My Dog Ate a Mussel Shell: What To Do?

Dogs eat many unusual things. Having a constant vigil at what your dog chews is not possible. However, if you see any different things near your dog’s side, it is a cause of worry. 

On that note, did you find mussel shells near their seating place? Are you bothered that your dog might have eaten them? Let’s get going with a detailed guide on what to do if your dog eats a mussel shell.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Ate a Mussel Shell?

We know that you love to cook mussels for your family. After enjoying the dinner with your loved ones, you leave the dinner table for a few minutes. Later, you return to see your furry pal foraging your left-over mussels dish. Isn’t this a common sight? 

Dogs eating mussels is not a big deal. However, the problem arises only when they start munching on the shells. They are dangerous and forbidden for their digestive system. Mussel shells are hard, and they break easily. 

While most dogs get away with such cases, it is still good to know what to do if you see or find out that your dog ate mussel shells. 

Here are a few things to do/note when your dog eats mussel shells:

1. Try to Stop Them

If your dog is eating the shells in front of you, the best thing would be to stop them from swallowing. You can follow simple commands to get their attention when they put strange things in their mouth. 

While it takes time for the dog to practice these, it is certainly worth it. Also, try practicing these statements with a serious tone to get your dog’s attention each time.  

2. Watch Out For Symptoms

When dogs eat unusual stuff, symptoms give away the tale. If you do not see them eating shells but have a strong suspicion that they might have, it is better to wait for the symptoms. 

The good news about mussel shells is that they are not toxic. But, you will have other consequences due to the sharpness of the pieces of shells.

Hence, watch out for symptoms like:

  • Vomiting – for more than 24 hours
  • Lethargy 
  • Appetite loss
  • Diarrhea

When these symptoms persist, it is better to take your dog to the vet at once. 

3. Give Appropriate Food

The majority of dogs do not have an obstruction in the bowel with the tiny pieces and successfully push it out. If you do not notice any symptoms, you can go ahead and help the dog to pass the pieces of mussel shells through their stool

For that, dog owners can give high-fiber foods to help them pass easily in the morning. Also, refer to this link and try giving foods like bread, canned pumpkin, excess fluid, etc. Soak the bread in water and mix it with pumpkin puree to help dogs pass stools without difficulty. 

Moreover, go for small frequent meals rather than larger meals during the day. This way, you can easily monitor their bowel movements. Always talk to your vet before giving specialized food for bowel movements. These methods work only when the pieces are not threatening to the internal organs of the dog. 

4. Consult a Vet If Nothing Works

If you feel that things are out of your hands or you cannot gauge the seriousness, avoid taking chances in times of distress. Rush to a vet immediately with your dog. They can diagnose the problems or alleviate your doubts. 

Since mussel shells are brittle, they tend to be sharp when broken after chewing. Time matters when dogs swallow sharp things. Hence, consulting a vet is the best choice to save your canine from untoward problems. 

Are Mussel Shells Bad For Dogs?

Mussels have a hard outer shell with a soft center. Dogs can eat mussels but not their shells. As per the consequences, they do not contain any synthetic or harmful substances, they still hold the danger due to their texture. 

Mussel shells tend to break easily into small bits with less pressure. Hence, when dogs eat mussels, the shells can disintegrate. 

The first threat lies in the sharp edges of mussel shells hurting the lining of the dog’s mouth. You can find some cuts and bruises in different parts of the mouth. If so, you need to treat them before they get infected. 

Also, once they swallow, the issues start when the pieces get stuck in their esophagus. It further leads to gagging or choking. You will find some difficulty in their breathing and also trouble swallowing food or water. Dog owners can figure this out easily during their feeding time.

Else, once dogs swallow big pieces of broken mussel shells, it poses a threat of creating damage to their intestines or stomach lining. Moreover, the shells can cause bowel obstruction when there are large pieces inside their stomach. 

All these statements illustrate the issues mussel shells can cause in dogs after ingestion. Hence, timely action helps your dog get away from these painful medical problems.

Symptoms to Look For After Your Dog Eats Mussel Shells

Most dogs do not display any symptoms in particular after eating mussel shells. Small and disintegrated pieces do not cause any damage as they can pass through their stool easily. 

However, some dogs might show a few common symptoms that can be mistaken for other issues. According to the American Kennel Club and their article on Bowel Obstruction in Dogs, care should be immediate when you see some startling or repetitive symptoms. 

Most of these symptoms, when they persist need emergency care:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting immediately after consuming food or water
  • Blood in the stool
  • Vomiting blood
  • Dogs repeatedly bite their flanks (portion between their hips and ribs)
  • Pain when you touch their abdomen
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Dehydration

Some of these symptoms are rather serious and need care at once. When you notice blood or find extreme pain in their bodily functions, take them to a vet immediately without second thoughts. 

Can It Cause Blockage in Dog’s Gastrointestinal Tract?

Yes, mussel shells can cause gastrointestinal blockage. For this scenario to occur, large pieces of broken shells are the culprit. Sometimes, undigested pieces may disintegrate inside the stomach during digestion. Hence, such shell pieces may obstruct the bowel and cause discomfort to the dog. 

It is best to call a vet immediately and make up an appointment. Thus, you will notice some symptoms when this blockage occurs. They are:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Constipation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting after eating

When you take your dog to the vet to rule out the intestinal blockage, they will do an ultrasound. Also, some blood tests can confirm if there is an infection due to the blockage. 

If the vet confirms the presence of mussel shells, the first method would be to bring the pieces out through vomiting. However, this method is possible only before the symptoms begin to appear. Else, the vet proceeds with other forms of treatment after the blockage is noticed. 

Further, the vet will try to ingest the dogs with enough fluids and medicines to make the dog pass stool. This way, the vet confirms if the shell pieces are out. 

The final step would be surgery. It will help relieve the dog from the painful situation. The vet can remove foreign objects like mussel shells from the stomach through laparotomy surgery. 

How To Prevent Dogs From Eating Mussel Shells Again?

Since mussel shells cause so many health problems, it is best to prevent them rather than going for all the medical procedures that are in turn painful. 

However, you cannot keep constant vigil but follow some tips to prevent dogs from eating mussel shells:

1. Keep a Watch

If you are having mussels for meals at home, have a good watch over what your dog eats. Do not leave the dishes unattended after the meal ends. Also, try to remove the shells and discard them before serving them to the family

Similarly, do not leave uncooked mussels unattended on the kitchen counters. Raw mussels contain bacteria and can cause a different set of problems. Moreover, dogs tend to eat the mussel shells too off the kitchen counter. 

You can also ask your children to be careful with the mussel shells around the dog at home. 

2. Check the Dustbin

Avoid keeping the dustbin with the shells accessible to the dog. You can throw/keep them where the dog cannot get hold of them. 

3. Command Your Dog

Command with your practice statements that will make them drop foreign objects put in their mouth. This holds for mussel shells too.  Simple lines like “Drop That”, “Don’t eat that”, etc. help when practiced for a long time. 

All these points help keep your dog away from mussel shells. However, more caution and care are needed with dogs at home and sharp objects.

Conclusion: Can a Dog Eat Mussel Shells?

It is not safe for dogs to eat mussel shells. While it might pass through their stool without harming the dog, possibilities of internal bodily damage are there. Dogs can experience cuts, bruises, choking, gastrointestinal blockage, etc when they ingest mussel shells. 

If you notice any irregular symptoms like vomiting blood, bloody stool, pain in the abdomen, lack of appetite, etc, take the dog to a vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment. 

We hope this guide will solve your queries and doubts when/if your dog eats a mussel shell. Take care, and prevent such mishappenings with simple tips mentioned in the guide.

Disclaimer: This blog should not be considered as being professional pet medical advice. The content published on this blog is for informational purposes only. Please always consult with a licensed and local veterinarian for medical advice.

About Shaun Clarke

Shaun is passionate about pets and animals, especially dogs, cats, and rabbits. He owns a dog and a couple of cats too. He loves visiting wildlife sanctuaries and shares a strong bond with animals. When he is not writing, he loves to do a barbecue in the backyard with his family and friends.