system, reduce inflammation, and promote healthy brain function.

Nursing dogs need these nutrients to support the development of their puppies’ brains and nervous systems.


Sardines are also an excellent source of protein, which is crucial for a nursing dog’s health.

Protein helps support muscle growth and repair, and it provides the energy necessary for a nursing dog to produce milk for her puppies.

Nursing dogs need more protein than non-nursing dogs, and sardines can do a great job of providing that.

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Vitamins and Minerals

Sardines are rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential for a nursing dog’s health as they contain vitamin B12, which helps support the nervous system and promote healthy blood cell production.

These fishes also contain vitamin D, which helps support bone health and can help prevent rickets in puppies.

On top of that, these little fishes are also an excellent source of calcium, vital in the bone development of puppies.

Last but not least, another important mineral known as selenium can also be found in sardines.

It is basically an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage, supports the immune system, and helps to prevent cancer in your doggo.

Risks of Feeding Sardines to Nursing Dogs

Risks of Feeding Sardines to Nursing Dogs

Mercury Content

The number one risk of feeding sardines to nursing dogs is the potential for mercury poisoning.

As you might know, almost all fishes have trace amounts of mercury in them.

If they are consumed in small amounts, nothing serious will happen but to the unknowing, larger amounts can turn out to be fatal.

Here’s the thing about mercury in sardines: it can vary depending on where it was caught and how it was processed.

Your best bet is to look for sardines that are wild-caught and from a reputable source.

Sodium Content

Another risk of feeding sardines to nursing dogs is the high sodium content.

You should avoid sardines that are canned in oil or packed in salt as there’s a ton of sodium in them.

Needless to say, this can be very dangerous to your dog, especially if it has kidney or heart problems.

I recommend that you only choose sardines that are packed in water or with no salt added, and be sure to limit the amount of sardines you feed your nursing dog to avoid overloading them with sodium.

How to Feed Sardines to Nursing Dogs


Sardines can be a healthy addition to a nursing dog’s diet.

However, it is important to prepare them properly before feeding them to your dog.

Here are some tips:

  • Choose sardines that are packed in water or their own juices, rather than oil or any other sauces.
  • Remove any bones from the sardines before feeding them to your dog. Bones can be a choking hazard and can also cause digestive issues.
  • You can feed sardines to your dog either raw or cooked (better choice). If you choose to cook them, avoid adding any seasonings or spices. Steaming or boiling them are the best ways.


While sardines can be a healthy addition to a nursing dog’s diet, it is important not to overdo it.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Feed sardines to your nursing dog no more than once or twice a week.
  • Start with a small amount, such as a quarter of a can, and gradually increase the amount over time.
  • Be sure to adjust your dog’s overall diet to account for the additional calories and nutrients from the sardines.

Food Requirements for a Nursing Dog

As a general guideline, you should increase a dog’s food consumption during nursing by 25% for each puppy over what she normally needs to maintain her body weight.

When a dog is producing milk to feed her puppies, she needs a lot of extra nutrients to keep her own body healthy while also nourishing her pups.

As a super mom, her body will prioritize using whatever nutrition she has for milk production and puppy growth, even if it means using up all of her reserves, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies and poor health.

If you wanna make sure that your lactating dog stays at a healthy weight while still providing enough milk for her puppies, you must feed her a diet that is high in fat, at least 17 percent.

And that’s because it can be difficult for her to consume enough calories just through regular food alone.

One more thing: the more puppies there are, the greater the demand for nutrients, so the mother dog’s diet needs to be adjusted accordingly.

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What are the consequences of improper feeding?

The greatest danger of improper feeding is malnutrition, which can lead to serious health problems for both the mother and the puppies.

Ever heard of “fading puppy syndrome”? This is when puppies are born to a mother with this condition, and they are more likely to have issues such as crying frequently, appearing weak and lethargic, eating poorly, growing slowly, and lacking coordination.

The sad part? Many of them eventually pass away.

When there’s not enough nutrition, it can also result in lactation issues, which means decreased milk output to a complete failure to produce milk.

If you are breeding your female dog, you need to do all your research way before it begins mating to fully understand its needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What other types of fish can I feed to my nursing dog?

You can alos feed nursing dogs other types of fish such as salmon, mackerel, and trout. Avoid feeding fish that are high in mercury, such as tuna, and to always cook the fish to ensure that it is safe for your dog to eat.

Can I feed sardines as the sole source of protein to my nursing dog?

Sardines are a good source of protein and other nutrients, but they cannot be the sole source of protein in a nursing dog’s diet. A balanced diet for dogs should include a variety of protein sources and other nutrients to support their overall health and wellbeing.

Are canned sardines safe for dogs?

Yes, canned sardines are safe for dogs to eat, as long as they are packed in water or their own natural oils and do not contain added salt or other harmful ingredients.

Is it OK to feed my nursing dog sardines everyday?

No, you should not feed your dog sardines everyday, especially as the main source of protein. They do not contain all the nutrients that your dog needs, which. iswhy it is important to formulate a balanced diet.

In Conclusion: Are Sardines Good for Nursing Dogs?

Sardines are a great addition to a nursing dog’s diet, being a really good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and other important nutrients.

That doesn’t mean you should go all in on them though, and remember, a balanced diet that includes a variety of protein sources and other essential nutrients is most important.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Daily Dog Drama!

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