Q. We recently inherited a wonderful 10-year-old dog from a friend who passed away. The dog has been given a bit of tuna with her food every day for many years. We hate to deprive her of her favorite treat but are concerned about mercury content. We fed her a bit of it for the first week we had her, but our 4-year-old dog wants some too, of course, so the question is all the more important to us. No-salt green beans have been a great substitute, but advice on tuna or other ideas are welcome!
Dear Mr. Kruzen,
A. Tuna does have higher levels of mercury than other types of fish, and as the recommendation goes for people, so it goes for dogs. Tuna is a healthful food, but probably not every single day. Your instinct to substitute green beans occasionally is a good one — and not just because of concern about mercury.
It’s important for your pets not to consume more than 10 percent of their calories as treats because that will make their diets unbalanced. If your dogs receive a high-calorie treat at every single meal, that means giving them less of other treats throughout the day.
Vegetables and fruits are easier treats to fit into a dog’s diet calorie-wise than fish and other flesh foods. Half a cup of half-inch pieces of green beans contains only 30 calories. Other good options: baby carrots (5 calories each), sweet red peppers (23 calories for a half cup chopped), broccoli, and cherry tomatoes (3 calories each). A bit of apple or a few blueberries will work also, along with some banana (a quarter cup of banana contains 34 calories). As for canned tuna, 1 ounce contains about 25 calories. That amount doesn’t go very far.