Can Dogs Eat Crab? Incl. Shells, Sticks, & Salad

can dogs eat crab meat

Aside from a few picky individuals, most dogs really will eat anything they can get their paws on. However, whilst it is endearing to see them beg for scraps from our plates it is very important to exercise caution when giving our dogs anything to eat from our human diets… and this is particularly true when it comes to dogs eating crab and shellfish.

Can dogs eat crab? Just like humans, dogs can eat crab, but some could be allergic to shellfish. In most cases, crab without the shell will be safe, non-toxic, and ok for dogs to eat but only in moderation. Crab meat is packed full of lean proteins, vitamins and minerals that are very good for your dog’s diet.

But are there any drawbacks to feeding your dog crab? What are the benefits or is it bad for them? Can crab meat always be completely safe for a dog to eat… and can dogs actually be allergic to shellfish?

This guide will outline what you should and should not feed to your dog when it comes to crab-based meals. It includes advice on crab shells, crab salad, and crab sticks, plus what the risks could in giving them different types of shellfish.

Is crab safe for dogs to eat / consume?

It is common knowledge that fish and seafood is good for the brain (read source), and this applies to dogs too. It’s all down to the crab meat which is rich in vitamin B12. This vitamin is known to help improve brain and internal organ function.

Crab meat is also very high in protein which is said to help the body restore skin cells, hair, nails and cartilage throughout a dog’s body. Feeding your dog crab in moderation can even help to make their coat shinier and improve their kidney function.

If your dog has a deficiency in vitamin B12 or had been diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, crab can be very beneficial in giving them a boost of the vitamins they may be unable to absorb from other foods.

If your dog has health issues that you think may be helped by feeding them crabmeat, please consult your vet first for additional advice.

So, taking all of this into account, this means crab meat is safe for dogs surely?

Well yes, and no… it all depends on how you prepare it and the parts you remove. And yes, that means the shell – read on to find out why.

Can dogs eat crab shell?

Dogs should never eat crab shell. Crab shell is bad for dogs and can be extremely dangerous.

When preparing crab for your dog to eat, be sure to remove all of the shell as this can break off into shards when chewed and can easily become lodged in their throats. This could result in a choking hazard as well as possible internal injuries.

If you think your dog is choking or has been hurt by some crab shell, contact your vet immediately for assistance.

Handy Hint: Check out my guide to puppies and beach safety, including how long after shots you will need to wait

Is crab bad for dogs with allergies?

Aside from the shell, we’ve established that crab isn’t bad for dogs when the meat is eaten in isolation. However, there are still a few dangers and concerns I have with dogs eating crab meat.

For example, just like us humans, some dogs can be allergic to crab meat as well as other shellfish. This is often due to an allergy to iodine, which crab meat is very rich in.

However, like human shellfish allergies, you will only really find out whether your dog has the allergy once they have eaten it.

So, if they have never eaten crab before, keep an eye on them after they have eaten some in case, they start showing signs of an allergic reaction.

Does that mean I would let my dog eat crab meat?

Probably not, just to be on the safe side.

Signs of crab meat allergies

The symptoms of a crab allergy are similar to that of humans, although it may be more or less obvious depending on the severity of the allergy and how much they have eaten.

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Signs of a cold
  • Face swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

These symptoms are common in many different illnesses and allergies but should be investigated regardless as it could prove dangerous to your dog’s health.

If your dog has recently eaten crab meat and is beginning to show signs of an allergic reaction, take them to see your vet as quickly as possible. Most allergies will be easily brought down through care at home after a visit to the vet, but some dogs develop swelling to their face and throat which can prove very dangerous and may need more serious medical care.

Can dogs eat crab sticks?

I do not recommend you let your dog eat imitation crab meat sticks. Crab sticks are not made from real crab, but instead use surimi. This is a cheap processed fish meat which also has plenty of additives and food colorings in.

It won’t have huge nutritional value and might even produce an allergic reaction in your dog – crab sticks are not good for dogs to eat, so I’d put them to one side.

Can dogs eat crab salad?

Whether crab salad is safe for your dog to eat really depends on the recipe. If the crab salad is simply crab meat with some greens, then it should present no health issues.

However, many crab salad recipes include mayo, dressings, onions, and other seasonings, none of which I would risk in my dog’s diet.

Onion in particular is known to be toxic to dogs in large quantities.

The bottom line is that if you buy a crab salad and let your dog eat it, he’s probably going to be sick and have diarrhoea. You have been warned!

My dog ate a crab on the beach, what do I do?

When out on walks, dogs occasionally come across things that they shouldn’t and decide that they want to eat it, such as cuttlefish bones or even jellyfish. All of these are dangerous for your dog to eat, especially if it has been found lying on the beach.

However, one of the easier and more common things for a dog to stumble across on the beach is a dead crab. And, unfortunately, it is also something that they often want and try to eat.

You should take it away from them or encourage them to drop it.

However, you might not get that chance to intervene, so what happens if your dog has managed to eat a crab from the beach?

As we’ve established, crab meat is safe for dogs to eat providing it has been prepared and de-shelled properly. This is not a luxury you will ever hope to have with wild crab found on a beach.

In fact, the crab could even be at the rotting stage so is never going to be the best or healthiest meat. There could be bacteria and parasites also present that could cause your dog discomfort.

Then there’s the hard, outer shell could pose a choking hazard if either chewed quickly or simply swallowed whole.

If your dog has a crab in their mouth, convince them to drop it by calling them over or offering them something just as good, such as a treat or a toy they love.

Don’t try and chase your dog down, as this will usually make them just try and eat the crab faster as a way of preventing you from taking it.

If your dog has already eaten the crab and seems to be fine, keep an eye on them for any signs of discomfort or allergies, including vomiting, stomach upset, lethargy or general signs of a cold.

If your dog begins to show these symptoms, take them to see your vet as soon as possible.

If your dog is struggling to swallow or keep down the crab, such as choking or vomiting, call your vet immediately for advice.

Handy Hint: To find out more about why dogs eating crabs from the beach including rotten ones can be so dangerous, read this guide to dogs and beach crabs.

Can dogs eat lobster?

As with crab, feeding your dog small amounts of lobster can actually be beneficial to your dog’s health. Also, lobsters can be rather large and giving the scraps to your dogs will cutdown on the leftovers to throw away.

However, it should only be fed to your dog in moderation as an occasional treat, rather than a substantial source of their protein which they should get from their normal dog food.

Lobsters are a great source of protein, as well as omega-3 (as with almost all types of seafood) and are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to your dog’s health.

can dogs eat lobster
Dogs can eat crab meat and lobster but should be in moderation with no dressings or seasoning.

Similar to crab, this increased amount of nutrients introduced periodically into your dog’s diet as an occasional treat can help keep their coat glossy and help their internal organs work smoothly.

When giving lobster to your dog, be sure that the meat is completely cooked through and that any shell or other hard bits have been removed. Don’t just let your dog lick up the leftovers from the plate, as this could pose a choking hazard.

Is seafood safe for dogs generally?

The term ‘seafood’ is quite a broad bracket, incorporating not only fish but also shellfish, cephalopods, muscles, oysters and other molluscs. As with humans, some dogs can be allergic to all kinds of seafood or only one specific type, and most unfortunately can only be found out once they have eaten it.

Additionally, a dog doesn’t have to have an allergy to a type of fish for it not to be risky. Fish with a longer lifespan, such as mackerel or tuna can contain larger amounts of heavy metal and toxins that they have ingested as they have grown.

Similarly, larger fish can contain larger bones that, if not removed before being given to the dog, can become lodged in their throats or cause internal injuries when going through their digestive system.

If you are worried about your dog being allergic, feed them a small amount and keep an eye on them for signs of an allergic reaction. If your dog has never had that particular food before, it is best not to feed them a large amount at first just in case of an allergy and also because their stomachs may not be used to digesting it.

While cooked fish and moderate amounts of de-shelled shellfish are good for your dogs (as well as certain raw fish such as sardines, herring, anchovies or even seaweed), there are a few types of seafood that you should never feed your dog:

  • Salmon: Do not feed your dog raw or smoked salmon, as it contains parasites that can cause salmon poisoning in dogs.
  • Fish with bones: Also, any fish that you do feed to your dog needs to be thoroughly gutted and de-boned, with any pre-bought fillets washed and checked for bones as they can sometimes escape the process.
  • Shrimp tails: Similarly, shrimps should have their tails removed as the hard shell can splinter and cause a choking hazard even if swallowed whole.


To conclude, dogs can eat crab in moderation.

What do I mean by moderation?

Well, I always follow the 90/10 rule each day with our own dog. This means that only 10% of his daily food intake is what I would describe as a treat or “human food”. And I count crab meat in that category.

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If you’ve ever wondered “can my dog eat that” then you might be interested in some of my more recent findings with regards to diet. For example:

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a vet, and the advice in this guide is based on my own online research, talking with a vet I know, and other dog owners. You should always consult with your own trusted vet before introducing any unusual foods to your dog’s diet.

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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