Bulldog looking at calamari and licking his lips.

Can Dogs Eat Calamari?
Is Cooked Squid Good For Dogs

Written By Eloisa Thomas | Canine Coach, Double M.A in Anthropology.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 18th January 2024

We love calamari as a delicious snack or part of a full dish – but can dogs enjoy this treat from the sea as well? 

If you're wondering if calamari is safe for dogs, today's article is for you.


Can Dogs Eat Calamari?

It depends. On its own, calamari don't have any compound that is naturally toxic to dogs. When properly cooked and shared as a treat, it can be a great high-protein snack for your dog. The problem with calamari is how we usually prepare it: cut, breaded and fried, then dipped in sauce. While it is delicious for us, fried calamari shouldn't be given to dogs!

The "normal" way of eating calamari adds too much fat, and the accompanying sauces can be dangerous to your pup. Aioli, a popular dipping sauce, is a big no-no: it's full of garlic that, as we've mentioned before, is toxic to dogs.

On the flip side, home-made calamari, cooked without oils or sauces, is ok. But this usually means you'll have to prepare a small batch specifically for your dog, which might not always be convenient. It's up to you!

PRO TIP: If you've never given seafood or calamari to your dog, ask your vet before sharing a bite with your pup.

Squid.

Are Calamari Good For Dogs? Benefits Of Calamari For Your Dog

Even if calamari are nontoxic for dogs, you might be wondering if it's worth the hassle of preparing a dog-only batch. Short answer: yes! Calamari has plenty of health benefits. Here are the full details:

1. Great protein source

Calamari can be considered a lean protein, since on its own, it has little fat or carbohydrates. According to the latest research, calamari has more or less the same protein percentage across species [1], so it doesn't really matter which one you choose to give to your dog. For every 100 grams of calamari, you're getting 18 grams of protein.

For comparison, 100 grams of chicken breast packs 28 grams of protein and while 100 grams of chickpeas have 18 grams of protein. However, calamari is virtually carb-free, making it a better option than chickpeas and other protein-rich legumes.

Like other seafood and animal protein, calamari are a complete protein. This means it has all the amino acids needed to help your dog's body rebuild muscle cells and is easier to absorb than vegetable protein (from legumes, for example).

2. Rich in phosphorus

Phosphorus is an essential mineral that, among other things, helps your dog's kidneys detox their body, repair normal cellular damage, strengthen their bones and balance other nutrients. Inadequate phosphorus intake can cause muscle deficiency, bone weakening, and even heart failure. Since 100 grams of calamari pack around 220 mg of phosphorus, one or two bites are more than enough to round up your dog's micronutrient intake.

PRO TIP: Excess phosphorus is not advised if your dog has been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. If that's your pup's case, ask your vet before giving them any phosphorus-rich treats such as calamari.

3. Can help prevent anaemia

Like other seafood, calamari are rich in copper [2]. Copper is an essential mineral, meaning it intervenes in key physiological processes in your dog's body. In fact, copper helps build your dog's bones, restore collagen and repair connective tissue in their joints. It is also essential to ensure iron absorption: without copper; your dog wouldn't be able to produce enough red blood cells to keep them healthy.

If your dog eats little red meat or has been diagnosed with anaemia, a few calamari bites might help speed up recovery!

4. Immunity booster

On top of the mentioned micronutrients, calamari are rich in zinc and magnesium: essential for healthy thyroid function. Proper zinc intake also helps skin cells regenerate faster, meaning your dog will recover more quickly from scratches and they are less likely to develop skin conditions.

5. Could prevent heart disease

This seafood is rich in vitamin B12, which has key roles in the making of red blood cells, metabolism, nerve and muscle function. According to a recent study [3], vitamin B12 also contributes to the breakdown of homocysteine. This protein is necessary for good health, but in excess it has been associated with heart disease. Researchers have hypothesised that adequate levels of B12 might contribute to a lower risk of heart failure due to excess homocysteine, although more research is needed in this field.

PRO TIP: If your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease, don't try to treat them at home with food. It's best to follow their veterinarian's advice when it comes to medication and, if needed, a special diet.

6. Helps them feel younger for longer

Calamari is also rich in vitamin B6, also called niacinamide. This essential vitamin boosts metabolism at a cellular level and repairs your dog's cells. Researchers have also described its effect as antioxidant [4] (the same effect of vitamin C, for example), and we know an antioxidant-rich diet can help your dog live healthier for longer and fight off chronic diseases. While extra calamari won't prevent ageing, it could contribute to keeping your pup healthier as they grow old.


Is Calamari Bad For Dogs? Risks Of Feeding Calamari To Your Dog

Of course, as with any food, there are some risks and dangers associated with calamari. Here's what you need to look out for:

1. Calamari is high in sodium

Dogs need relatively little sodium in their diets: from 0.25 to 1.5 grams for every 100 grams of food. Calamari, like other seafood, tends to be higher in mineral salts like sodium and magnesium, because they absorb it from their saltwater environment. If you give calamari as a treat, the extra salt shouldn't be an issue for the majority of healthy adult dogs. However, frequent calamari consumption can make your dog's salt intake skyrocket, which can lead to health issues down the road.

Dogs that have been diagnosed with kidney disease should also avoid sodium-rich foods, to ease the work of the kidneys.

2. It can increase your dog's mercury intake

Unfortunately, like other fish and seafood, calamari can be contaminated with heavy metals, including mercury. Mercury is highly toxic to humans and dogs, because it gets into the muscle cells and the body can't get rid of it. If you or your dog eat many foods contaminated with mercury it might cause poisoning and even death.

Calamari tends to have less mercury than big fish like tuna, but the small amounts can accumulate over time. This is one of the reasons why calamari should only be considered an occasional treat and not be the main protein in your dog's diet.

3. Some dogs are allergic to calamari

For dogs, most allergies come from common foods such as chicken or beef. However, some pups are allergic to seafood and you might not know until they show specific symptoms. According to veterinarians, the type of seafood that causes allergies more often is shellfish. But you might have a pup at home that is allergic to calamari.

The first time you give your dog calamari, it's important to keep an eye on them. Allergic dogs might show one or several of the following symptoms:

  • Swollen face, muzzle or lips
  • Scratching more often than usual
  • Hives or red patches
  • Redness
  • Swollen joints or limbs
  • Sneezing
  • Bald patches
  • Stomach upset including vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Lethargy

If your dog shows any of the above, a visit to the vet is in order. Although most allergies resolve quickly after treatment, severe allergies can be life threatening and require immediate veterinary attention. In these cases, it's best to be safe and act fast.

4. Herring worm disease is a real danger

Uncooked calamari can be contaminated with herring worm, a common parasite in seafood and fish. When eaten live in uncooked food, the parasite attaches itself to the stomach or intestine wall and causes a host of problems. Common symptoms of infection include vomiting, diarrhoea, bloody stools, fever and general lethargy. The parasite is contagious to humans, and the American CDC recommends avoiding raw squid because of it [5].

If infected, your dog will need veterinary treatment and might have to spend a night at the doctor if they are too dehydrated. You can easily avoid any issues by never giving raw calamari or fish to your dog.


How To Safely Give Calamari To Dogs

So, after knowing the pros and cons,how can you share calamari with your dog? Here are a few easy guidelines:

  • Never give your dog ready-made calamari: Prepared dishes are full of spices, oil and sauces that can be really toxic for dogs. It's best if you prepare your dog's calamari at home.
  • Choose fresh or frozen plain calamari: As long as it's plain, you can go with fresh calamari or frozen rings. If you go for frozen, make sure it's truly plain: no breading, spices, sauces, oils or additives. The ingredient list should only read "calamari".
  • Cook it through: Properly cook your calamari to avoid the risk of parasitic infections and food intoxication. Don't use oils or fry the calamari: steaming is the best option. Use a steamer and cook it all the way to kill off any parasites.
  • Keep it occasional: Calamari should be considered a treat, and not part of your dog's regular diet. Only feed them one or two bites, up to twice a week.
  • Cut it in small pieces: Even if you have a large dog, give them small, bite-sized pieces. Calamari can be chewy which might be a choking hazard if your dog tends to swallow whole.

Final Thoughts

Do you want to give calamari to your dog? Then go ahead, as long as you keep it as an occasional treat and only give them properly cooked pieces. Other than that, it's a great high-protein treat that might make their regular meals more appetising!

If you're interested in the safety of other common foods, check out our other guides below:

References

  1. Storelli, M et al. 2010. “Intake of essential and non-essential elements from consumption of octopus, cuttlefish and squid.” Food additives & contaminants 2010;3(1):14-8. doi: 10.1080/19440040903552390. Retrieved May 3, 2023.   https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24785311/
  2. “Copper. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals”. October 18, 2022. National Insitute of Health. Retrieved May 3, 2023. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Copper-HealthProfessional/
  3. Schnyder, G et al. 2002. “Effect of Homocysteine-Lowering Therapy With Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin B6 on Clinical Outcome After Percutaneous Coronary Intervention. The Swiss Heart Study: A Randomized Controlled Trial”. JAMA 2002;288(8):973-979. doi:10.1001/jama.288.8.973. Retrieved May 3, 2023.  https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/195230
  4. Malik, S., Kashap, M. 2003. “Niacin, lipids and heart disease”. Current Cardiology Reports volume 5, pages 470–476 (2003) Retrieved May 3, 2023.  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11886-003-0109-x
  5. “Parasites - Anisakiasis”. September 22, 2020. CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Retrieved May 3, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/anisakiasis/

Eloisa Thomas


Eloisa Thomas is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach & Anthropologist.

With a double master's degree in Anthropology and awarded a Chancellor's International Scholarship to pursue a PhD in History at the University of Warwick (UK), she's well equipped to write well written and factual canine information that will actually help people understand their dogs better.

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