Oysters. People seem to either love them or hate them. But what about dogs? Can dogs eat oysters? Or, should dogs eat oysters? Are they safe for your dog to eat? You’ll be happy to learn that oysters are great for dogs but they should be cooked first and removed from the shell. If you enjoy oysters, your dog can definitely have some, too.
There are a few more things to know about oysters before you start shucking them for your dog.
(Not sure how to shuck an oyster? This site does a good job of explaining how to do it. Freshly shucked oysters are mainly for eating them raw but you can use them for cooked dishes, too.)
In case you were wondering, oysters are salt-water bivalve molluscs that live in marine or brackish habitats. Whether they are raw, smoked, or cooked in some way, they are very nutritious.
Since dogs shouldn’t eat raw oysters, we’re providing nutritional information for canned oysters.
Oysters are an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. They are also a good source of vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, and phosphorus. On the down side, they are very high in cholesterol.
One cup of oysters has just 112 calories. They have a fairly good amount of omega-3 fatty acids at more than a 10:1 ratio to omega-6 fatty acids. Diets that are high in omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin B12 is essential for the maintenance of the nervous system, the metabolism, and blood cell formation.
Zinc is necessary for immune system health, metabolism, and cell growth.
Selenium helps maintain proper thyroid function and metabolism. It’s also a powerful antioxidant. It helps prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Iron makes the protein hemoglobin and myoglobin that carry oxygen to cells throughout the body.
Oysters have many antioxidants that help protect the body from oxidative stress.
Along with being a high quality source of protein, oysters also provide all nine essential amino acids for the human body. They can help you feel full and promote weight loss. They can also help with the control of blood sugar levels. Studies with people with type 2 diabetes showed that high protein diets significantly reduced triglyceride levels. High levels of triglycerides are a major risk factor for heart disease.
Oysters also contain a unique antioxidant called 3,5-Dihydroxy-4-methoxybenzyl alcohol (DHMBA). This antioxidant is very powerful and may be especially beneficial for liver health.
There are concerns about eating oysters. They act as filters in the water so they can take in all kinds of toxins and bacteria. Oysters from cooler areas tend to be safer. Eating raw oysters poses a greater risk of bacterial contamination. Symptoms from the bacteria can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and even something serious such as septicaemia, a blood infection.
Oysters can also carry Norwalk-type viruses and enteroviruses. They can also carry chemical contaminants such as heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium).
For these reasons, children, pregnant and women who are breastfeeding, and anyone with a compromised immune system should not eat raw oysters. Likewise, you should not give your dog raw oysters. Cooking can remove or reduce these risks.
Oysters also contain a very high amount of zinc. This is normal with oysters. However, it is possible to consume too much zinc. Eating too many oysters, too often, can lead to zinc toxicity. (Zinc toxicity in dogs most commonly occurs when dogs eat pennies or other objects that contain zinc. It’s not common for zinc toxicity to occur due to a food item but it is possible.)
Finally, if you are allergic to shellfish, you should avoid eating oysters. You can expect to have the same allergic reaction from eating oysters. Some dogs can also be allergic to oysters and other shellfish.
Should You Give Your Dog Oysters?
Yes, absolutely, dogs can have oysters – as long as they are cooked. Because of some of the risks associated with raw oysters, it’s best not to let your dog eat them raw. But oysters are a great source of protein and other nutrients. If you cook them there is no reason why your dog can’t enjoy them, in moderation.
Oysters can be steamed, roasted, or grilled. Just be sure they are heated to an internal temperature of 140 degrees. You should not use oils or spices when preparing oysters for your dog. Oils add fat and calories while spices can be irritating to your dog. Fried oysters are not recommended because of the oil used in frying.
If you are purchasing and cooking fresh oysters, here are some tips:
- Only choose oysters that have closed shells. Don’t buy oysters that have open shells.
- According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you should also discard oysters that don’t open during cooking.
- When cooking oysters, don’t place too many in a single pot. If they are overcrowded during boiling, some may be under-cooked.
It’s perfectly all right to buy oysters in a can but you should choose canned oysters that are packed in water and not oil or brine. Don’t buy canned oysters that are flavored or which contain spices. They may not be safe for your dog.
Try to avoid oysters that use preservatives or salt.
How Many Oysters Can You Give Your Dog?
As previously mentioned, oysters are naturally high in zinc. This is not harmful to you or your dog unless its consumed in excess. Don’t give your dog an excessive number of oysters.
“How many” will depend on your dog’s size. Moderation is best. The first time you give your dog an oyster, only let him have one or two to see how he likes them. Make sure he doesn’t have a bad reaction. Some dogs could have some diarrhea when they eat an unknown food for the first time. If all goes well, the next time you can let him have a few more.
You should use the same caution with other shellfish and mollusks.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Oysters?
Oysters are a great source of protein and healthy nutrients. However, they are best kept as an occasional part of your dog’s diet. If your dog is especially fond of fish and other seafood, try rotating them with sardines and other healthy fish.
Oysters can provide a wonderful source of nutrition to your dog’s diet, in moderation. It’s best to serve them to your dog cooked, whether you buy them fresh or canned. There are drawbacks to letting your dog eat too many or giving them too often so keep oysters as a special treat.