Can Dogs Eat Clams? – Are They Safe for Dogs?

Can your dog eat clams? The short and simple answer is yes, they can. However, there are several factors to take into consideration before giving your dog any type of shellfish. While clams and other shellfish have great benefits, their intake should be kept to a minimum. Like humans, your dog may be allergic to shellfish, so you take extra caution at first.

Shellfish, including clams, are one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. Of course, this can be of great benefit to your dog. Let’s take a deeper look into the risks and benefits of clams, to help you decide if they are worth being added to your pooch’s regular diet.

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What Exactly Are Clams?

Most people are familiar with common shellfish favorites like mussels and oysters, but clams are a slightly rarer dish. The main difference to be aware of is that clams are freshwater shellfish. They are commonly mistakenly represented as seafood, but they are only found only in freshwater. This makes them safer than some of their saltwater cousins, which may have heightened levels of harmful pollutants like mercury.

Clams are circular mollusks that live under the sand of the freshwater they live in. There are thousands of different species of clam that vary widely in size. What makes clams unique among shellfish is that they have internal organs. Clams have a heart, basic digestive system, and circulatory system. Clams can be eaten raw, as well as cooked, and have a rubbery texture and somewhat fishy flavor that your dog may or may not enjoy.

Most clams have a life cycle of around a year, but the oldest documented clam in the world was believed to be around 507 years old. The clam was still alive when found but suffered an ironic death when researchers tried to deduce its age.

Health Benefits of Clams

As most dog owners are aware of, your pooch wants to eat whatever it is you are eating, and they will often give you a convincing look that can easily coerce you into sharing. When it comes to clams, sharing a few bites shouldn’t pose any problems but should be kept to a minimum — think one or two small clams at the most.  Clams do have great health benefits, though, and as the occasional treat, they can be safely and beneficially given to your pooch. These benefits include:

  • Vitamin B12. Clams are rich in vitamin B12, which is crucial for your dog’s nervous system and brain function to operate optimally and helps with the functioning of your dog’s digestive system. B12 is almost exclusively obtained from dietary sources, and clams are one of the most abundant sources on the planet.
  • Iron is the second most concentrated nutrient found in clams, behind B12. Iron is involved in the synthesis of blood in your dog and aids the transport of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
  • Clams are a great source of lean proteins and provide several essential amino acids, including ones that the body cannot make and must be obtained from dietary sources, including glutamic acid, alanine, and glycine.
  • Vitamin C. Clams are rich in vitamin C, one of the rare animal sources of this essential vitamin. It is great for your dog’s skin and hair health, repairs and maintains bones and cartilage, and aids in strengthening their immune system.
  • Essential fatty acids. Clams contain omega-3 fatty acids and saturated fat, which help keep your dog’s coat smooth and silky and promote heart health.
clams
Credit: zcw, Shutterstock

Health Concerns of Clams

While clams are generally safe and beneficial to give your dog, there are a few concerns to be aware of.

  • While it is rare, dogs could have allergic reactions to shellfish. Shellfish allergies are fairly common in humans, but most come from seafood sources like shrimp and crab.
  • Food poisoning. Clams are part of the family of bivalve mollusks, which filter the water that they live in. The toxins they filter end up inside the clam’s tissue, and your dog may end up ingesting some of these toxins. This poisoning comes largely from toxins caused by an organism called dinoflagellates, which are unfortunately not destroyed by cooking. This is exceedingly rare, though, as long as the clams are from a reputable source.
  • Heavy Metals. It’s also very rare but possible that the clams you give your dog may contain heavy metals. Clams sourced from Asian waters have been found to contain heavy metals like mercury, which are harmful to your pooch in large amounts.

It goes without saying that while it is safe for your dog to eat clams, the shells are out of bounds. They can get stuck in your dog’s throat and digestive tract and potentially cause serious harm. We recommend giving your dog’s strictly small amounts only and not every day.

Preparing Clams

So, we’ve seen that clams are both safe and nutritious for your dog, but the question remains: Will they even eat them? Of course, this is largely dependent on preparation. Clams have a rubbery texture that some dogs may love to chew on but that other dogs may hate.

Firstly, the clams should be cleaned thoroughly and free from any fragments of shell. The clams should ideally be cooked well, to avoid any contamination. Once they are cooked, they can be simply mixed into your dog’s regular food. We recommend no more than two or three small-sized clams for a small dog. If your pooch won’t eat them, try mashing them into the food to conceal the texture.

cooked clams
Image: Pxfuel

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Conclusion

Clams are not only perfectly safe for dogs to eat, but they can provide a host of nutritional benefits too. Essential fatty acid omega-3, iron, protein, and vitamin C are all contained in clams and are highly nutritious for your pooch. The best aspect of feeding clams to your dog is vitamin B12. Clams are one of the richest sources of vitamin B12 out there, a vitamin that needs to be obtained by dietary sources.

There are a few health risks associated with giving clams to your dog, but these can be largely avoided by getting them from a good source and not feeding your dog too much.

In conclusion, yes, your dog can definitely eat clams. Not only that, but they are a great source of nutrient-dense food to add to your dog’s regular diet.


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