Can I Give My Dog Shrimp?
A lot of seafood staples seem to elicit love-it-or-hate-it responses, but there are a few that seem popular even among those meat-eaters who do not consider themselves fish fans. In the United States, shrimp is one of the more commonplace seafood finds—kids will eat it, and many health conscious folks prefer it as a leaner, more nutritious meat. These small crustaceans also inspire the imagination in a way that chunks of salmon or tuna simply cannot. Their bite-sized bodies seem to lend themselves to parties, finger foods, sushi and shared appetizers.
But who all can we share with? Can furry, four-legged party guests indulge in this savory snack? Can dogs have shrimp?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat shrimp as a treat. Though pet owners should always be on the lookout for food intolerances, shrimp are generally recognized as a reasonably safe, healthy meat option for canines. They can be a healthy way to add some decadence to your dog’s diet.
As with all things, practice moderation, and make sure the shrimp you give to your pet is fresh and fully cooked—your dog may be perfectly willing to gobble up spoiled food, but it can be extremely dangerous for them. If you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t feed it to your pet.
Though shrimp doesn’t contain the same high-fiber benefits of many popular plant foods (animal foods have zero fiber), it can be an excellent source of nutrition for your dog. This food is low in calories and fat compared to other types of meat, yet higher in protein than many plant foods—which is important in the canine diet.
Protein is made of long chains of amino acids, which serves as the raw materials used to create every structure in your dog’s body. Everything from your dog’s giant heart to their shiny fur coat is made up of protein. Without consuming adequate protein, your dog can’t build and repair the various structures in their body. Most of the time, protein deficiency will show up as a dull, thinning coat, low energy levels, or skin problems. In severe cases, it can result in behavior problems, weak or brittle bones, and a compromised immune system.
Shrimp is also quite high in key nutrients like phosphorous, Vitamin B12, and Niacin. Phosphorous is an important component for the formation of strong, healthy bones—it works with calcium to create and maintain strong bones, including teeth. This key mineral may help your dog maintain strong, healthy teeth and gums, which have been linked to improved overall health.
Phosphorous also helps regulate digestion and excretion, balances hormones, and facilitates the absorption of several other key nutrients. This mineral is particularly helpful in protecting kidney health. Healthy kidneys, of course, keep the rest of the body healthy.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for red blood cell production, synthesizing DNA, and maintaining a healthy nervous system. This vitamin also plays an important role in gastrointestinal health. Dogs who are not receiving adequate B12 may become lethargic, depressed, or chronically constipated.
Niacin is required to maintain optimal skin and nervous system health. It helps your dog metabolize protein, fat, and carbohydrates and regulates digestion. In humans, niacin is thought to help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis—it may reduce pain and improve joint mobility by combatting inflammation.
Though shrimp offers some health benefits, there are some downsides, too. Shrimp is quite high in cholesterol, which can contribute to cardiovascular problems and increase your dog’s risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke.
Things to Consider
It is also important to note that shrimp should only be given to dogs after it has been shelled and fully cooked. Raw shrimp often contains dangerous parasites and bacteria that can make your dog seriously ill, and shrimp shells can increase your dog’s risk of choking or developing an intestinal blockage. Blockages can result in permanent damage, and if left untreated, are often fatal.
Dog owners should always be aware of the symptoms of food intolerance. Though rare, shrimp intolerance still occurs in canines, and it can be dangerous if you ignore the signs. If your dog becomes ill after eating shrimp, consult a veterinarian before you attempt feeding it to them again. Shellfish are common canine allergens.
Though pet owners should be aware of food intolerances, shrimp are generally recognized as a safe, low calorie meat option for dogs. They are high in many nutrients, including phosphorous, protein, and niacin, which are necessary for canine health. They also contain a fair amount of Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin B12, which are thought to protect brain and nervous system health. It is, however, important to practice moderation, because shrimp contain high levels of cholesterol, which can increase your dog’s risk of heart attack or stroke. Shrimp is best given as an occasional treat rather than a dietary staple.