My Dog Ate Crab Shells! (Here’s What You Should Do)

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have been confined to our homes. Apart from living in our houses, we have had to work, study, and even exercise from there. So it makes total sense if, after all this isolation, a day on the beach with your dog is just what you need. After all, it’s a great opportunity for both of you to get some air, bond, and even swim if that’s your thing. 

However, a date by the beach comes with some risks for your dog. For one, they could try to eat some crabs or other sea creatures. Alternatively, they could eat napkinstapes, or any other thing they find lying around the beach. 

In today’s post, though, we are going to focus on what happens when your dog eats crab shells at the beach or at home. We will particularly delve into whether crab shells are harmful to dogs, what happens when your dog eats them, and what you should do about it. Once you’re done reading this, you will know how to handle any situation involving dogs and crab shells. 

Can Dogs Eat Crab Shells?

No, dogs cannot eat crab shells, they are too big for most dogs to swallow, especially small dogs. Secondly, they are difficult for a dog to digest even if they can swallow them. Finally, they can be sharp and sometimes break into even sharper shards.

Crab shells are made of calcium and a lot of chitin. This makes them hard to swallow, even for humans. And dogs haven’t adapted to digest chitin in such large quantities. This makes crab shells hard for them to digest. 

Even if you decide to crush the crab shells and feed them to your dog, it could lead to gastrointestinal issues. Ultimately, it’s best to do away with crab shells and focus on feeding cooked crab meat to your dog. Not only can your dog safely digest this, but it’s also full of a lot of nutrients that they need. For instance, it has an abundance of protein, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and omega-3 fatty acids. 

My Dog Ate a Crab Shell on The Beach 

If you’ve had a dog for a while, you know that they will eat almost anything. So you shouldn’t be shocked when they eat a crab shell on the beach. Just be ready to react quickly to ensure your dog is safe and sound, especially since raw crab isn’t safe for dogs. It can carry intestinal parasites and bacteria, passing them along to your dog. 

One common parasite that can be transmitted this way is Paragonimiasis. When transmitted to your dog, this parasite can live in their body and cause negative health effects. Another danger associated with your dog eating crabs at the beach is that they can easily eat rotten crabs. This can lead to other infections.

Ultimately, it’s important to keep your dog from chasing or eating crabs at the beach – training may be necessary. No matter how nutritious crabs are for dogs and humans alike, the ones at the beach aren’t good for anyone. And their hard shells are just the tip of the iceberg. 

What Happens to A Dog if They Eat a Crab Shell?

If your dog eats a crab shell, it can choke. Alternatively, the shell can break into shards and splinters that can then get lodged somewhere in your dog’s throat. This can lead to both suffocation and bleeding. And even if the whole shell or pieces of it make it to your dog’s stomach or intestines, they can shred them or cause a blockage.

Just like those of humans, dogs’ throats aren’t designed to handle swallowing objects as big as a standard crab shell. And while crab shells are hard, they are brittle too. As such, they can easily break into large sharp shards if your dog tries to chew them to make swallowing easy. 

These shards can eventually cause a lot of cuts and bruises in a dog’s mouth, throat, stomach, and intensities.

It’s also worth mentioning that sometimes, dogs can swallow small crab shells without choking and getting mouth cuts but then get internal injuries from their sharp edges. Alternatively, these shells could just travel to their intestines and block them. This prevents other foods from being digested and causes symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, lethargy, loss of appetite, and nausea. When accompanied by internal injuries, it can even cause blood in vomit. 

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate a Crab Shell?

The first thing you need to do when you realize your dog has eaten a crab shell is to check its throat for any signs of choking. If you notice that the crab shell is still in there, you can safely remove it. But if the dog has already swallowed the shell, you will have to monitor it for signs of blockage or internal bleeding. While there’s a chance your dog will safely pass the crab shell if it was small, it could alternatively cause a situation that requires immediate medical attention.

So if you notice a change in your dog’s normal behavior or that they are constipated, bloated, restless, or vomiting, take them to the vet immediately. Once there, the vet will try to find the current location of the crab shell in your dog’s body. They can do this through a combination of a physical exam, an X-ray, and some blood tests. Afterward, they will come up with a comprehensive treatment plan.

They may decide to induce vomiting or conduct an emergency surgery. If your vet does suggest that your dog needs surgery, though, you will have to prepare financially and emotionally for the aftermath of that. After all, you’re going to have to take extra care of your dog after the ordeal. And it’s going to take a while before your dog is back to its healthy, bubbly self. 


When it comes to dogs eating crab shells, prevention is always better than cure. So to ensure your dog’s continued health and wellbeing, always keep them away from crab shells. Don’t eat crabs near them, and always get rid of shells when they’re not looking – you can even consider placing all of them in a bag before tossing them in the trash cans. And when preparing crabs for your dog, always remove the shells early in the process – it may seem like nothing, but it could be the difference between life and death!


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!