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Can Dogs Eat Scallops? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

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By Nicole Cosgrove

can dogs eat scallops

Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Has your dog just wolfed down your scallop dinner while you weren’t looking? You’re likely in for a messy evening. Scallops on their own are, strictly speaking, not directly toxic to dogs. But there are health concerns and risks you need to be aware of, even with properly prepared scallops, before considering any cooked scallop meat as an occasional treat for your pooch.

All the seasonings and oils that people love to put on them will certainly give your pup an upset stomach and make them uncomfortable, requiring a trip to the vet in many cases. Some of the additives, like onions and garlic, can be particularly harmful for your pooch, depending on the amount they may have eaten.

In this article, we’re going to take a more detailed look at what scallops are, why they can be harmful to your dog, and even some of the potential nutritional benefits of these succulent bivalves.

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Scallop Fun Facts

The name “scallop” refers to a huge number of marine bivalve mollusks of the taxonomic family Pectinidae. Scallops live in every single ocean in the world, generally along the sandy bottom but sometimes attached to rocks or seaweed.

Many scallop species are highly valued as a food source. The main edible part is the meaty adductor muscle, which has become known in the culinary world as scallops.

Owing to their worldwide distribution, scallop shells are common occurrences on beaches. Their bright colors and pleasing shape make them popular collectibles. The iconic scallop shell also has significance in history, theology, and pop culture.

Pre-Christian Celts used the scallop as a symbol to refer to the setting sun. And numerous Christian saints are associated with the scallop shell, including St. James the Great and St. Augustine. Even powerful families such as the Churchills and Princess of Wales have used it in heraldry and crests.

Reaching even further back into antiquity, scallop shells have been representations of femininity and fertility in multiple cultures. The most famous of these is seen in the many depictions of the Roman goddess, Venus. Botticelli painted her riding on an open scallop shell in The Birth of Venus.

raw scallops
Image Credit: MonicaVolpin, Pixabay

Can Scallops Be Bad for Dogs?

When our dogs are curious about food, we usually ask a few basic questions before we even consider sharing:

  • Does this food have added salt, seasonings such as garlic or onion, or sugar?
  • Could it be a choking hazard?
  • Is it related to any known toxic foods? (Alliums, grapes, macadamia nuts, etc.)
  • Can they eat it raw? (And the answer is a strong No.)
  • How much can they have?

Though generally considered safe and of minor nutritious value due to the small portion size, there are many situations in which scallops can be bad for dogs to eat. They can even contain some toxins. Large quantities of any food that a dog wouldn’t usually eat can always cause issues, and scallops fall into that category.

Never offer any of the shell to your dog, as it’s brittle and sharp and may cause teeth fractures, mouth injuries, or get lodged at the back of their throat, potentially even obstructing their airway, which is life-threatening. Swallowing shells can lead to damage to the stomach and intestines or blockage in the digestive tract. All of these conditions require veterinary attention.

Digestive Upset

Digestive upset is the most common side effect of a dog eating something prepared for human consumption. Canine stomachs just aren’t built to handle the myriad seasonings, salts, butter, oils, and batters used to make things like fried scallops.

All that extra oil can irritate the stomach, causing vomiting, and acting as a powerful laxative. Particularly fatty additives can also possibly predispose some dogs to pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, although there is still an ongoing debate in the veterinary research world about this connection. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Save yourself a vet’s bill and cleaning time by being extra careful to keep your human food away from your dog. That’s part of why we call it “human food.”

Always make sure not to leave tempting food unattended around your pooch. Still, if somehow your dog eats your scallop dinner, contact your vet for advice, as they may recommend a check-up and try to make your dog more comfortable. Supply plenty of fresh, clean water for them to drink. Stay up with them to make sure they can get outside for any emergency bathroom visits. Make sure they are drinking, as fluid loss from diarrhea and vomiting will put them at risk of dehydration. However, if your dog becomes lethargic, refuses their food, develops any vomiting, or has bad diarrhea or blood in it, contact your vet promptly so they can give your dog any necessary treatment.

Some dogs may be allergic to shellfish, although scientific literature on this is sparse. This is an uncommon food source in dogs. Whenever introducing a new treat to your dog, make sure to consult your vet, offer a very small amount if they say it’s appropriate, and monitor carefully for signs of a stomach upset in the next 24-48 hours.

Sick dog on pillow
Image Credit: PickPik

Bacteria, Parasites, Shellfish Poisoning

Just like other raw seafood, scallops can carry harmful bacteria or parasites. Salmonella, Listeria, roundworms, and tapeworms are just a few. All of these may cause serious signs of gastroenteritis with vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and lethargy, and some of these pathogens may also damage the stomach and intestinal lining. Shellfish also spoils quickly, so make sure it’s from a verified source and fresh.

Vibriosis is an illness in people, caused by aquatic bacteria called Vibrio, that is often present in raw or undercooked seafood, mainly oysters, but can also be contracted just by handling raw meat. Affected people will experience stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and fever, lasting around 3 days. There is no available research on the significance of this illness in dogs, but it shows how dangerous seafood can be even for people, when not prepared or even handled adequately.

Bivalves and other seafood are common causes of food poisoning. In the ocean, bivalves like scallops both breathe and feed by filtering the water – and whatever is in it – through their body. That means if the scallops you got are from a polluted or dirty area, they could carry all kinds of toxins that cause shellfish poisoning. Scallops can also contain heavy metals, such as cadmium, and there are even recommendations on the maximum amount of scallop people should consume per week due to this known risk.

Another concern is paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). PSP toxins are produced by certain species of microalgae and can be filtered and built up within the shellfish, especially during algal blooms. The symptoms in people are predominantly neurological and the illness can be life-threatening. Luckily it’s quite rare in dogs.

Toxins are generally present in the organs of contaminated shellfish. They can’t be destroyed by cooking, and can even dissolve and contaminate the cooking liquid. It would be best to remove the organs before cooking and discard the leftover liquid so as to reduce the risk of shellfish poisoning. The adductor muscle is the only part of the scallop that should be eaten for this very reason.

Be extra careful when handling any raw scallops or seafood around your dog. And if they do get a bite or two, make sure it’s only after the food is fully and thoroughly cooked.

vet examining a border collie dog
Image Credit: antoniodiaz, Shutterstock

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Possible Health Benefits of Scallops for Dogs

In very small, properly cooked amounts, and only on special occasions, scallops may be a tiny snack option for your dog. Scallops may have a lot of potential health benefits, based on the analysis of their nutritious ingredients, but these conclusions have been extrapolated from human nutrition and cannot be applied to dogs at the moment, due to a lack of evidence-based research. Speak to your vet before considering scallops as a treat for your dog.

Another important consideration is that a safe amount of scallops for your dog will be very small and should not be given regularly. This means the nutritious benefits are actually quite insignificant for your pooch, and this is okay, as they will get all the necessary nutrients, protein, vitamins, and minerals from their main balanced diet, as long as it is formulated by following the guidelines provided by the Association of American Feed Control Officials or AAFCO. This is all your pup needs for a good and healthy life. Still, we will go through some of the ingredients in scallops, to give you an idea.

Scallops are high in protein and are leaner than many animal meats. Though it should never  be considered a significant source of protein for dogs, scallops may be a good snack that will give your pup a little additional fuel boost from time to time.

These oceanic bivalves are also rich in phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Phosphorus is a key nutrient for forming bones and teeth. Potassium is an important electrolyte for ensuring fluid and pH balance in the body, alongside enabling normal nerve and muscle functions. And magnesium supports a healthy immune system and strong bones.

Don’t season scallops if you’re going to feed them to your dog. | Image Credit: adamlot, Pixabay

How to Feed Scallops to Your Dogs

It is not advisable to feed scallops to your dog regularly, or in large quantities. But if you’d like to give your pup a small treat once in a while or spruce up mealtime occasionally they could be an appropriate option, if your vet agrees with this.

The keys to preparing seafood for a dog are threefold: removing the shell and organs, fully cooking the adductor muscle, and avoiding all seasoning. Scallops that you allow your dog to eat should be fully cooked to kill any possible bacteria or parasites that may cause nasty shellfish poisoning. And never fry or add any butter or salt to your dog’s seafood snack.

If you’re making scallops for yourself, for example, you could use a separate pan for yourself and no oil to cook up a few scallops for your pooch. Steaming and boiling are other cooking options and reduce the need for oil, but make sure the scallops are cooked thoroughly. That way, you can both have your seafood the way that’s best for you!

Can Puppies Eat Scallops?

Due to a puppy’s more sensitive and developing nervous and digestive system, specific nutrition needs that are crucial for adequate growth and a healthy start to life, and possibly higher susceptibility to many illnesses, it is highly inadvisable to let them eat scallops. It’s best to stick with a healthy and well-balanced, puppy-specific, complete food that follows the AAFCO guidelines. The food you choose should state this clearly on the label and be advised by your vet or a canine nutritionist. This may include foods like  Wellness CORE or Royal Canin and vet-approved treats.

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Final Thoughts on Feeding Scallops to Your Dog

Here’s a quick recap for the folks who just want the lowdown on whether they should share a small amount of cooked scallop adductor meat with their canine companion:

  • Are scallops toxic to dogs? Not directly, although they can sometimes contain toxins from filtering algae or traces of heavy metals. Raw scallops should never be offered as they often contain many harmful bacteria and parasites and can cause serious stomach upset or shellfish food poisoning. Be mindful that when it comes to toxins that cause paralytic shellfish disease, not even cooking can destroy them, so follow the safety precautions we have provided earlier in this article and purchase them from a verified source.
  • Can scallops be bad for dogs? Yes, especially when raw or cooked in oils with garlic or onion, salts, and breading, or if given too much or too often. However, even if you follow all the safety tips we offered, some dogs will still get a stomach upset when eating even a small amount of scallop meat.
  • Can scallops be good for dogs? Maybe, but only as an occasional small treat. The nutritious benefits are definitely too small to be considered significant at the amounts that are safe and appropriate for your pooch.

So, should you feed your dog scallops? That is entirely up to you and your veterinarian. With proper preparation, seafood like scallops can be a sumptuous, occasional tasty treat. But a careless doggy dinner of fried scallops will cause a seriously upset tummy or worse.

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Featured Image Credit: Andrey Starostin, Shutterstock

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