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Can Dogs Have Crab Meat, and What Kinds Can You Give Them?

Can Dogs Have Crab Meat, and What Kinds Can You Give Them?

Dogs have perfected those “Begging Eyes” that pull at your heartstrings and make you cave in and give your four-legged friend a bite of whatever you’re eating. But before you toss a tidbit of food to your pup, you want to remember that not all food is good for dogs. Plenty of owners wonder whether their dogs can have crab meat and how much to give them.

First off, dogs can eat crab meat, but before you start making it a regular part of their snack routine or mixing it in with their food, there are some essential facts you need to know to avoid an allergic reaction or making your dog sick.

Real Crab Meat vs. Imitation Crab Meat: Which is Best for Your Dog?

Yellow land crab close up

While preparing your meals, you may want to toss some cooked crab meat to your patient pup, but be careful in how much and what kind you give them.

Raw and imitation crab meat are not the same, and there are some significant differences in how healthy or unhealthy they can be for your pup.

Before adding any new food to your pet’s diet, you can test for any allergic reaction with small amounts of the food you wish to introduce. Giving them smaller portions as a test and monitoring their response can avoid a costly visit to the vet as any minor reactions will be more manageable from home.


Raw Crab Meat

Raw crab meat is an excellent source of protein and can be a great addition to your dog’s regular diet. Here are some benefits of adding real crab meat:

  • Contains vitamin B12 & zinc, which are beneficial for healthy brain function and regulating metabolism.
  • Excellent source of O=omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for kidney function and warding off heart disease.
  • Helps keep their skin and coat healthy and shiny.

Before feeding your dog raw crab meat, make sure you cook the meat thoroughly and that all shell pieces are gone. Even boiled shells can harm your dog’s intestines and stomach lining. You should never feed your dog uncooked crab meat.

If you are out at the beach and your dog finds a crab or two to chase, let them have fun but do not let them eat one as is. Raw crabs carry intestinal parasites that can lead to vomiting of blood. The shells alone can cause damage to the GI tract and can be very painful for your precious pup.

If they do eat raw crab, keep a close watch for any allergic reaction, blockage, or vomiting and contact your vet immediately.

How Much Crab Meat is OK to Give to a Dog?

Basset Hound Looking Up Licking Lips

Real crab meat has high levels of cholesterol, sodium, and iodine. Many dogs have a natural allergy to iodine, so crab meat may not be suitable for all dogs. Those with more than one dog may have one pup that is OK with crab meat but another that can get very sick.

Add real crab meat in moderation to your pup’s diet, either as a treat or a part of their regular meal. Thoroughly cook the crab meat and remove all shells before feeding it to your pup. And while you may think adding butter or other seasonings to your crab tastes good, it’s not good for your furry friend, so hold the butter, please.

If you’re sure your dog is not allergic to iodine, then adding protein-rich crab meat can give your dog added benefits over their regular dog food. If you cannot get real crab meat, you can still give them imitation crab, but in very small doses due to the additives and high amounts of sodium.

Introduce imitation crab meat in small bites and watch for any reaction. They may be OK with real crab meat, but not imitation crab meat.


Imitation Crab Meat

Imitation crab meat is OK for dogs but contains no actual crab. It is a mixture of white fish, salt, starch, egg whites, sugar, and other additives to give it the look and feel of crab meat. The starch and additives can cause problems with your dog’s digestion, so only give your dog small amounts.

Imitation Crab Meat Sticks

We love to turn different food items into something easy to carry, and crab is no exception. Imitation crab meat sticks may make for a tasty snack for yourself but be careful how much you feed your dog.

The added sodium and preservatives are not good for some dogs’ digestion.

Canned Crab Meat

The process of canning any kind of meat adds additional preservatives and additives, which can lead to an increase in your dog’s bisphenol A (BPA) levels. BPA is a synthetic compound used in making the cans used for foods along with other chemicals and compounds, including:


  • Sodium benzoate
  • Sorbic acid
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  • Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)

These preservatives are known to increase the risk of colon cancer in dogs and humans. When looking for canned crab meat, read the ingredients carefully and only buy brands that do not contain any added preservatives, such as Crown Prince, Phillips Foods, or Cameron’s Seafood.


Recognizing the Signs of an Allergic Reaction After Feeding Your Dog Crab Meat

When you begin to feed your dog crab meat or any new food item, you want to introduce it to them slowly and watch for any allergic reaction. Monitor your dog closely after trying crab meat for the first time for any of these symptoms:


  • Watery eyes
  • Face swelling
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Lethargy


Mild reactions can be monitored at home and will generally go away in a short amount of time. It is vital to give your dog very small amounts in the beginning to limit the severity of any reaction. If their symptoms are severe or continue for several hours, take your dog to the vet.

Too much crab meat, real or imitation, is not healthy for a dog. The crab should be served only in moderation, and if using imitation or canned crab meat, use even less.

Fresh crab can harm your dog’s stomach lining and GI tract if you do not remove all of the shells. Even softshells can cut into the stomach lining and cause serious harm. In addition, the shells can get stuck in between their teeth and cause damage to their gums and jowls.


Learn How to Prepare Crab Meat for Your Dog as Part of Their Meal or Snack

Hungry dog cartoon is ready to eat

Preparing your crab meat for your pup is the same process you would use to prepare your own meals. Just leave out the butter, garlic, salt, pepper, or any other seasonings you prefer to use, as dogs do not like these the way we do.

Plain is the number one rule when preparing crab meat.


Instant Pot

Fill your Instant Pot with one cup of water, place the trivet on the bottom, then fill it with your fresh or thawed crab. Then set it on manual high pressure for four minutes. You can cook multiple legs using the same water if you have a lot of crab meat.



Using a large pot, place a steam basket at the bottom and fill it with one cup of water. Add in your crab meat, bring to a boil, and cover for five to ten minutes depending on whether you used fresh or frozen crab meat.



Fill a large pot with water until it covers the crab by two inches. Boil for 10-12 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.



Using aluminum foil, wrap your crab loosely with both ends sealed to help keep the juices from leaking. The trapped liquids will help cook the meat, so you won’t need to add any water. Set the oven to 450 degrees and cook for 15-20 minutes.


Whichever way you cook the crab meat, make sure it is thoroughly cooked and unseasoned and that all of the shells are gone. Add a small portion to your dog’s food bowl or use it as a fresh snack in small amounts. Do not freeze and reuse the crab meat after cooking.


No matter how you prepare crab meat, follow these three simple rules:

  1. Real is better than imitation
  2. Use small portions
  3. Cook thoroughly

Imitation crab meat is OK for an occasional snack in small bites and only if your dog doesn’t have an allergic reaction or get sick. Use canned crab meat sparingly as it is heavy on preservatives. If you want to add a protein-rich supplement to your pup’s diet, real crab meat is your best choice.

You want the best for your favorite dog and want to make sure they are happy and healthy. Adding crab meat to their diet is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12.

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Hi, everyone! My name is Mathew Barham and I’m the editor in charge here at M-Dog. I’m currently based in Northampton, Pennsylvania, where I live with my beautiful wife, two amazing kids, and four rowdy rescue dogs. Growing up, my parents had a huge backyard and lots of animals. So my entire life, I was surrounded by pets that I cared for deeply. When my wife and I moved into a bigger place, I knew that I wanted to do the same for my family. That’s when we went to an animal shelter and fell in love with the most adorable little rescue pup. Since then, our family just kept growing, and we couldn’t be happier about it.