Shrimp are typically OK for dogs to consume in limited quantities, but there are exceptions and caveats to feeding these crustaceans that you need to be aware of. Though shrimp have a nutritional profile that is generally beneficial for dogs' health, they are high in cholesterol. Also, the method of preparation affects how healthy they are for your dog.
Some Shrimp are OK
If it weren't for their high cholesterol content, shrimp would be a better source of protein for dogs. They are rich in niacin -- known as vitamin B3 -- vitamin B12, anti-oxidants, and other nutrients. However, because they contain high levels of cholesterol, you should limit feeding shrimp as an occasional treat.
The good news is, shrimp are low in fat and calories, and they contain few carbohydrates, so they make a good snack for your pet if given in moderation. Be aware, though, that dogs should not eat any uncooked, raw shrimp, as there is a risk of food poisoning. Make sure all shrimp you feed to your dog are fully cooked.
Puppies have delicate digestive systems, so be especially careful about feeding shrimp until your dog is older. A small amount of properly prepared shrimp is probably OK for a puppy, but check with your veterinarian first.
What to Avoid
Often, shrimp are deep fried with oils or other fats, heavily breaded, or served in their shells. Do not offer any of these to your dog. Fats from oil, salt, and other ingredients, including garlic and onions, are not healthy for dogs. Make sure to remove shells and tails from shrimp, as these pose a choking hazard to your dog.
Just as shellfish can cause allergic reactions in humans, dogs may have an allergy to shrimp. Watch for signs of stomach upset, gastrointestinal distress, or more severe symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea, when you first offer shrimp as a treat. Less frequently, dogs can experience an allergic reaction that includes anaphylactic shock, with symptoms including difficulty breathing, swelling, loss of bowel control, and several other serious symptoms.
Consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog shrimp to ensure this is a safe treat for your pet. In moderation, shrimp should be safe for your dog, but be cautious if you've never offered them as a treat, even after you've spoken to your vet.
Feed a Few Shrimp as Treats
The main consideration when giving your dog shrimp is not to go overboard. Shrimp are best used as treats, and it's a good idea to cut individual shrimp into smaller pieces to entice your dog. A shrimp or two offered in this way can go a lot farther than if you give your dog a whole shrimp to scarf down.
Also, some shrimp species are larger than others. A single, very large jumbo shrimp may be too much for a small dog to handle all at once, for example. Small, plain shrimp contain roughly 10 to 12 calories, which means a 30- to 40-pound dog with a roughly 1,000-calorie-a-day requirement could eat approximately 10 shrimp in a given day, if you are following the 10 percent treat rule. This guideline states that a dog should not consume more than 10 percent of their caloric in the form of treats in a single day.
However, this is a broad generalization, and represents the hypothetical maximum amount of shrimp you should feed in the example given. Consult with your veterinarian or a canine nutritionist if you want to add shrimp to your dog's regular diet. Error on the side of caution and start out slow. Individual slices make great training treats, as dogs often enjoy the unique flavor and are eager to please to receive their reward.
Preparing Shrimp the Healthy Way
The best way to cook shrimp for your dog is to steam them. You can also boil shrimp for your dog, though this may remove some of the flavor. Grilled shrimp may be OK, though don't use any cooking oil, and be careful not to burn the shrimp.
To steam shrimp, remove shells and tails. Use a steamer pot or other steaming setup and place the shrimp in the top steamer basket above the water after it comes to a simmer. Cook for roughly 6 minutes, depending on how many shrimp you are preparing, or until they are thoroughly cooked and tender, but not rubbery.
Other methods of preparation may be acceptable, as long as shrimp are thoroughly cooked. Do not season shrimp you plan to offer to your dog, and avoid using any cooking oil, butter, or added fat for these treats.
Moderation for all Treats
Dogs do best with a modest diet when it comes to treats. Avoid human foods, including shrimp that are fried or breaded, and you can safely offer some shrimp to your dog. Just be sure to start slow, consult your veterinarian, and make sure your dog isn't having gastrointestinal issues when they eat shrimp.