Can Dogs Eat Crabs on the Beach & Not Get Poisoned?

Can Dogs Eat Crabs on the Beach

When running or playing on beaches, it’s almost inevitable that your dog will encounter a crab (either dead or alive). Beaches are packed full of potential hazards, and crabs are no different when you consider their shell, and even the meat if the crab has been rotting in the sun.

Dogs are naturally playful and curious creatures who will always want to investigate or play with crab. Many crabs will end up in your dog’s mouth ready to be eaten so it’s up to you to understand the risks and whether it’s safe for dogs to eat crabs from the beach, including sand crabs and blue crabs.

I’ve done my own investigation into this, so here’s what I found having spoken with vets and read online:

Can dogs eat crabs on the beach? Dogs should not eat raw crab found on the beach. It is not safe as it the shell presents a hazard, potentially harming your dog internally, but raw crab meat could also contain intestinal parasites. There’s also a risk of food poisoning from rotting crab off the beach.

Whilst crab meat can actually be a very good protein for your dog, raw crab meat found on a beach is a different matter altogether.

Handy Hint: Read more about how cooked crab could be a great addition to your dog’s diet, providing you do it in moderation and with full supervision. Be aware though; some dogs can be allergic to crab.

Yes, crab meat is good for the dog’s growth and it has a number of benefits, but your dog should never eat crabs that it finds on the beach.

Are crabs poisonous to dogs then?

No, crabs are not poisonous to dogs, but some have been reported as suffering with allergic reactions. Because of this, you should never add anything into your dog’s diet without first consulting with your vet.

And when it comes to walking your dog on the beach, you should be extremely observant and alert so you can monitor what your dog put into their mouth.

This all comes down to being beach safe with your dog. I’ve written a guide to doggy beach safety before with some tips you can adopt. In relation to beach crabs though, here’s are some additions to that guide:

  1. Do not let your dog wander unattended on the beach.
  2. If you find your dog eating a crab on the beach, try to remove it immediately.
  3. Do not try to chase your dog because as they will either run thinking it’s a game or try to chew the crab down quickly to stop you getting it.
  4. Distraction is one of the best ways you can stop your dog eating a cab on the beach.

What to do if your dog eats a rotting crab off the beach?

Whilst we’ve established that crabs are not poisonous to dogs when cooked and prepared properly, it’s a different matter with rotting crabs found on a beach.

With hot weather, a dead crab can very quickly start to rot, and if eaten by your dog, could result in bacteria and parasitical infections taking place.

If your dog has eaten a rotten crab off the beach, the first thing to check for will be choking. Providing your dog isn’t choking on any shell, you can move to the next stage which involves observation and monitoring.

Here’s what our own vet told us to do, if our dog ever ate a rotting crab off the beach:

“Watch your dog for any diarrhea or vomiting, particularly if you see blood spots as this is where things get more serious. Also watch for a loss of appetite, pacing around the room and panting, perhaps they actually stop defecating altogether, or even look bloated. If you don’t see any of these symptoms, then chances your dog ate some beach crab and it will pass through their system. If you are all concerned, you should always call us.”

Can dogs eat sand crabs?

This question is a little different as it depends on your definition of sand crabs. If you are talking about the classic crab that you find on the sand, then my previous advice I’ve learned applies here, as crab, when cooked can be quite good for dog. I will talk a little more about that lower down the page.

However, if you’re referring to sand crabs as is the ones in the photo below, then there are some differing opinions.

sand crab
Is this the type of sand crab you mean your dog ate at the beach?

One of the scarier articles I found online was on the Centers for Ocean Sciences website who had a report on a dog nearly dying from eating the types of sand crab in the photo above. Here’s quote from the report:

“In May of 2007, Wally, the 12-year-old Basenji pictured on the right, ate dead sand crabs on Del Monte Beach and almost died from what is believed to be acute domoic acid toxicity. Wally suffered from symptoms associated with vertigo (loss of equilibrium, scratching the ears, vomiting, lethargy), seizures and partial paralysis in his back leg. Although he survived, Wally has never fully recovered from the incident and still experiences minor tremors.”

Based on that, it sounds like sand crabs can be poisonous to a dog, so avoid at all costs.

My dog ate sand crabs

If your dog has eaten sand crabs before you can stop it, first check for signs of blockage or allergies. Then take your dog to the vet to be completely on the safe side.

If there are no signs of allergies or reactions, it means the sand crabs will pass through, and hopefully not result in longer term health issues.

It’s classic “sand” crabs I meant…

However, if by sand crabs you mean the more commonly known classic crab species (see photo below), then they can be beneficial to a dog’s well-being and health – providing it’s cooked and prepared correctly.

beach crab
Or did you mean your dog at this sand crab on the beach? (Image copyright H.Hillewaert on Wikipedia)

Some of these benefits are as follows:

  • It boosts the dog’s metabolism. It also gives it appetite to eat as it has an inviting aroma that makes an anorexic dog gain its appetite and makes him/her crave more.
  • It contains essential minerals and vitamins like B12 that helps in fighting heart disease and cancer. B12 also plays a huge role in intestinal health and supporting brain function as well as countering exocrine pancreatic deficiency if your dog is diagnosed with it.
  • The copper contained in crab meat boosts a dog’s immunity and also plays a huge role in the production of cellular energy.
  • It has a high quantity of lean proteins that are essential for provision of energy and muscle and cell restoration. More specifically the proteins help in production of amino acids which are responsible for building hair, nails, skin, muscles, cartilage, tendon and ligaments.
  • It contains selenium that produces antioxidants in the dog’s body thus boosting the dog’s immune system and regenerates vitamins E & C
  • It helps in building strong bones. Vitamin C in it is also good for gums and teeth
  • It is soft and easy to swallow thereby proving beneficial if the dog cannot eat anything hard due to teeth or gum issues.

Only serve crab meat to a dog when it’s been cooked or canned. The safest way for dogs to enjoy crab meat is cooked as it will take care of the parasites and bacteria that may be on the raw crab meat.

Also ensure that the crab meat is fresh and has no odd odor that indicates that it is rotten or in the process rotting. Remove the shells so as not to choke the dog or harm them internally.

What happens if a dog eats a crab off the beach and something goes wrong?

The dangers are as follows, so please do be careful:

  • A crab’s shell is very sharp and hard, and it is very difficult for a dog to digest. When ingested, it can also damage a dog’s gastrointestinal tract leading to injuries and in the long run death. When the shell is compacted it can cause blockage on the upper digestive tract (mouth, stomach and esophagus) or the intestines. One can tell if his/her dog is suffering from shell blockage if the dog’s belly appears bloated. The shells can also get stuck in the dog’s gums and teeth and this will cause the dog to die slowly.
  • Crabs like any other sea food are more prone to developing bacteria infestation that may be harmful to the dog or cause it to suffer food poisoning. They may also be infected with larvae of “paragonimiasis” that is a parasite infection that is transferred though worms. If the crabs are ingested these parasites transfer to the dogs.
  • Some dogs may be allergic to iodine that is in beach crabs. Therefore, these dogs will suffer allergic reactions when they ingest the crabs. Some of the signs that reflect an allergic reaction are watery eyes, runny nose, signs of a cold, face swelling, lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting. The downside to this is that if it is the first time the dog is eating crab meat one will have to wait and check on these signs to determine whether the dog is allergic to it or not.
  • If portions and frequency is not monitored, the dog will develop an illness called hypernatremia due to high levels of cholesterol and sodium that is present in crab meat. This illness will cause high blood pressure, circuitry issues, high water loss, seizures, vomiting and heart disease.
  • Dead and often rotting crabs on the beach could also have bacteria and parasites that may be harmful to the dogs.

How vets fix internal blockages

Blockage in the upper digestive tract can be rectified by performing an endoscopic retrieval that will get rid of the crab shells whereas blockage in the intestine can only be rectified by an immediate surgery.

The endoscopic retrieval is done by inserting a small camera in the mouth and all the way to the stomach to clear the shell blockage.

If the retrieval and surgery are not possible the dog can be given Vaseline sandwiches as a last resort. The petroleum jelly in the Vaseline is safe for the dog to ingest and is a natural laxative that may aid in the removal of the obstacle.

The bottom line is; if you are sure your dog has ingested crab shells you need to rush him or her to an emergency vet for him/her to establish what procedure to use to clear the blockage after a proper examination to prove where the shells are stuck.


Dogs are known as man’s best friends. This is due to their loyalty and companionship to their owners. Many are times they accompany their owners to vacations and some of these vacations end up on the beaches.

Because of this, caution is always advised.

Dogs can eat sand crabs within seconds on the beach and whilst cooked crab can beneficial to a dog’s health and well-being, I would draw the line at the ones you find outdoors.

Disclaimer: I am not a vet and the advice in here was written after performing my own online research. You should always talk to your own vet if you have any concerns.

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If you’re thinking about taking your dog or puppy to the beach anytime soon, I would also like to raise your awareness to the dangers of canine parvovirus. You can read more about it on the link below.

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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