For humans, crab meat is one of those seafood treats that taste great and add a little bit of 'luxury' to any meal it's made a part of. But what about your dog? Is crab meat safe for dogs?
The simple answer is yes, under a certain set of circumstances. For most dogs, those without seafood allergies (more on those later) cooked REAL crab meat can be as much of a tasty treat as it is for their humans and can even offer them some health benefits as well.
But there are certainly some things you should know, and keep in mind, before you treat your dog to a crab heavy seaside supper. These things - and more - are what we are going to take a closer look at here.
Crab Meat Nutritional Benefits
You probably check the nutrition info related to the food you eat, or you should, and the same should be true for your dog too, whether you are feeding him standard dog food or human grade food like crab meat.
In general (although this may vary slightly depending on the specific type) fresh, cooked real crab meat offers the following per every one cup serving (1 cup = 8oz):
- 97 kcal
- <1 g fat
- 21g protein
- Zero sugars, carbohydrates, fiber or sugar.
As you can see, crab meat is a low fat, protein packed offering, so in terms of calories the occasional serving won't make your dog fat, and it will provide him with the protein that is an important part of his diet. Crab meat also contains higher levels of some omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 and the mineral selinium.
Potential Health Benefits of Crab Meat for Dogs
There is no doubt that, in moderation, crab meat, like most shellfish offers humans potential health benefits. One mistake many pet parents make is assuming that what offers health benefits for them must do the same for their pets.
This may not always be the case though, as most nutritional studies are conducted on humans, and the human body IS NOT the same in terms of its function and make up as a dog's.
That having been said, it is believed by most experts that the Omega 3 fatty acids in seafood like crab meat will offer them many of the same health benefits they do humans: improved heart health, improved brain development and may have the potential to help reduce joint inflammation.
It's worth noting here that many of the glucosamine supplements pet parents give their dogs are made using crushed crab shells, so there’s that benefit from crab meat as well!
The high-protein level offered by crab meat might concern some pet parents, as they may have heard that too much protein can put their dog's kidney function at risk.
This was indeed something that was of concern to some vets in the Eighties, but studies conducted since, including a very extensive study conducted at Penn State, have debunked this as a myth.
The sodium level in crab meat is also higher than that of some other fish like salmon, but as real crab meat is not cheap, it's unlikely that you'll be feeding your dog so much of it that this will make much of a difference.
Should Dogs Eat Crab Meat? What Kind Can They Eat?
At the start of this piece, we mentioned fresh, cooked crab meat, and it's this form of crab meat that is safest, and healthiest, for your dog to eat. Any other form of crab meat does present some concerns:
Raw Crab Meat
Uncooked crab meat really isn't something humans or dogs should eat. Crabs are what is known in the aquatic realm as bottom dwellers, and they are none too choosy about what they eat. Cooking crab kills off any bacteria that they may have ingested, ensuring it's not passed on to your dog (or you.)
Imitation Crab Meat
As touched upon earlier, crab meat, the real stuff, is expensive. So, it might be tempting to offer your dog the imitation stuff instead. You shouldn't though.
Not only is imitation crab full of food dyes and additives, your dog does not need, it also has very little in the way of nutritional value and often contains flour, even more salt, sugar and other things that can bother the stomachs of sensitive dogs.
Shell on crab meat (like soft shell crab)
Soft shell crab is delicious, but while the shell is soft enough for most humans to eat without a problem, it can pose a serious choking hazard for dogs.
Potential Risks of Feeding Crab Meat to Dogs
Most healthy dogs can enjoy fresh, cooked crab meat as an occasional treat. If you are concerned about your dog's sodium level, you may want to choose another omega heavy fish like salmon instead, but you should also discuss sodium with your vet as it does not affect them in the same way it does humans.
Some people worry in general about the mercury levels in fish. The good news here is that crab is not one of the seafoods that the FDA considers a high mercury risk.
Those fish, in case you were wondering, include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. But it should also be noted that the FDA warnings on these fish apply to humans, not dogs, although experts say that the adverse effects may be similar.
The biggest risk involved in feeding your dog crab meat is if it turns out your dog is allergic to shellfish. Shellfish allergies are not as common in canines as they are in humans, but they do happen.
Signs That Your Dog is Allergic to Shellfish
If your fur kid is allergic to shellfish, how would you know? Shellfish allergies range from mild to very serious, and every dog will display different allergy symptoms. Some of the most common, however, include the following:
- Excessive scratching, indicating their skin has become itchy
- Excessive skin licking, probably also caused by itchiness
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Apparent constipation
- Excessive gas
In VERY rare circumstances, a dog may experience anaphylactic shock after eating shellfish, in the way some humans do. This may manifest itself as swelling in the face, hives or shortness of breath.
Were this to happen, you would need to treat it as an emergency and get professional help for your dog right away.
Homemade Dog Food Recipe With Crab Meat
If you want to serve your dog cooked crab meat, simply sauté raw crab meat.
Don't add any of the seasonings or butter you might add to your own crab meat though, and your dog does not need them, or the extra empty calories, and they could upset his stomach.
If you are interested in making your own dog food making use of fresh cooked crab - which will be cheaper as you'll need a lot less of it - there are some great recipes out there.
The best home cooked dog foods offer balanced nutrition of course. Why not try out this recipe, which offers the great taste and goodness of crab meat combined with lots of other yummy - and healthy - stuff your dog should enjoy.
What You'll Need
- Fresh crab meat
- Beef heart
- Fresh pear
- Sweet Potato
How It's Done
- Par boil sweet potatoes until fork tender. Mash and set aside.
- Sauté fresh crab meat and beef heart. Don't add any seasonings or fats, the juices from the proteins should suffice. Add the spinach near the end of the cooking time and cook until wilted.
- Add cooked crab, beef hearts and spinach to a mixing bowl.
- Dice pear
- Add pear, blueberries and eggs to cooked mixture, stir until egg is well combined.
- Allow everything to cool before serving to your dog. Refrigerate any leftovers but ensure they are consumed with 48 hours.
Other Fish to Consider Feeding Your Dog
While crab is fine to feed most dogs, the expense involved may mean that it's a treat you only offer him occasionally. So, what other fish offer similar health benefits could you consider offering your dog?
All the following are considered safe for dogs to eat, are fish that have low mercury levels, and, in some cases, may be a little more affordable and easily obtained than crab meat:
- Canned Albacore tuna (in water, not oil!)
If your dog has eaten seafood and he is acting abnormally or suffering allergy-like symptoms, be sure to consult with your veterinarian.