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Fatty Fish

Estimated reading time: 5 min

Raw diets made of commercial farmed livestock and poultry will be lacking in essential omega 3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA. These fatty acids have multiple roles for biological function and are required for optimal canine health. Therefore, including ingredients with high concentrations of EPA and DHA is recommended for raw diets.

Fat as a whole has a bad reputation in society and many are conditioned to believe feeding fatty foods to their pet is dangerous. The importance of fat should go without saying considering dog’s and cat’s brains (and humans, too!) are roughly 60% fat. Fats contain essential fatty acids Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) which are essential for optimal canine health.

EPA plays a critical role in regulating cellular inflammation while DHA is important for maintaining nerve cell structure and function. Essential fatty acids, specifically DHA, has been scientifically proven to be necessary for cognitive development and function. Research proves children (and developing puppies) who receive a diet rich in DHA have higher cognitive function and learn better!

Ensuring a raw diet provides sufficient levels of EPA and DHA can be achieved by including fatty fish and shellfish in the diet.

Fatty Fish

Many fatty fish species, such as Mackerel and Salmon, provide high amounts of vitamin D in addition to EPA and DHA.

Shellfish

Shellfish are beneficial to include essential minerals as well as EPA and DHA.

The inclusion of fatty fish is a small portion of the overall diet in comparison to other ingredients fed and it is important not select fatty fish species with high concentrations of mercury. Overall, selecting fatty fish lower on the food chain reduces the risk of high mercury.

Atlantic Mackerel

Atlantic mackerel provides the most EPA and DHA in comparison to other fatty fish. Additionally, mackerel has high levels of Vitamin D which makes it a useful ingredient when formulating a raw diet. Raw mackerel is common in ethnic markets but canned mackerel is an alternative option if raw cannot be sourced.

atlanticmackerel
Atlantic Mackerel Nutritional Data

Macro Nutrients
The amount of calories, protein, fat, and carbs are based on 1oz (28g).

Calories 58kcal
Protein 18.6%
Fat 13.9%
Carbs 0%

Data Source

Top Nutrients
The top four nutrients are based on 1oz (28g) of raw Atlantic Mackerel.

EPA + DHA 0.65 g
Vitamin D 4.6 mcg
Niacin (B3) 2.5 mg
Pyridoxine (B6) 0.11 mg

Data Source

Atlantic Herring

Atlantic herring provides high levels of EPA and DHA in small amounts. However, herring is significantly lower in Vitamin D in comparison to mackerel. Herring is a small fish and can be found at local ethnic and fish markets.

atlanticherring
Atlantic Herring Nutritional Data

Macro Nutrients
The amount of calories, protein, fat, and carbs are based on 1oz (28g).

Calories 45kcal
Protein 17.9%
Fat 9%
Carbs 0%

Data Source

Top Nutrients
The top four nutrients are based on 1oz (28g) of raw Atlantic Herring.

EPA + DHA 0.44 g
Cobalamin (B12) 3.87 mcg
Vitamin D 1.2 mcg
Pyridoxine (B6) 0.08 mg

Data Source

Sardines

Sardines are one of the most common fatty fish options available to purchase. They are high in EPA and DHA with a moderate level of Vitamin D. Raw sardines are common in ethnic markets but canned sardines are an alternative option if raw cannot be sourced.

sardines
Sardine Nutritional Data

Macro Nutrients
The amount of calories, protein, fat, and carbs are based on 1oz (28g).

Calories 24kcal
Protein 13%
Fat 4%
Carbs 0%

Data Source

Top Nutrients
The top four nutrients are based on 1oz (28g) of raw Sardines.

EPA + DHA 0.25 g
Niacin (B3) 1.79 mg
Vitamin D 0.7 mcg
Cobalamin (B12) 1.46 mcg

Data Source

Pink Salmon

Salmon is another common fatty fish option available and it is moderately high in EPA and DHA fatty acids. The Vitamin D level in salmon is slightly lower than mackerel. Raw salmon is easily accessible in many regions, but may be costly. Canned salmon is cheaper in comparison to raw salmon and is a budget-friendly alternative option.

Salmon from the Pacific Northwest should be frozen solid at −4°F (−20°C) for at least 24 hours prior to feeding raw or thoroughly cooked to eliminate the risk of salmon poisoning.

pinksalmon
Pink Salmon Nutritional Data

Macro Nutrients
The amount of calories, protein, fat, and carbs are based on 1oz (28g).

Calories 21kcal
Protein 20.5%
Fat 4.4%
Carbs 0%

Data Source

Top Nutrients
The top four nutrients are based on 1oz (28g) of raw Pink Salmon.

EPA + DHA 0.14 g
Vitamin D 3.1 mcg
Niacin (B3) 2.2 mg
Pyridoxine (B6) 0.17 mg

Data Source

Blue Mussels

Blue mussels are a beneficial ingredient to include in raw diets to provide some EPA and DHA. Additionally, blue mussels are high in manganese and B vitamins.

Raw mussels should be cooked prior to feeding due to the risk of toxoplasma gondii infection. Cooking mussels eliminates this risk. However, mussels sold on the half shell or without any shell have been pre-steamed and do not need any further cooking.

bluelippedmussels
Blue Mussel Nutritional Data

Macro Nutrients
The amount of calories, protein, fat, and carbs are based on 1oz (28g).

Calories 49kcal
Protein 23.8%
Fat 4.5%
Carbs 0%

Data Source

Top Nutrients
The top four nutrients are based on 1oz (28g) of steamed Blue Mussels.

EPA + DHA 0.22 g
Manganese 1.9 mg
Cobalamin (B12) 6.8 mcg
Folic Acid (B9) 76 mcg

Data Source

Canned Eastern Oysters

Oysters are a shellfish that provides EPA and DHA. However, oysters are also high in other beneficial nutrients. Oysters should be fed in small amounts due to their high concentration of zinc but prove useful for completing zinc and copper requirements.

Raw oysters are expensive and like mussels, oysters should be cooked prior to feeding due to the risk of toxoplasma gondii infection. Cooking oysters eliminates this risk. Alternatively, oysters canned in water can be used.

oysters
Canned Eastern Oysters Nutritional Data

Macro Nutrients
The amount of calories, protein, fat, and carbs are based on 1oz (28g).

Calories 43kcal
Protein 7%
Fat 2.5%
Carbs 0%

Data Source

Top Nutrients
The top four nutrients are based on 1oz (28g) of canned Eastern Oysters.

Zinc 25.77 mg
EPA + DHA 0.06 g
Cobalamin (B12) 5.4 mcg
Copper 1.2 mg

Data Source

Supplements

Fatty fish is not a required ingredient for a complete and balanced raw diet. The inclusion of an EPA/DHA and vitamin D supplement is needed if fatty fish is not fed.

CLOSING COMMENTS

There are different fatty fish and shellfish other than the ingredients listed in this article. This is not to insinuate other items cannot or should not be fed. The raw ingredients listed in this article prove beneficial when achieving the recommended allowances for specific essential nutrients.

Including fatty fish in a raw diet proves beneficial when completing the recommended allowances for:

EPA & DHA

Fatty fish is the main source of EPA and DHA fatty acids essential for optimal health and brain development. Alternatively, an omega-3 supplement can be used if fatty fish is not fed.

Vitamin D

In addition to providing EPA and DHA, many fatty fish provide high levels of Vitamin D which is an essential nutrient for growth and development.

Essential Minerals

Certain shellfish provide additional nutrients besides EPA and DHA. Bluem ussels are a good source of manganese, and oysters are a good source of zinc and copper.