When shopping for dog food, it's common to find flavors such as beef, bacon, cheese, "meaty cuts," or "butcher's choice." Seafood flavors? Not so much. It's not to say that dogs can't or don't enjoy the flavors of seafood, such as oysters, it just wouldn't be on their typical diet if they were in the wild.
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Oysters are rich in numerous vitamins, and are said to have other benefits when included in a human diet. Fish and other seafood such as oysters can be a good addition to a dog's balanced diet. But be sure to feed oysters to your dog in a way that is safe and healthy — raw oysters can harbor bacteria, so uncooked oysters should never be on the menu for your dog.
Where do oysters come from?
According to National Geographic, oysters belong to the Ostreidae family, which is a group that contains edible oysters, mollusks, and other bivalves. Oysters have a rough, hard, almost rock-like outer shell, which is necessary to protect their tender body that lives inside. The body of the oyster is not that appealing, visually or texturally, as it is soft and slimy, almost like mucus when uncooked. But many people think the flavor makes getting past that unappealing exterior worth it.
Oysters live throughout the oceans of the world, usually in shallow waters and in colonies called beds or reefs (although they can be grown in an aquarium with the proper set up). In their ocean habitat, oysters feed by filtering water almost constantly over their gills. They extract their nutrients from algae and other food particles that are floating by. Their shells are so strong, that they can close up quickly when they are threatened and can be very hard to open. The best-tasting oysters come from very cold water.
Can dogs eat oysters?
Experts agree that dogs can eat oysters! But be sure to prepare them properly. The oysters should be taken out of their shells, of course, and should be fully cooked first.
Be sure that the oysters you feed your dog are fresh, from an inspected source, and are fully removed from the shell. They should be fully cooked to better protect from any bacteria or viruses that the oyster may be harboring.
Are there any health benefits of oysters for dogs?
Oysters are packed with vitamins and minerals. According to the USDA Food Data Central website, one Pacific oyster contains:
- 25 calories
- nearly 3 grams of protein
- 28 milligrams of calcium
- 8.6 mg of magnesium
- and a remarkable 47 mg of phosphorus
- and 75 mg of potassium.
Other important minerals are also high in oysters. A single oyster contains:
- 19 mg of zinc
- 9.5 mg of selenium
As you might expect, it also contains a fairly high amount of sodium: 41 mg.
By contrast, a 4-ounce portion of ground beef contains:
- 200 calories
- 23 grams of protein
- zero calcium
- zero magnesium
- zero phosphorus
- zero potassium
- zero zinc
- zero selenium
- and 75 mg of sodium
Clearly, if your veterinarian tells you that your dog could benefit from more minerals, an oyster snack could be a great thing to start giving him.
The best way to feed oysters to dogs
The best way to feed oysters to dogs is in moderation, and fully cooked. Your dog should be able to get all the nutrition he needs from her regular diet, and not be relying on snacks or other ingredients to make up for his nutritional needs. When first starting to feed oysters to a dog, start slowly. Feed only a single oyster to your dog to be sure that your dog won't react with an allergic reaction or stomach problem, and enjoys the food.
Consider a single cooked oyster as a snack or special treat. Alternatively, cook an oyster and add it as an ingredient to your homemade dog food. Be sure to cook the oysters thoroughly, so that your dog is less at risk for any bacteria or viruses that may be harboring in the oyster. Dogs Naturally Magazine stresses ensuring that the oysters you feed your dogs be inspected, and that they come from clean cold water.
Are there any concerns with feeding oysters to dogs?
One of the common warnings about eating seafood is to be aware of the levels of mercury and other contaminants in the food chain. Oysters, clams, and mussels are filter feeders, which means they filter water through their systems to obtain their nutrients. Seafood Health Facts, which is a project partially funded by a grant from the National Aquaculture Extension Initiative and the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative, explains that oysters commonly grow in shallow coastal waters that can be contaminated with bacteria or viruses from runoff from land or sewage discharges.
They can also be affected by water levels low in oxygen, for instance, if there is an algae bloom in the waters where they live. There is always a slight danger in eating raw shellfish, whether you are human or you are feeding them to a dog. other foods that oysters are not currently listed as a threatened or endangered species. But, they are extremely sensitive to water quality and are easily affected by pollution. When you feed your dog oysters, be sure that all shells and bits of shells are completely removed. The oyster should be thoroughly cooked.
Feed your dog only inspected, clean, and fresh oysters, fully cooked. Dogs can have sensitivities to foods that may be unexpected. Start out slowly when giving oysters to your dog, and watch him for signs of him reacting negatively to an unfamiliar food. An oyster is a healthy source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, so it can be a part of a healthy diet. Just be sure to monitor your dog closely for any signs of sickness caused by the oysters.
Curious what other foods you can give your pup? Check out our list of everything dogs can and cannot eat.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.