Can Dogs Eat Eggshells

Picture of a dog and an egg

You probably already know that eggs are a great source of animal protein for dogs (and for humans). In fact, eggs from chickens are high in quality protein and they are super dense in nutrients with only 70 calories per egg. They also have very high bioavailability which means the body is able to use almost all of the nutrients in the egg. But, what about the eggshell? And what about your dog? You might be wondering if you give your dog an egg (cooked or raw), can he eat the eggshell, too? Keep reading to learn more.

Nutrition

Cooked eggs are perfectly safe to share with your dog. Some people also give their dogs raw eggs. If you feed your dog a raw food diet, then you probably give your dog some raw eggs. Opinions are mixed about the safety of raw eggs. Some in the veterinary community oppose giving dogs raw eggs on the grounds that they can carry Salmonella. However, dogs have been eating (stealing) eggs from nests since they were wolves, apparently without any major problems. There might be some small risk of bacterial contamination from giving your dog a raw egg to eat but it doesn’t seem to be a serious problem. If you want to give your dog a raw egg, we recommend that you wash it with soap and water first to kill any bacteria on the shell that might transfer to the yolk and white.

On the other hand, cooking eggs doesn’t appear to reduce their nutrients much. Either way you give eggs to your dog, they appear to be much the same.

As for eggshells, some people do like to give them to dogs, especially for the calcium content. If you feed a raw or homemade diet, eggs, including eggshells, are probably included. Dogs won’t be able to benefit from eating a whole eggshell that they crunch up and swallow. If you want your dog to be able to use the calcium and other nutrients in the eggshell, you will need to dry the eggshell then grind it into a powder to add to your dog’s food. If you simply give your dog an eggshell (with or without an egg), it will pass through the gastrointestinal tract in pieces and your dog won’t absorb the nutrients.

Nutritionally, eggshells are about 40 percent calcium. One gram (½ teaspoon) of ground eggshell contains 100 percent carbohydrates. They are a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. However, they are very high in sodium.

The calcium in eggshells from chickens is calcium carbonate. This is a very common form of calcium. It’s the most common form of calcium found in nature. It makes up seashells, coral reefs, and limestone.

Can Dogs Eat Egg Shells? Are Egg Shells Nutritious for Dogs?

Yes, dogs can eat eggshells, as long as you take a few precautions. We recommend that you wash any eggshells you plan to give your dog to help reduce any risk of bacteria. It’s also best to dry and grind the eggshell in a coffee grinder or by hand with a mortar and pestle. Giving your dog a whole eggshell to eat won’t allow him to digest the minerals very well. It can also leave large shards to pass through his gastrointestinal tract.

Most commercial dog foods are already complete and balanced for calcium and phosphorus. If you give your dog too many eggshells with their high calcium content, you will be throwing off this important balance. Calcium and phosphorus must be balanced in your dog’s diet, especially for growing puppies. In adult dogs, the optimal calcium:phosphorus ratio should be ~1.2–1.4:1; minimum and maximum ratios by AAFCO are 1:1 to 2.1:1.

The calcium to phosphorus ratio is especially important for puppies, particularly large breed puppies since these minerals are important for bone growth. The recommended range for dietary calcium in large-breed puppies is 0.8% to 1.2% on a dry matter basis. Large breed puppies take a long time to grow – sometimes 18-24 months for some breeds. It’s important for their calcium intake to be slow and steady instead of rushed with calcium supplementation such as eggshells.

Too much calcium in the bloodstream can also lead to kidney problems since the kidneys filter calcium from the blood. Kidney stones and chronic kidney disease can be worsened by high levels of calcium in the diet.

Pregnant female dogs should also not be given calcium supplementation as long as they are eating a complete and balanced diet for all life stages or for growth and reproduction. Too much calcium for a pregnant dog can result in a condition called eclampsia after whelping. Basically, if a pregnant dog is given supplementary calcium (such as from eggshells), she can become unable to manage her own calcium levels after the puppies are born. If she can’t maintain her blood calcium levels she can develop tremors, seizures, and a slow heart rate. This condition can be fatal.

Eggshells can be beneficial for old dogs with arthritis, according to a 2016 study. The membranes inside the shells were shown to significantly reduce joint pain and improve joint function in dogs that were experiencing a range of joint problems.

Are Eggshells Safe for Dogs?

Yes, eggshells are safe for dogs as long as you take a few precautions. Wash your eggs with soap and water before you let your dog have any eggshells. Grind shells for your dog instead of giving him whole shells to avoid problems from sharp edges.

Finally, make sure you store your eggs properly. The U.S. FDA recommends that you store your eggs at  40° F or below in a clean refrigerator. Keep them in their original carton and use them within three weeks for best quality. Warmer temperatures encourage the growth of bacteria. Throw away any cracked eggs.

What If Your Dog Eats Eggshells?

Most dogs should not experience problems from eating a clean eggshell. However, if your dog eats a dirty eggshell or one that is contaminated with Salmonella, you should watch your dog for any signs of vomiting or diarrhea. If you are concerned about your dog, call your veterinarian.

How Many Eggshells Can You Give Your Dog?

If your dog is eating a complete and balanced dog food, there is probably no reason to supplement his diet with calcium from eggshells. However, if you want to see if your dog likes eggshells or you are trying out a raw or homemade meal, most dogs can eat a whole eggshell. Not all dogs like eggshells so your dog may sniff it and walk away.

One large eggshell will generally grind down to one teaspoon of eggshell powder (5.5 grams). That is about 2,000 mg of calcium. If you are using a recipe to make a homemade diet for your dog or feeding raw, check to see how much ground eggshell you need to add to your dog’s food based on his body weight. For an adult dog, you can usually add about 800-1,000 mg of calcium or ½ teaspoon of ground eggshell per pound of fresh food.

How Often?

Giving your dog eggshells depends on whether this is something you do as a novelty or if you are using the calcium from dried eggshells as part of your dog’s diet. If you feed your dog a homemade or raw diet on a regular basis, you will need to grind eggshells and add the powder to your dog’s food daily. (You can prepare a supply of ground eggshell in advance and save it to use later.) If your dog eats a complete and balanced dog food and an eggshell is just for fun, it’s best if you don’t give him an eggshell very often. Otherwise you can upset the calcium to phosphorus balanced in his diet.

Conclusion

Eggshells are very high in calcium. Some dog lovers use dried eggshells as a way to add calcium to their dog’s diet if they feed homemade or raw diets. However, if your dog normally eats a complete and balanced commercial dog food, it’s best not to give him eggshells very often. If you give your dog eggshells, make sure you wash them first to avoid bacteria. Keep your eggs refrigerated at 40 degrees for safety.

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