Can my Dog Eat Cod Liver Oil?

Written by: Jamie
Updated: March 8, 2020

Cod liver tablets for dogs are a popular canine supplement but are they doing more harm than good? Read our guide to discover whether fish oil is good for your dog.

Cute dog eating food

You might think of your pet pooch as a much-loved member of your family, but that doesn’t mean your four-legged friend can have everything that you do.

There are lots of foods which humans love which are harmful to dogs, so it’s always important to check before sharing what’s on your plate.

The same principles apply to supplements too, so before you share those essential fish oils, ask yourself “is cod liver oil good for dogs?”.

Luckily we’re on hand to make life that little bit easier for you with a rundown of the facts that you need to know.

Puppies eating

Cod Liver Oil For Dogs – Yes Or No?

Fish oils have undeniable health benefits for humans, helping to keep bones strong, protect the immune system and support neurological function, amongst other things.

But does cod liver oil offer similar benefits for dogs? The short answer is yes.

Cod liver oil contains essential fatty acids, and canines can’t produce this within the body themselves.

Instead, they need to consume adequate quantities of omega-3 which can be found in cod liver oil.

However, it’s not just the essential fatty acids that cod liver oil offers, it’s also an excellent source of vitamins A and D.

This combination of essential fatty acids and vitamins provides a number of benefits for your dog including:

  • Protects and boosts the health of their heart
  • Anti-inflammatory qualities
  • Eases stiffness and pain caused by arthritis
  • Reduces dry skin
  • Helps provide a glossy coat
  • More energy
  • Strengthens the immune system

Many of the above benefits arise from the presence of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), both types of omega-3 fatty acids.

Having omega-3 in the body is also important to help counteract the effect of omega-6. Both human and doggy bodies need omega-6 to be able to function properly but it’s very easy to get too much, and this can create an inflammatory response.

Omega-3 naturally balances the effects of omega-6, bringing your dog’s body back into harmony.

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Group of twelve dogs

Should All Dogs Have Cod Liver Oil?

As we can see from the above list, cod liver oil has lots of benefits for dogs and can give a boost to their physical health.

So does that mean every pooch should be gobbling down some of this fishy goodness every day?

Not necessarily.

As well as the essential fatty acids, cod liver oil is also rich in vitamins A and D. The problem is that more of these vitamins is not necessarily better.

In fact, consuming too much can cause serious health problems which can be irreversible if not identified quickly enough (more about that below).

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There are however some dogs that will particularly benefit from cod liver oil supplements.

If you feed your dog exclusively processed pet foods, particularly those that contain a lot of plant oils, cod liver oil could be beneficial.

This is because these processed foods are loaded with omega-6 so the omega-3 in cod liver oil can help to provide a balance.

Dogs who are fed a fresh or raw food diet will probably get sufficient quantities of omega-3 and vitamins A and D in their diet.

However, there are still some dogs who will benefit from the addition of cod liver oil. Consult your vet or doggy dietician if your pet suffers from any of the following:

  • Splitting or poor quality of nails
  • Flaky or dry skin
  • A dry coat
  • Stiffness or pain in their joints

Older dogs and those with joint problems, such as arthritis, will particularly benefit from cod liver oil.

The supplement can help to reduce stiffness, pain, and inflammation, providing symptomatic relief. Cod liver oil is also believed to be beneficial for dogs with kidney disease.

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Due to the dangers associated with overdosing, unless you feed your dog exclusively on a dry, processed diet it’s a good idea to speak to your vet if you want to supplement their food with cod liver oil.

Fish shape Cod Liver Oil Capsules, Omega 3

How Will I Know If My Dog Has Had Too Much?

If your furry buddy is getting enough vitamin A and D already, the surplus is stored in the body.

This means the liver has to work much harder than usual. It is possible for these surplus levels to become toxic and cause symptoms such as:

  • Tremors
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Bowel disturbances
  • Drooling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Limping
  • Stiffness

There can be other consequences which aren’t visible, such as inflammation in the arteries, kidneys, and heart.

This is due to the calcification and hardening of the tissues in your pooch’s body. It’s hard to imagine how too much of a good thing could produce such catastrophic effects but there have been many cases of accidental overdose documented.

dog eating a treat

How Much Cod Liver Oil For Dogs?

The amount of cod liver oil a dog should have depends on its size and whether there’s any other source of Vitamins A and D in its diet.

Assuming that your pooch isn’t wolfing down a quantity of these vitamins from elsewhere, using cod liver oil liquid is probably the easiest way to provide the supplement. These are the amounts recommended by vets, according to your pet’s weight:

  • 10-15lbs – one-quarter of a teaspoon
  • 25lbs – one-half of a teaspoon
  • 50lbs – 1 teaspoon
  • 75lbs – 1.5 teaspoons
  • 100lbs or more – 2 teaspoons

Each teaspoon of oil will provide approximately 45 calories.

It is also possible to get cod liver oil tablets for dogs but it’s important to make sure you only give your four-legged friends the canine version.

Cod liver oil tablets for humans can often be found more cheaply but the formula is very different and could be harmful to dogs.


Cod liver oil has the potential to protect your canine companion from a variety of diseases, and improve their overall health.

However, giving them too much could be bad news and could cause severe illness and discomfort.

Dogs on a dry, processed diet should be able to have a cod liver oil supplement safely, but for every other pooch, or if you have any doubts, consult your vet before starting.

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Jamie! I've always been around dogs and now writing about them is an absolute joy.
Read more about my story here.
Reach me at or connect with me on LinkedIn below.

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