Pet parents are constantly on the lookout for some delicious yet nutritious supplements to add to their dog’s diet. Mussels are one such healthy treat option that you can feed your dog. And yes, it’s safe for a dog to eat mussels occasionally.
In this article, we’ll discuss the various health benefits of mussels and the right way to feed them to your dog. But first, let's get an overview of this seafood.
What are Mussels?
Mussels are a type of shellfish that has a soft invertebrate inside two connected shells. These shells are joined together on the outside by a ligament.
Based on where they live they’re differentiated into 2 categories: freshwater mussels (found in canals, rivers, ponds, and lakes) and marine mussels (found in saltwater oceans and bays). The latter is widely eaten by humans and other marine predators while the former is mostly eaten by otters, raccoons, and ducks.
The two popular species of marine mussels include blue mussels and green-lipped mussels. Although they’re both safe and healthy for humans and dogs, green-lipped mussels are considered healthier for a dog due to their natural Omega-3s and anti-inflammatory properties. These mussels are native to New Zealand and can be distinguished by their green color around the lips of the shell.
Health Benefits of Mussels for a Dog
Let’s discuss the 5 amazing health benefits of feeding mussels to a dog.
1. Rich Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Mussels contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are omega-3 fatty acids. These are powerful acids that can support various functions in your dog’s body, including:
- Improves the quality of skin and coat
- Reduces inflammation
- Boosts the immune system
- Supports heart and kidney health
- Proper brain development in puppies
- May help support anxiety and hyperactivity
It’s also important to note that a dog’s body cannot produce these fatty acids. Thus by adding supplements like mussels to their diet you can ensure they get the most benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in their daily diet.
2. Provides Various Nutrients
Mussels contain a wide array of nutrients that can supplement your dog’s diet and boost their health. In the vitamins category, mussels are a rich source of vitamin A which is crucial for improving your dog’s vision, and vitamin C which is an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and cognitive aging in dogs.
It also contains vitamin B12 which is directly involved in producing protective tissues that coat the nerves in the brain. Thus it’s an important vitamin that supports a healthy nervous system.
Apart from that, mussels are also a rich source of minerals. They contain potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These minerals are essential for many important bodily functions and they work together to support various enzyme functions in your dog’s body.
3. Promote Joint Health
Green-lipped mussels contain glucosamine which is required by a dog’s body to build ligaments, cartilage, and fluid that surrounds the joints. It also contains chondroitin which supports the health of cartilage by absorbing fluid into the connective tissue. Both these compounds work together to provide effective results in relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Since arthritis has become a common health issue that can affect your dog at any age, adding mussels to their diet can be beneficial as it’ll help reduce joint inflammation and relieve other arthritis symptoms.
4. Protein-Rich Treat
Mussels contain approximately 24g of protein per 100g serving. And this protein is bioavailable which means it's easier to digest and absorb in a dog’s body.
Now, most pet owners prefer protein-rich treats for their dogs. It provides them an extra boost that aids in muscle growth and improves nerve function. In fact, protein-rich foods allow a dog’s body to perform many critical functions like building and repairing cells and other tissues, supporting the immune system, fueling the dog’s energy levels, etc.
5. Low in Calories
Mussels have high nutritional value and a low-calorie count making them a perfect treat for dogs that are overweight or are trying to manage their weight. You can even add mussels to your dog’s daily meal to increase their protein intake while feeding them fewer calories.
How to Feed Mussels to a Dog
You may be eager to include mussels into your dog’s diet due to their many health benefits, but it’s helpful to remember that just like any other treat - moderation is the key.
Mussels can be a healthy supplement to your dog’s diet but they shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake. The remaining 90% of calories should come from their daily well-balanced diet.
Below are a few different ways in which you can serve mussels to your dog as a special treat.
1. Fresh or Frozen Mussels
You can easily buy fresh or packed frozen mussels for your dog. But make sure you buy them without any added ingredients or seasonings as that can be harmful to your dog's health.
Also, you should properly cook the mussels before serving. So if you’re buying fresh mussels start with cleaning them properly to remove any debris or hair. Then boil a pot of water and add all the mussels at once, cover the lid and let it boil for 3-4 minutes.
Once cooked let them cool down and remove the shells before serving. Your dog should only eat the meaty part of the mussel. The shells are a choking hazard and can even cause digestive obstruction.
You can simply serve these cooked mussels on their own or mix them in with their usual daily meals.
2. Dehydrated Mussels
Dehydrated mussels are also a popular choice amongst pet owners. Boiling or cooking mussels can slightly decrease the nutritional value of mussels whereas dehydrated mussels have the same nutritional value as raw mussels.
You can make these at home but a more convenient method is to buy packed dehydrated mussels made for dogs.
3. Supplements or Powders
Green-lipped mussel powder and supplements are quite popular for improving joint health in dogs. They are a great meal topper that’s often recommended by veterinarians. You can try such supplements if you have an older dog or if they are showing signs of arthritis.
You should however consult with your veterinarian before adding such mussel supplements to your dog’s diet.
Precautions While Feeding Mussels to a Dog
You can safely feed cooked mussels to your dog in moderation. But let’s also discuss some precautions that you should consider while feeding mussels to your dog.
1. Don’t feed raw mussels- Most vets recommend against feeding raw mussels to your dog because it’s seafood that might contain the risk of bacteria and parasites. Thus it’s important that you cook the mussels before feeding them to your dog, especially if they are suffering from a prior health condition or have low immunity.
2. Don’t feed mussel shells- Dogs cannot properly chew or digest the hard shells of the mussel. These can be a choking hazard and can even cause digestive obstruction in your dog’s body. So make sure you remove and discard the shells and feed only the meaty part of the mussel to your dog.
3. Allergies - Your dog can have a shellfish allergy so it’s best to start with small quantities and monitor their reaction after feeding them mussels for the first time. Look out for signs like an upset stomach, constant itching, sneezing, or a runny nose. If you see any of these signs of an allergic reaction within the first 24-48 hours, contact a veterinarian immediately.
Mussels can add protein and various nutrients to your dog’s diet. They are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that helps improve the skin and coat health of your dog. It’s also great for their heart health and immune system.
You can add mussels as a supplement to your dog’s current diet. But remember to control the portion sizes as too much of anything can be harmful.
If you still have some doubts, you can consult with your veterinarian before feeding mussels to your dog.
Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about feeding mussels to your dog.
1. Can a dog eat cooked mussels?
Yes, a dog can eat cooked mussels in moderation. They contain various nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids that can support the overall health and well-being of your dog.
2. Can a dog eat raw mussels?
Most vets recommend against feeding raw mussels to your dog as they might contain some bacteria or parasites. It’s better to cook the mussels or buy dehydrated mussels for your dog.
3. Can a dog eat green-lipped mussels?
Yes, green-lipped mussels are very healthy for a dog as they can help reduce joint pain and protects the cartilage in your dog’s body. They also contain many nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants that can perfectly supplement your dog’s daily meals.
4. Can a dog eat mussel shells?
No, you should never feed mussel shells to your dog as they are a choking hazard and can even cause digestive obstruction.