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As pet owners, it’s common to wonder if human foods can be safely shared with our canine companions. One such food that often raises questions is pilchards in tomato sauce. These small, oily fish are known for their nutritional benefits for humans, but are they safe for dogs? Let’s delve into the potential benefits and risks of feeding pilchards in tomato sauce to dogs.

Nutritional Benefits of Pilchards

Pilchards, also known as sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for a dog’s coat and skin health. They also provide high-quality protein, vitamins such as vitamin D, and essential minerals like calcium and phosphorus. When offered in moderation, plain pilchards can be a nutritious addition to your dog’s diet.

The Tomato Sauce Dilemma

While pilchards themselves can be beneficial, the tomato sauce they are often packed in can pose potential risks. Tomato sauce typically contains ingredients that are not ideal for dogs. Here’s why:

  1. Onions and Garlic: Many tomato sauces contain onions and garlic, both of which are toxic to dogs. Even in small amounts, they can cause gastrointestinal irritation and, in larger quantities, lead to more serious health issues such as hemolytic anaemia.
  2. Salt and Sugar: Processed tomato sauces often contain added salt and sugar. High sodium levels can lead to salt poisoning in dogs, with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, and in severe cases, seizures. Excessive sugar can contribute to obesity and dental problems.
  3. Artificial Additives: Many store-bought tomato sauces contain preservatives, artificial flavours, and colourings, which are unnecessary and potentially harmful to dogs.

What About Homemade Tomato Sauce?

If you prepare a homemade tomato sauce, ensuring it contains no harmful ingredients like onions, garlic, or excess salt and sugar, a small amount might be safer for your dog. However, it’s crucial to remember that even homemade sauces should be given sparingly.

Safe Alternatives

If you want to include pilchards in your dog’s diet, it’s best to offer them plain, either fresh or canned in water. This way, your dog can benefit from the nutritional value of pilchards without the risks associated with tomato sauce. Always ensure the fish is boneless to prevent choking hazards or internal injuries.

How to Introduce Pilchards to Your Dog’s Diet

When introducing any new food to your dog’s diet, it’s important to do so gradually. Start with a small amount to see how your dog reacts, and monitor for any signs of digestive upset or allergic reactions. If your dog enjoys pilchards and tolerates them well, you can occasionally include them as a treat or supplement to their regular meals.


While pilchards offer numerous health benefits, the tomato sauce they are often packaged in can be problematic for dogs. To ensure your dog remains healthy and happy, it’s best to avoid pilchards in tomato sauce and opt for plain pilchards instead.


Always consult a qualified vet or dog nutritional expert before making any significant changes to your dog’s diet or introducing new foods. Every dog is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Your vet can provide tailored advice based on your dog’s specific needs and health conditions.

By making informed choices, you can help ensure your dog enjoys a balanced and nutritious diet that supports their overall well-being.