Can Dogs Eat Shrimp? All the Fish and Seafood Your Pooch Can (and Can't) Eat

Can dogs eat shrimp? For the most part, there's no harm in switching up your dog's diet by adding some fish and seafood to their daily meals.

However, depending on how it's prepared as well as which type of fish or seafood it is, both foods can be toxic—or in some rare cases, deadly—for your pooch.

Speaking to Newsweek, veterinarian Tina Wismer, the senior director of toxicology at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, said: "Fish and seafood can both be part of a balanced diet.

"While poisoning [in fish and seafood] is uncommon, there can be issues with bones or shells causing irritation or potentially obstructions," Wismer said.

Can Dogs Eat Shrimp?

Shrimp can be great for your dog's diet, as they are low in fat, calories as well as carbohydrates, but rich in nutrients that are beneficial for dogs.

The nutrients in shrimp include vitamin B12, niacin (also known as vitamin B3, phosphorus and antioxidants, according to an article at the American Kennel Club (AKC) website.

However, dogs should not be fed raw, uncooked shrimp, as they contain harmful pathogens. The shell should be removed entirely before giving shrimp to your dog, as shells pose a choking hazard and can cause an obstruction, especially for smaller dog breeds, the AKC explains.

Steamed shrimp is the best option for dogs, as the fried or breaded kind contains unnecessary fats and oils that can also be harmful for your pooch.

Shrimp on skewers.
Grilled shrimp on skewers served on a plate. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Can Dogs Eat Tuna?

Tuna is not toxic for dogs but should be avoided due to the risk of mercury poisoning, which occurs when fish ingest food sources that contain "bioaccumulated [concentrated inside the bodies of living things] heavy metals," Dr. Renee Schmid, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist at the Pet Poison Helpline, told Newsweek.

The larger the fish and the longer it lives and therefore it will have a higher concentration of mercury in its tissues. Mercury levels are quite high in tuna since they are large, long-living fish.

However, it's not the end of the world if your dog manages to steal a tiny piece of tuna off your plate when you're not looking, as a tiny amount will not cause mercury poisoning, the AKC says.

The risk of mercury poisoning also applies for sharks, swordfish, marlin and king mackerel, Schmid added.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises orange roughy and tilefish should also be avoided due to their high mercury levels.

Below are some symptoms of mercury poisoning, as outlined by the AKC.

  • Hair loss
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Blindness
  • Kidney damage (inability to urinate, abdominal swelling)
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of feeling in paws
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting blood
  • Watery or bloody diarrhea

Fish and Seafood Dogs Should Avoid

Here are some types of fish and seafood that can cause problems for your pooch if consumed.

Raw Salmon, Trout and Steelhead

Eating raw forms of salmon, trout and steelhead are among the fish that can pose a risk for dogs.

"Salmon poisoning is a bacterial infection dogs can get if they eat raw salmon, trout or steelhead that is infected with a fluke parasite," the ASPCA's Wismer said. This is most commonly seen in the northwest region (Washington state, Oregon and northern California).

However, the ingestion of cooked fish does not have that risk, Wismer added.

The Pet Poison Helpline's Schmid explained that salmon poisoning, although rare, can be a concern in dogs that ingest raw salmon "due to the presence of a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola that's infected with a rickettsia called Neorickettsia heminthoeca."

This organism causes severe gastrointestinal upset and multi-organ damage, which often leads to death, Schmid warned.

While salmon poisoning is most commonly found in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., a few cases have also been reported in British Columbia, Canada, she added.

A dog near fish steaks.
A dog standing near a table with seasoned fish steaks. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Fish and Seafood With Other Poisoning Risks

Several toxins can be found in certain types of fish that are ingested during normal feeding of algae and plankton (such as dinoflagellates). "Fish accumulate these toxins when feeding on affected substances such as algae," said the Pet Poison Helpline's toxicologist.

A few of the more common toxins include the following, as outlined by Schmid:

  • Ciguatera poisoning in emperor fish, grouper, parrotfish, red snapper, surgeonfish.
  • Tetrodotoxin (puffer or fugu poisoning) in pufferfish, ocean sunfish, porcupinefish, triggerfish, blue-ringed octopus and rough-skinned newts.
  • Shellfish poisoning in oysters, sea scallops, mussels, soft-shelled clams and Alaskan butter clams.
  • Scombroid (poisoning from eating spoiled food) in tuna, mackerel, bluefish, herring and bonito fish. This can be caused by improper storage and preservation.
A dog staring at salmon appetizers.
A dog looking at plate of smoked salmon appetizers. iStock/Getty Images Plus

The Pet Poison Helpline's toxicologist noted it's also important to be aware that some seafood prepared for humans may contain other foods added which are toxic for dogs. For example, onions and garlic can be poisonous to dogs and large amounts of fat (such as butter and cooking oil) can lead to pancreatitis, which is a painful and potentially life threatening illness which affects the intestinal tract.

There are also commercially available diets that contain different types of seafood (particularly salmon) that are often used for dogs and other animals with skin sensitivities or allergies, she added.

"Unless medically necessary, feeding a strictly seafood diet to your dog should be avoided in order to ensure your pet receives the balanced nutrition they need for optimal health," Schmid said.

Tuna sashimi on a plate.
Raw tuna sashimi on a plate. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Fish and Seafood Dogs Can Eat

All fish can be a healthy part of a well-balanced diet. Fish should be prepared with minimal oil and no seasonings, said the ASPCA's Wismer.

Shorter lived species (such as salmon, herring and whitefish) tend to have lower levels of heavy metals (mercury) than longer lived fish (tuna, swordfish) and are safe for dogs to eat, Wismer said.

Below are some fish that are safe for dog consumption, as outlined in an article by Dr. Leslie Gillette, a Florida-based veterinarian, for the PetMD website:

  • Catfish
  • Cod
  • Flounder
  • Herring
  • Light tuna fish (canned)
  • Salmon
  • Whitefish
  • Whiting

If seafood is properly prepared for human consumption, it can typically safely be given to your pooch. But dogs can have varying stomach sensitivities to certain foods. So if an upset stomach develops, you should immediately discontinue feeding them that particular seafood, Schmid said.

"Fish and other seafood items that are prepared for human consumption do not typically pose any additional poisoning risk for animals than those for humans," she added.

A dog looking at plate of shrimp.
A dog eyeing a plate of fried shrimp. iStock/Getty Images Plus