Updated - Jan 29th, 2021
As pet parents, many of us enjoy sharing our food with our pups. Most of the time this is safe and can add nutritional value to their diets. But sometimes, the risks may outweigh the benefits, and shrimp may be one of those instances.
Shrimp meat is relatively safe for your dog and offers some excellent nutritional benefits. However, there are a few concerning precautions you should consider if you want to offer shrimp off your plate to your canine.
Let’s look at the benefits, as well as the risks, of this tasty crustacean.
Health benefits of shrimp
Shrimp meat is low in calories (only 7 calories in a medium-sized shrimp) and carbohydrates, and is high in protein, fats, and cholesterol. These small crustaceans are full of niacin (B3), choline, copper, iodine, selenium, and phosphorus. Shrimp also carries two different antioxidants that can improve many health issues in your dog. So, it’s not bad as an occasional treat for your pup.
Let’s look deeper into how shrimp can improve your pup’s health:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These are good fats. They improve heart function, coat quality, reduce itchiness and skin irritation, and can support cognitive health. Studies have found these fats helped to relieve allergies and joint pain.
We find these fats in shellfish, plant and nut oils, and cold-water fish. They help balance out the Omega-6 fatty acids found in most processed dog foods. Most dogs have an abundance of Omega 6 in their systems because of the manufactured diets they consume that have corn-fed animal proteins or processed oils.
- Niacin (Vitamin B3): This supports the synthesis of fatty acids, breaking them down into energy. This vitamin also improves skin and coat health.
- Vitamin B12: Also known as cobalamin, this vitamin maintains healthy digestion and aids in the formation and function of cells. It’s also an important nutrient for a healthy nervous system and brain function.
- Phosphorus: This macronutrient works with calcium and glucosamine to improve your dog’s bones and ligaments. Calcium builds strong bones, and the phosphorus adds shape and rigidity to them.
- Choline: This is an essential nutrient that dogs produce naturally, but not in sufficient amounts. It supports liver function, the nervous system, muscle function, a healthy brain, and heart function.
- Selenium: An essential trace mineral responsible for the efficient functioning of the immune system and thyroid glands. It’s an antioxidant that prevents cell damage that can cause cognitive aging, cancer, and inflammation.
- Antioxidants: Shrimp has two types of antioxidants. The most beneficial is Astaxanthin, which comes from the algae that shrimp consume. It’s a carotenoid which gives shrimp, krill, and salmon the pink/red color. These supercharged antioxidants not only destroy free-radicals but also reduce inflammation, and may prevent some types of cancer, and diabetes.
As you can see, there are very beneficial reasons to offer your dog a piece of shrimp. With their low calorie, low carb, high protein content, shrimp makes an excellent treat for your dog. But there are precautions to consider as well.
Let’s look at some risks of feeding your dog shrimp.
- Cholesterol: Besides the cholesterol we manufacture in our bodies naturally, dietary cholesterol comes in two types—plant-based and animal-based. The bad cholesterol is animal-based. Shrimp is high in bad cholesterol, which can cause plaque in your dog’s arteries leading to heart problems. It’s not very common for dogs to have high cholesterol, but it can happen.
- Salmonella and Listeria: If not cooked properly, these two bacterial infections can affect your pooch’s gastrointestinal health and require vet attention.
Symptoms of Salmonella:
- Diarrhea (can be bloody)
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms of Listeria:
- Stiff neck
- Lack of coordination
- Chitosan: The shrimp’s hard exoskeleton, or shrimp shells, is made of chitosan. It’s very hard for your dog to digest and has sharp, irregular edges that can perforate your pup’s digestive tract or even their intestines. It can also cause choking hazards or blockage problems. This would include any shrimp tails your sneaky snacker may gobble down.
- Wild-caught and farm-raised shrimp: Wild-caught shrimp is sustainably caught from their natural habitat. This is where most of the shrimp in the US comes from
Farmed-raised shrimp are imported from countries that don’t have the same FDA regulations we do. They raise the shrimp in ponds where antibiotics, growth hormones, and pesticides could have been used. These could cause problems for your dog, especially if it has a sensitive digestive system.
Puppies, with their developing immune systems, can be especially susceptible to stomach upset or an allergic reaction to this protein source.
- Raw shrimp: if your dog eats raw shrimp or any raw shellfish, it can contain intestinal parasites that could infect their digestive tract. It’s necessary to cook the shrimp until it’s opaque before offering it to your pup.
- Prawns: Prawns offer the same benefits and precautions as shrimp. They should be peeled, deveined, and cooked to opacity prior to feeding them to your dog.
Can dogs be allergic to shrimp?
Even though shrimp is one of the most commonly consumed shellfish in the US, it’s also one of the most allergenic. And just as with humans, dogs can be allergic to them.
The first time you offer shrimp to your dog, watch for any intolerances like stomach or gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, or diarrhea. If any symptoms are present, stop offering any shrimp and talk to your veterinarian.
Dogs can also suffer a more serious reaction to shrimp called anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis, or allergic shock, can occur from shrimp. It can happen quickly after ingestion and requires immediate vet attention.
- Trouble breathing
- Swelling of muzzle or tongue
- Excessive drooling
- Inability to control bowels
- Bluish color to gums and tongue
Pet Pro Tip: If you have a dog that is prone to ‘snacksidents’ – you should consider getting a dog insurance plan as soon as possible. It can help you afford the best care in the future by covering eligible vet bills for digestive illnesses, toxic ingestion, and more.
How to prepare shrimp for your dog
An important rule of thumb is that treats should only comprise 10% of your dog’s diet. Even though shrimp is very low in calories, too many could add to an obesity problem, or cause a stomach ache or diarrhea.
Fresh Shrimp should always be peeled and deveined prior to cooking. The best way to prepare shrimp is to boil or steam them with no added ingredients until they are opaque to destroy any parasites in the meat.
Fried, breaded shrimp is a popular treat among us humans, but the oils, seasonings, additives, and salts are never healthy for your dog. If you want to offer your dog some of your shrimp dinner, prepare it separately to avoid any added oils, seasoning, or sauces that could upset your dog’s tummy. Fried foods are never good for your pup’s gastrointestinal health.
A good way to offer them is a small shrimp or two mixed with another vegetable like green beans, pumpkin, or broccoli for a tasty, nutritious snack.
There are a few DIY recipes on the internet for dog snacks containing shrimp, but not many. The best one I found is for Shrimp Dog Rice.
Mixing pieces of shrimp into other veggies or offering a piece at a time seems to be the best way to offer shrimp to your pooch. You can also add a few pieces into your dog’s food for a tasty topper.
Which dogs should not have shrimp?
If your dog is overweight and used to high-calorie commercial dog treats, shrimp may be a suitable alternative; but offer it sparingly because of the high cholesterol that may impact your dog’s heart health.
Dogs with kidney disease should avoid shrimp. Kidney disease can also affect the liver. The phosphorus levels in shrimp are too high for dogs with this issue. We suggest speaking with your vet prior to offering your pup any new food.
Some dogs don’t care for eating shrimp, but if you’re tail-wagger is eagerly watching you eat your shrimp dinner, it is a good low-calorie, high protein treat that has wonderful antioxidant properties. However, take care in the sourcing and preparation of any shellfish you offer to your canine.