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Can dogs eat oysters?

Oysters on the half shell

Dogs can be just as much work as kids when it comes to feeding the right foods! Knowing what your precious pooch can and can’t eat is one of the most important things about being a dog owner. And though it’s difficult to watch every little thing your dog put into his mouth, you prepare his meals and take care of his snacks—so it’s up to you to ensure that he’s getting the right things.

Many pet parents are surprised to learn just how many ‘human’ foods dogs can eat. Of course, there are some that they definitely shouldn’t (hello grapes and onions!). But incorporating fresh, whole foods into their diet is a great way to add variety to their meals and boost their nutrient intake.

One food that you might not have considered feeding your dog is oysters! Oysters are a type of mollusk from the same family as clams and scallops. This bizarre-looking shellfish consists of fleshy, grey-beige meat and a clear, salty liquid inside an irregular shell. Humans love oysters and they’re considered quite a delicacy. But can dogs eat oysters?

Can dogs eat oysters?

Yes, oysters are safe for dogs! In fact, these odd mollusks harbor a huge range of health properties that make them beneficial for both humans and pets. But before you go serving your pup a plate of oysters, there are a few precautions you must take. Oysters must be prepared in a certain way for your pet to eat them safely.  

Benefits of feeding your dog oysters

Oysters are rich in vitamins

Oysters are a great source of vitamin B12, a nutrient that’s crucial for your dog’s energy production, metabolism, and the formation of red blood cells. They also provide excellent amounts of Vitamin D, which is essential to immune health, cellular growth, and bone health.

Oysters are a great source of minerals

Dogs need iron to make hemoglobin and myoglobin, the special proteins that carry oxygen throughout the body. Oysters are particularly rich in iron—even more so than some lean meats. 

Oysters also contain zinc, a mineral required for the proper functioning of your dog’s immune system, and cell growth. Selenium is another important mineral found in oysters. It plays an important role in healthy thyroid function and metabolism. And selenium is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your dog’s cells from damaging free radicals.

Oysters provide an excellent source of protein

Oysters a source of complete protein, which means they contain all nine essential amino acids that your dog needs. Protein is crucial for your dog's health and longevity. It’s required for the healthy maintenance of his muscles and normal cell repair. Seafood is also an excellent protein source for dogs who may be allergic to chicken. 

Oysters are rich in omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fats provide enormous benefits to your dog’s health. They’re necessary for healthy brain development in puppies, which is crucial in supporting their ability to learn. Many dietary studies have suggested that a high intake of omega 3 is linked to a reduced risk of various disorders. These fatty acids can dampen down inflammation in the body, which is often a precursor to disease. This is especially important in treating arthritis, diabetes, digestive disorders, and other conditions. 

Risks of feeding your dog oysters

Raw shellfish is not ideal for any dog as it can carry a risk of salmonella poisoning. And oyster shells are especially dangerous for dogs as they can cause a blockage in the intestine. If your dog scoffs an oyster shell, it’s a good idea to ring your veterinarian immediately. 

Other potential risks include allergic reactions, although these are rare. New foods always have the possibility of an allergy or intolerance, so it’s important to introduce oysters slowly. 

Too many oysters can also lead to diarrhea or vomiting. Oysters are strong tasting and high in fats—even though these are healthy fats! In any case, overfeeding can upset a sensitive stomach. 

Oysters are filter feeders, which means they ‘eat’ by straining food particles from water. This means they can take in toxins that could make your dog ill. You can reduce this risk by collecting oysters from fresh, clean waters, or purchasing from reputed sources. 

There’s also a small risk that oysters may contain a type of algae called dinoflagellates, which is potentially toxic. There’s no way to know if an oyster contains this or not, so it’s important to be mindful of any negative reaction. 

How to safely prepare oysters for your dog

Any fresh fish or seafood you serve your dog must be prepared with safe food handling practices. Take care not to cross-contaminate the area with other meats. It’s also important to wash the cutting board, knives, and anything that has touched the raw oysters.

Cooking the oysters helps to reduce the risk of any harmful microorganisms. You can steam, grill, or roast oysters. Avoid frying as this can add unnecessary fat. As mentioned above, raw oysters are not a good idea. 

Last but not least, limit your dog’s oyster intake to small portions. Only feed him oysters on occasion, and watch for his reaction each time. After all, they aren’t cheap!

The article was written by Katie Stone on January 3, 2021.

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