Dogs like eating all sorts of things, which can include items that we would consider inedible. One example of this is eggshells, something that most of us would put straight in the trash or compost.
Dogs are usually interested in the tasty egg that they contain. In the wild, dogs are scavengers and will eat eggs as a nutritious snack if they come across them. Since they cannot remove the shell, they will just eat the whole egg, shell, and all. Our domestic dogs are no different and can happily crunch on shells to get to the tasty egg within.
We know that eggs are good for us, containing many essential nutrients, but what about the shells? You might be wondering if there are any potential risks or, alternatively, health benefits to eating eggshells. Should we offer them to our pets rather than sticking them on the compost heap?
Are Eggshells Safe For Dogs?
Eggshells are safe for healthy dogs to eat. They are not toxic, and most dogs can crunch them quite easily with their strong jaws, just as their wild ancestors did. However, be aware that some smaller breeds and puppies may struggle with large pieces of shell.
Cooked eggs are safest, as there is a small risk of infection if eggs are eaten raw. The most common bacterial infection that can be caught from eating raw eggs and their shells is Salmonella bacteria. Dogs are usually asymptomatic if they become infected with this, but they can pass bacteria onto their owners, making them unwell. An infection like Salmonella, which can be passed from animals to people, is known as zoonotic.
Animals that are very young, old, or have a compromised immune system may be more likely to show signs of disease themselves. You should take particular care that eggs have been properly cooked and stored before offering them to these individuals.
While cooked eggshells are usually ok for your pet to eat, if your dog has any health conditions, then it is always best to check with your veterinarian before adding something new like this to their diet.
Are Eggshells Good For Dogs?
Eggshells can be good for dogs if fed in moderation. It is never advisable to feed eggs or their shells in bulk to your pet as this can lead to nutrient imbalances or digestive upset. As an occasional treat, eggshells can provide a nutritional boost on top of their daily rations. Eggs and their shells should make up no more than 10% of your pet’s daily food rations.
Eggshells contain the following:
The majority of an eggshell is made up of calcium carbonate. Calcium is essential for the growth and repair of teeth, bones, and cartilage. Calcium must be carefully managed to ensure your dog receives an optimum amount. Both too little and too much can cause problems. Eggshells also contain the minerals phosphorus, strontium, fluoride, magnesium, and selenium, aiding bone health.
Eggshells contain small amounts of protein, which is essential for growth and muscle repair. However, this is likely to be negligible compared to what is contained in the actual egg itself.
Some research suggests that the thin membrane contained inside the shell of an egg can benefit dogs with joint issues. This eggshell membrane (ESM) contains glycosaminoglycans, such as hyaluronic acid, and has been shown to reduce inflammation. This can help improve joint pain and mobility issues.
Eggs also have benefits for dogs. Read this if you want to understand them better as well as any risks associated with this food item.
When Are Eggshells Bad For Dogs?
Salmonella can be passed in an infected chicken’s feces meets the shell of the egg. This occurs either during the laying process or from contact with poop on the ground. This chicken poop can be bacteria-laden, and if you eat that contaminated product, then you could become very unwell.
Dogs are less likely to become sick, but it can happen, especially in those with poor immune systems, such as very young, old, or unwell animals. Infected dogs can also pass the bacteria onto their owners, so there is still a risk to your own health if your pet eats raw eggs and you don’t.
Contamination of eggs and eggshells is a major cause of all foodborne Salmonella infections. This paper states that 53% of cases of reported Salmonella in the US between 1985 – 2002 were due to contaminated eggs.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), therefore, recommend certain measures to decrease the risk of bacterial issues. These include –
- Throw out any cracked or dirty eggs
- Buy your eggs from reputable suppliers that keep eggs refrigerated
- Store eggs in the refrigerator
- Cook eggs (and their shells) before serving them to your pet
In some countries (like the UK), there is more widespread vaccination of chickens against Salmonella. This reduces the health risk further. However, vaccination has yet to be mandated in the U.S.
If your dog eats excessive amounts of eggshell, then he could be at risk of calcium overdose. Calcium carbonate makes up a large proportion of eggshells, and if your dog ingests too much, it could cause issues, especially in young, growing animals. This is most likely to happen in owners that are feeding inappropriately balanced home-cooked diets to their pets. Imbalances in calcium and other nutrients can lead to joint malformations.
The odd eggshell is unlikely to cause an issue, but otherwise, stick to your pet’s normal commercial food where possible or consult a qualified veterinary nutritionist if you want to formulate your own diet.
A rare risk of eating eggshells would be choking. This is most likely to occur in puppies, small breeds, or brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs that have been fed large pieces of shell. Irritation to your dog’s food pipe (esophagus) may also occur due to the sharp bits of the shell. You can avoid this by crushing it into small pieces or by grinding it up into a powder, which can be mixed into your pet’s food.
Should I Call The Vet If My Dog Eats Eggshells?
It’s usually not necessary to call your veterinarian if your dog eats eggshells. If your eggs have been stored and handled correctly, then the risk of Salmonella infection is low in an otherwise healthy dog.
If your dog shows possible signs of infection with Salmonella (Salmonellosis), you should call your vet for advice. Symptoms may include:
- Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
- Abdominal pain
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
Your vet will start by examining your dog. They may recommend some tests to try and determine the cause of your pet’s ill health. Fecal samples and blood tests can help to differentiate Salmonellosis from other disease processes, which may have similar symptoms.
If your dog accidentally eats a raw egg, then don’t panic. This could happen if your dog raids your chicken coop if he comes across an egg laid by wild poultry or simply because he has stuck his nose in your grocery shopping before you’ve had a chance to put it away.
Most dogs in these scenarios will be absolutely fine, even if they ingest an eggshell contaminated with Salmonella. Dogs are usually asymptomatic, and treatment with antibiotics isn’t recommended unless they are unlucky and become sick. This is because treatment can lead to more issues like antibiotic resistance. So only seek help from your vet if your pup shows disease.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Dogs Eat Eggs Safely?
Eggs can make a safe and tasty snack for your dog if you cook them first. Eggs can harbor a type of bacteria called Salmonella which can cause ill health in people and in some animals too. If the eggs have been properly stored in a refrigerator and cooked before serving, the risk of infection is pretty low.
What Happens If A Dog Eats Eggshells?
Most dogs are fine if they eat eggshells as an occasional treat. If eggshells are eaten in excessive amounts, then your dog may be at risk from dietary imbalances, which could lead to growth issues as well as digestive upset.
Are Eggshells Good For Dog’s Bones?
Some research has shown that compounds in the membrane part of the eggshell can help to protect against joint damage and have anti-inflammatory properties. The calcium contained in eggshells can help with bone health. However, excessive amounts of calcium can actually cause issues, particularly in young, growing pups. Always speak to your veterinarian for advice about your dog’s diet.
Can Dogs Safely Eat Eggshells From Other Poultry?
Eggs from other poultry, such as ducks and quails, can potentially carry Salmonella, just like chicken eggs. So, the same principles apply. Ensure that you serve these eggs cooked and only feed them to your pet in moderation to avoid dietary imbalances or stomach upsets.
Yes, dogs can eat eggshells in moderation. Both eggs and their shells are best served cooked to reduce the risk of bacterial infection to your pet. You should also consider breaking the shells up into small pieces, especially when serving them to brachycephalic or small breed dogs, to prevent choking.
As we have explored, eggshells can make for a healthy treat for your pet and also provide them with a nutrient boost. However, always contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog or if they show any signs of ill health after eating eggshells.