My Dog Ate Fish Food: What Should I Do?

Dogs are notoriously greedy creatures that will grab a snack wherever and whenever they get the chance. Your canine companion will happily chow down on almost anything, and that includes your fish food.

Many vet clinics take phone calls from panic-stricken clients crying, “My dog ate fish food! Will he be okay?” 

So, can dogs eat fish food? And, will fish food make your dog sick?

Keep reading to find out!

Is Fish Food Toxic To Dogs?

Close up or macro of fish food flakes

Dogs generally have a pretty robust digestive system that can easily handle all kinds of garbage, dead animals, and even other dogs’ poop. That being said, some popular breeds such as Goldendoodles can have sensitive tummies that are easily upset if they get hold of the wrong kind of food.

Did you know that there are some very common human foods that can wreak havoc on your poor pup’s digestive system if he gets hold of them? For example, raisins and chocolate are actually very poisonous to dogs.

Luckily, fish food is not generally harmful to your dog. Many of the ingredients that most high-quality commercially produced fish foods contain are not toxic to your dog and won’t cause your pet any harm unless he has a severe food allergy or intolerance.

For example, many fish foods contain fish and shellfish derivatives. Some veterinary-approved dog foods also contain fish as an alternative food source for dogs that suffer from common chicken and beef allergies. My elderly dog had a very sensitive tummy, and my vet recommended fish-based dog food for her, which suited her perfectly.

What Is Fish Food Made Of?

Most fishkeepers feed their fish commercially prepared fish flakes, wafers, or pellets that are sold in fish stores, pet shops, and online. These foods generally contain:

  • Moisture
  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Ash
  • Nitrogen-free extract

That’s great as a basic diet but fish, especially those that are used for breeding, need much more protein and fat in their diet than carbs. So, fish food generally contains higher levels of protein than many other animal feeds.

The protein contained in fish food is generally sourced from whole fish oil and fish meal, which are often obtained as byproducts from fish processing. Some fish foods also contain protein that’s derived from vegetables and legumes such as pea or soy.

Common ingredients that you’ll find in fish foods include:

  • Sea algae
  • Fish meal
  • Crustaceans
  • Spirulina
  • Worm meal
  • Insects

Padding

Fish don’t need much carbohydrate in their food, as they derive most of what they need for growth from proteins. However, carbs are often included as a form of padding to bulk out cheap food. So, if the food contains large amounts of rice, wheat, and maize meal, it’s likely to be low in useful nutrients.

Additives

Many foods that are formulated for colorful species of tropical fish contain additives, including sex hormones that are intended to enhance the colors of your fish. Some foods contain medication, added minerals, and vitamins to boost your fish’s vitality and health.

However, according to current FDA regulations, the food must be clearly labeled, giving information regarding its ingredients and nutritional content. If the food contains medication, the packaging should include dosage guidance and precautionary advice. 

So, if your greedy pooch gobbles up your tropical fish flakes, you can quickly refer to the label on the packaging and check whether any of the ingredients might pose a risk to your dog.

Most Common Types Of Fish Food Your Dog Might Eat

Some species of fish require special food that might not be composed in the same way as regular fish food.

So, how could that affect your dog if he ate one of these more specialized foods?

Goldfish Food

Goldfish food is slightly different in its formulation than tropical foods. Generally, goldfish food comes in pellet form. The pellets are designed to be scattered across the water surface, where they float until the fish grabs them.

Goldfish are omnivores, eating pretty much anything that will fit into their mouths. In a pond environment, goldfish eat plant matter, algae, worms, insect larvae, and water-bound insects. So, if your dog ate goldfish food, he’s unlikely to be adversely affected by that.

Risks Of Goldfish Food

Food for aquarium fish. Photos isolated on white background

The only real risk to your dog from goldfish food is presented in the form of brewer’s yeast, which some dog foods contain. The yeast itself is not toxic to dogs; however, dough that contains yeast is potentially quite dangerous.

Many bakery products, including bread, need to rest in a warm place to rise, which is why you leave the dough covered in a warm place. If your dog ate the dough, it would swell inside his stomach, causing potentially serious gastrointestinal problems, such as bloat, that could be potentially quite dangerous.

That being said, if your dog eats a small quantity of goldfish that contains brewer’s yeast, he shouldn’t suffer any adverse effects.

Betta Food

Betta food contains a rich blend of fats and proteins, which can upset the canine digestive system if eaten in large quantities.

If your dog vomits, has loose stools, or his usual behavior changes in any way, don’t offer your dog anything except clean water until you’ve spoken to your vet.

Risks Of Betta Food

Betta fish food in small amounts is not dangerous to your dog, although it can cause minor tummy upsets if eaten in large quantities.

Food Packaging

Dogs aren’t generally fussy when it comes to eating things. So, your pup probably won’t bother to remove the fish food from its packaging before tucking in and will most likely simply scoff the whole lot before you even realize what’s happening!

Eating product packaging of any kind is potentially dangerous to your dog and is potentially more harmful than the food itself. Although some packaging can eventually be digested by the dog’s stomach acids, substances such as plastic cannot, creating a very real hazard to your pet.

Risks Of Fish Food Packaging

Most fish food packaging is made from rigid plastic. That’s extremely dangerous if your dog eats it, as the material cannot be digested and won’t naturally pass through the animal’s digestive system. Sharp pieces of plastic can cause serious obstructions or lacerations to your pet’s intestines, often requiring surgery. 

Pro Tip

So, if you discover scraps of chewed plastic packaging and a guilty-looking dog, contact your veterinary clinic for advice. The vet will probably want to examine your dog, and if it’s not possible to remove the object in any other way, your pet may require expensive, potentially dangerous surgery.

What Is Dog Food Made Of?

Dogs are omnivores, eating meat, fruits, and veggies.

Proteins

Dogs need high levels of good quality proteins for healthy growth. Dog food should contain at least two or three proteins that are sourced from fish, meat, or meat meal. Those ingredients should appear in the first few ingredients listed on the food packaging. 

Dog foods often contain vegetables as a form of protein, which is fine, provided that the food is formulated with a ratio of more meaty protein than plant protein.

Fiber

dog food

Your dog needs plenty of fiber in his diet to keep his digestive system functioning properly.

The fiber in dog food is usually provided in the form of rice and veggies that give the food plenty of bulk. Cereals are also often added but they contain little nutritional value and are really only included to add padding to the food.

Fats

Dogs obtain most of their energy requirements from the fat in their diet.

Healthy sources of fat include chicken fat, flaxseed, and canola oil. Most good quality dog foods include Omega-3 fatty acids too, which are excellent for promoting healthy skin and coat and eye and brain development in growing puppies.

Carbs

Raw sweet potatoes on wood background

Dogs shouldn’t be fed a diet that contains too many carbohydrates. Excess carbs in a dog’s diet can upset the balance of the dog’s blood sugar levels. That said, the inclusion of a few low-glycemic carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes is fine.

Vitamins and Minerals

These days, most dog foods have minerals and vitamins added to boost your dog’s health. Sometimes, these can be much the same ingredients that you find in fish food.

What Will Happen To My Dog If He Eats Fish Food?

If your dog eats fish food, it’s unlikely that he will suffer any serious ill effects.

Brown goldendoodle lying on floor.

In all likelihood, the dog will simply vomit up the food or perhaps suffer from mild diarrhea for a few hours, as his digestive system gets rid of the food. However, you should check the ingredients on the packaging to see if there’s anything in the food that could present a potential health risk to your dog. It’s also worth a phone call to your vet just for your peace of mind. 

That being said, if the dog has ingested any of the product packaging materials, there is a chance that potentially serious health problems could develop. So, always speak with your vet if you think that your dog has eaten plastic packaging.

So If you are planning on setting up a freshwater aquarium or already have one, make sure that your fish food and other supplies are stored in a safe place away from your prying pet’s eyes.

In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. If you loved it, please don’t forget to share!

Happy Goldendoodle getting a belly rub

In short, it’s unlikely that your dog will become seriously sick if he eats your fishes’ food. In essence, much of the nutritional content that’s contained in fish food is not dissimilar to what’s included in dog food.

The main concern for you will be if your dog eats the plastic packing that the fish food is supplied in. Plastic shards can cause injury to your dog’s digestive system, potentially requiring surgery. So, you should contact your vet if your dog eats the fish food packaging.

If you have any concerns or questions, please put them in the comments box below.

Meet our writer

Alison Page was brought up with dogs and various other pets! For a few years, Alison worked as a Practice Manager in a small animal veterinary clinic. Alison is now a full-time writer, specializing in creating articles on the care and training of dogs, cats, and fish.

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