Can Dogs Eat Oysters?
The Complete Guide
Have you ever considered adding oysters into your dog’s diet? But can dogs really eat oysters? If you’re wondering whether this tasty shellfish is a good option for your pup, today’s article is for you.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Can Dogs Eat Oysters?
Yes, dogs can eat oysters in moderation.
Oysters, like other shellfish, are rich in protein and very low in fat, so they can be a good treat for most adult dogs. However, since oysters can also have viruses and be contaminated with chemicals, puppies under 12 months old should not eat oysters (raw or cooked). Young dogs tend to have a more fragile immune system and any infection can quickly become life-threatening.
Are Oysters Good For Dogs? Possible Benefits Of Dogs Eating Oysters
Oysters are full of nutrients, which makes them a great treat for both humans and dogs. Although research on feeding oysters to dogs is scarce, there are some studies showing the possible benefits of the main compounds found in oysters:
1. Oysters are rich in zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral that, when missing, can have nasty effects on your dog’s health. A diet low in zinc can cause your dog’s coat to look dull and their skin to itch. It can even weaken the skin on their paws, making them more prone to breaking. Some dog breeds have an especially hard time absorbing zinc from their diet, such as Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes.
If your dog has been diagnosed with zinc insufficiency, or if you think they could use a little more, adding a few bites of cooked oysters to their regular meal can round up their diet in no time.
2. Protein-rich treat
In line with other shellfish, oysters are a lean protein source. They have zero carbs and almost no fat, making them a great choice to keep your dog satisfied and top up their daily protein requirements. Unlike plant-based proteins, oysters are full proteins (such as other animal proteins like chicken) and are easier for their bodies to metabolise. A regular 110 gram serving of oysters has as much protein as an egg or a chicken breast, and it’s absorbed fairly quickly.
Their nutritional composition makes oysters a great topper for your dog’s regular bowl!
3. Great source of minerals
Because they grow in saltwater, oysters are particularly rich in essential minerals. In fact, 100 grams of oysters have more iron than 100 grams of lean meat! Since proper iron intake is essential to your dog’s health, adding a couple oyster treats can be great to round up your dog’s diet.
This shellfish is also rich in selenium (essential for a healthy thyroid and brain function) and phosphorus (which improves absorption of other vitamins and minerals).
4. Oysters have plenty of Omega-3
Although Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, dogs are incapable of producing it themselves. Many dog foods contain supplemental Omega-3s and Omega-6s because of it! These fatty acids have strong antioxidant levels, which help your dog’s body fight inflammation and prevent chronic illness. This compound also improves all-around skin health, especially if your dog has itchy skin or a dull coat. One 110 gram serving of cooked oysters packs up to 1000 mg of Omega-3, which is significantly more than other sources.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Oysters?
They can, but it’s not recommended.
According to vets, dogs shouldn’t eat raw oysters. Although raw oysters are rich in micronutrients, they are more likely to have living microorganisms, can transmit foodborne illness and spoil easily. To minimise the risk of allergic reactions, GI distress and food poisoning, it’s best to stick to cooked oysters. We recommend boiling, steaming or roasting oysters before offering them to your dog.
If you must feed raw oysters to your pup, only offer the freshest option. Stick to organic, sustainably sourced oysters and feed them to your dog immediately after opening.
Risks Of Giving Oysters To Dogs
In spite of the possible health benefits, feeding oysters to your dog isn’t without its risks. Some of the cons of adding oysters to your dog’s diet are:
1. Too much salt can harm your dog
Like most shellfish, oysters have a relatively high sodium content. This isn’t generally a problem, unless you feed them too often to your dog.
Having too much sodium in their diet can quickly lead to electrolyte imbalances in dogs. With oysters, the high sodium and phosphorus content can cause imbalances in calcium and potassium levels on their bloodstream . Too much salt can also cause diarrhoea and dehydration, which if left untreated can be very dangerous.
Even if they love them, limit your dog’s oyster consumption to once or twice a week at most.
2. Oysters are high in purines
Purines are a naturally occurring substance, but in excess they can lead to excessive concentrations of uric acid and the development of urinary stones. Oysters are rich in purines that can cause unnecessary strain on your dog’s liver . Your dog’s kidneys usually take care of excess purine, but if your dog is fed with a high-purine diet it might make their kidneys work harder. Dogs that have already been diagnosed with kidney problems should limit their purine intake, and this includes lowering oyster consumption.
3. Shellfish can cause allergies
Like people, some dogs are allergic to seafood and/or shellfish. Unfortunately, this is a situation where you’ll never know if your dog is allergic unless they have a reaction after they’ve eaten the new food.
The best option is to introduce any new food item, including oysters, very slowly. Try a small bite and watch your dog for a few days, if they haven’t shown any adverse reactions, it’s likely they are not allergic.
PRO TIP: Don’t try to feed oysters to your dog if they’ve had allergic reactions to seafood or fish in the past. Allergies can evolve over time and the compounds that gave your dog a reaction before might also be present in oysters.
4. Some oysters are contaminated with viruses and bacteria
The main risk of feeding oysters to dogs is the risk of infections. Oysters can have different microorganisms, but the two riskier ones are a bacterium called Vibrium, and norovirus.
Vibrio infection is caused by a specific bacterium found in salt water, and can be contracted by eating raw oysters. If infected, your dog will present classic gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea and pain in the abdomen. Because it can be difficult to diagnose, vibrium infections tend to progress and can cause full-body failure due to septicaemia (blood infection) unless treated immediately. 
A norovirus infection also causes gastrointestinal symptoms as it is typically spread through contaminated waters (and uncooked water-bound creatures such as oysters). If left untreated, the continuous vomiting and diarrhoea caused by norovirus can lead to dehydration and even death.
Fortunately, you can eliminate contamination risk by only feeding cooked oysters to your dog.
5. Risk of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) infection
Finally, oysters can carry dinoflagellates algae, a specific type of seaweed that produces harmful toxins and are common among shellfish grown in contaminated waters. 
When ingested, these toxins cause neurological symptoms such as spasms, trouble walking, numbness, paralysis, and vomiting. Symptoms appear relatively quickly, from 30 minutes to 4 hours after ingestion and, if left untreated, can lead to death.
If you suspect your dog has neurological symptoms after eating any kind of shellfish, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
How To Safely Feed Oysters To Dogs
Step 1. Pick the right oysters
Like other seafood, oysters are very sensitive to the conditions they’re grown in. Because they are “filter feeders”, oysters and other shellfish tend to catch whatever toxins are in the water surrounding them. This means oysters can be a source of toxic elements, as shown in a recent study on Floridian oysters full of toxic chemicals such as phthalate esters . These chemicals are known to negatively influence human health and increase the risk for chronic diseases.
To limit your dog’s exposure to these compounds, choose the right oysters. Here’s what we recommend looking for:
Step 2. Cook the oysters
As we mentioned above, cooked oysters limit the risk of food poisoning or stomach issues. After selecting good quality oysters, we recommend boiling, steaming or roasting them before feeding them to your dog.
It’s best to gently cook oysters until just done, and not overcook them. Overcooked oysters get rubbery and tough to chew, and some micronutrients might be lost due to extreme heat. Cooking for 10 to 15 minutes is usually enough.
PRO TIP: Never add condiments or cooking oils to your dog’s food, including oysters! Many common sauces eaten with oysters, such as wasabi or soy sauce, can actually be harmful to your dog. It’s best to cook oysters plain to limit the risk of allergies.
Step 3. Serve
Once the oysters are properly cooked, it’s time to serve! Let the oyster meat cool down and take the meat out of the shell. In the beginning, one or two oysters is enough. You can use cooked oysters as a topper to make their regular food bowl more enticing.
PRO TIP: As with any new food, always start small when offering oysters to your dog for the first time. By only giving one or two bites and then keeping an eye on your pup, you can make sure they don’t have any adverse reactions to it.
Step 4. Monitor your dog
The first time you give oysters to your dog, keep an eye on them for the following 24 hours. This is bestpractice to figure out whether your dog reacts well to oysters and isn’t allergic. Call your vet ASAP if your dog shows any of the following symptoms up to 48 hours after having oysters:
Oysters can be a great high protein treat for your dog, but as with other shellfish, you need to be careful. It’s important to only feed fully cooked oysters to your pup to minimise food poisoning risks and prevent dangerous viruses from spreading. If you take precautions, these are a great bowl topper that most pups will happily enjoy.
Are you wondering whether you can feed other common foods to your dog? Check out our other food safety guides here:
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- Hackney, C. et al. July 1987. “Variation in the levels of sodium and other minerals of nutritional importance in Louisiana oysters (Crassostrea virginica)”. Journal of Food Science. Retrieved April 12, 2023. https://ift.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2621.1987.tb14285.x
- Stockman, J et al. 2021. “Calcium, Phosphorus, and Vitamin D in Dogs and Cats: Beyond the Bones”. Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice. Retrieved April 12, 2023. https://europepmc.org/article/med/33653533
- Qu, X., et al 15 April 2016. “Determination of four different purines and their content change in seafood by high-performance liquid chromatography”. Journal of the science of food and agriculture. Retrieved April 12, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.7755
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- Hawley, C. July 7, 2022. “New study finds oysters in Florida contain toxic forever chemicals”. Fox 13, Tampa Bay. Retrieved April12, 2023. https://www.fox13news.com/news/new-study-finds-oysters-in-florida-contain-toxic-forever-chemicals
- Beecher, T. October 27, 2022. “Oysters: an explainer”. Broadsheet. Retrieved April 12, 2023. https://www.broadsheet.com.au/national/food-and-drink/article/explainer-australian-oysters