Fish can be a source of lots of key nutrients, such as essential omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. But while it’s a well-known fact that dogs are carnivores, many pet owners wonder if it’s safe to share seafood, such as shrimp, with their pooch. From jumbo and cocktail to battered or broiled shrimp, it can be found everywhere from fast food joints to five-star restaurants…so is it okay to share this ubiquitous fare with your favorite pup?
Is Shrimp Good for Dogs?
Many dogs will find shrimp scrumptious, and because they're so small, shrimp can make an excellent training treat. Since they’re packed with nutrients such as vitamin B12, niacin, and phosphorus— as well as antioxidants believed to slow down brain aging—they actually can provide some health benefits for your pup.
Vitamin B12 boosts metabolism and both gastrointestinal and brain health, niacin can help improve your dog’s overall energy level while protecting their cardiovascular system and promoting healthy skin, while phosphorus is a key nutrient for maintaining healthy bones.
Dangers of Shrimp for Dogs
Shrimp may be a healthy source of protein for both dogs and humans alike, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a completely safe option for your pet. Before feeding your dog shrimp, consult your veterinarian to ensure that it's a good option for your dog, and to receive guidance on how much shrimp is okay to offer.
Just like it’s important to avoid giving your dog meats containing bones, there are risks associated with offering your dog a shrimp that contains its shell. The shell is not only difficult for Fido to digest, but it can also be a choking hazard. There’s also the chance of it causing cuts or other irritation in your dog’s mouth or throat.
You wouldn’t feed raw chicken to your pet for fear of food-borne illness like salmonella, and the same rules apply to raw shrimp. Be sure that when offering shrimp to your dog that it’s properly prepared and fully cooked to avoid the risk of food poisoning or other illness.
You’ll also want to take your dog’s unique health and dietary needs into consideration before handing over some shrimp. Dogs who are overweight or diabetic, or that who circulatory issues, shouldn’t be fed shrimp. Shrimp is a type of fatty seafood that’s high in cholesterol, which can contribute to circulatory complications such as hyperlipidemia, marked by a high lipid/fat content in your pet’s blood. Of course, one or two small shrimp probably won’t hurt your pooch, but as a general rule of thumb, maintaining a reduced fat and lower cholesterol diet is recommended for dogs dealing with these types of health issues. Other dogs who should avoid shrimp are those with thyroid conditions, as shellfish are a common source of dietary iodine, which can worsen an existing condition.
Lastly, just as many humans are allergic to seafood, there’s always the possibility that you’ll discover that your dog is, too. While it’s not particularly common—foods generally account for only ten percent of allergies in dogs—any dog can have a genetic predisposition to food allergies or sensitivities, so limit shrimp for your dog and keep a close eye on them to ensure there are no symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Signs of an Allergic Reaction in Dogs
- Aggressive scratching of the skin or ears
- Difficulty breathing
Pet owners with dogs who already have sensitivities or allergies should always be especially careful about introducing a food like shrimp—and keep in mind that, just like humans, your dog can develop a seafood allergy at any time in their life.
How to Serve Shrimp to Dogs
In addition to removing the shell (and the head, legs, and tail) and only offering your dog the meat of fully-cooked shrimp, you'll also want to be sure that you're not serving up shrimp that has been fried or cooked in butter, oils, or salt that can be harmful for your pet. The safest and healthiest preparations for pooches are shrimp that has been baked, boiled, or broiled plain.
Be aware that common seasonings for shrimp, such as garlic or onions, can actually be toxic for your dog, and you'll also want to skip any dipping sauces when feeding shrimp to your dog.
Lastly, be wary of the size of your dog when serving up shrimp, as larger breeds may be able to handle the entire shrimp but a smaller dog may not.