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Can Dogs Eat Imitation Crab? Here’s Why It’s Not Worth it

Key Takeaways

  • While real crab meat is non-toxic and safe for dogs to eat, imitation crab meat should never be fed to dogs due to its harmful additives, preservatives, and coloring.
  • Imitation crab sticks are made mainly of surimi, a paste made out of processed white fish, salt, and a collection of unhealthy preservatives
  • It is okay if dogs eat imitation meat on accident. As long as they do not eat a lot of it on a regular basis, they will not be at risk for developing any. major health issues.

Part of being a pet parent means making sure our canine companions get the very best in dog nutrition at all times. My dog has a lot of food sensitivities, so I am always on the lookout for new healthy diet plans for him to try. Many of us trust commercial dog food to provide all the vitamins and minerals our dogs need; however, many pet parents choose to feed their dogs a different diet such as home-cooked fresh food. When doing this, one must ensure that all of the food they are giving their dog provides them with the nutrition they need to be healthy. Researching and preparing the best dog food for Fido often takes a long time, and this process usually revolves around one big question: what can dogs not eat? One food that many pet parents have questions about is imitation crab meat. Although a small amount of imitation crab meat won’t hurt your dog, the additives, the extra sugar, and the high amounts of sodium may cause your dog to have gastrointestinal issues.

In this article, I will help you understand what’s in imitation crab meat and why it’s not safe for your dog to consume as a part of their normal diet.

Can Dogs Eat Imitation Crab Meat?

The short answer is no. 

Imitation crab meat is exactly that—an imitation. It is not real crab meat, and while a small amount of it won’t hurt your dog, the additives in it can cause serious stomach problems in your dog. Imitation crab sticks are mostly made out of a paste made from a whitefish that is held together by a host of food additives that are not healthy for dogs at all. 

First, let’s look at the ingredients that go into making imitation crab meat. Fishermen even call imitation crab sticks “the hot dog of the sea.” The entire “crab” stick is made out of a paste known as “surimi” which is usually made out of pulverized wild Alaska Pollack, preservatives, and other additives. The crab flavoring that is present is usually due to real or fake crab extract, and the color can be attributed to a food coloring known as Carmine.

Crab stick rolls. | The Pampered Pup

One of the primary preservatives in surimi is salt. Salt is something canines need in their diet, but the amount of sodium in imitation crab can negatively affect your dog’s health if they eat it. In fact, after eating imitation crab meat in medium to large serving amounts, a dog may develop high blood pressure just as we humans would. If your dog eats this much crab meat on a regular basis, they could possibly develop heart disease.

Regularly ingesting portions of imitation crab meat can also lead to your dog developing digestive issues due to some of the additives that are in surimi. Eating imitation crab sticks has also been seen to cause dogs to develop allergies if they have any food sensitivities. Keep in mind that dogs are mammals just as humans are. This means that when exposed to unhealthy ingredients in food, they can develop allergies which can be a miserable time for your dog. Allergies can manifest in many ways, such as vomiting or having irregular bowel movements after eating medium or large portions of imitation crab meat. 

Eating a large portion of imitation crab meat on a regular basis can also result in your dog having outward symptoms of an allergic reaction. This results in your dog’s skin being dry or itchy, which may cause your dog to nibble at their skin and create hot spots. This is perhaps the most annoying result of developing an allergy in a dog. Plus, when a pet parent realizes that their dog is developing allergies, there is a great deal of “trial and error” involved in determining what has caused the allergic reaction. Your vet will also have to assist in carrying out the guesswork, which may take you both months. All the while, Fido is miserable. 

Although normal crab typically contains a lot of healthy fats, such as omega fatty acids, imitation crab does not contain any of them. Imitation crab sticks contain other kinds of unhealthy fats (that may be stored in unhealthy oils), so eating a lot of them regularly can lead to your dog being obese and having many underlying health issues.

So, what exactly is in imitation crab meat? What makes this so unhealthy? 

When looking at the ingredients keep in mind that imitation crab meat is crafted to be more appealing to human consumers. This means that imitation crab sticks often contain food coloring or artificial flavoring that dogs should never ingest.

Sodium Pyrophosphate is a preservative that is found in canned tuna and chicken nuggets. In fact, there is so much sodium pyrophosphate in imitation crab meat that it holds almost as much sodium as the salt one keeps in the kitchen for cooking. This preservative can lead to your dog having high pressure and heart disease if they eat imitation crab meat regularly. The toxicity of this ingredient also can result in your dog vomiting. profusely and having moderate diarrhea after eating imitation crab sticks.

Carmine is an artificial food coloring that is often found in imitation crab meat; it is also the chief reason one cannot recommend feeding one’s dog a great deal of this food. Its cherry red color is due to it being made from dead bugs [1]. This artificial coloring can also be found in yogurt and flavored milk, so make sure that you read the ingredients before purchasing any products like this. Carmine has been linked to respiratory issues as well as asthma in dogs. 

Potassium chloride is another preservative found in imitation crab meat that provides a savory flavor that humans have become accustomed to in imitation crab meat. In dogs, however, potassium chloride provides a number of health and digestive issues. Potassium chloride is known to severely dehydrate your dog. This preservative can cause your dog’s bowel movements to be darker and smellier than normal. This preservative can also cause some very dangerous ingestion issues in your pooch, namely bloat. A dog bloated stomach is a condition that can be fatal, particularly in larger dog breeds such as the German Shepherd or the Golden Retriever. This condition is always an emergency since it can become fatal very quickly, so if your dog has symptoms such as repeated failed attempts to vomit, excessive drooling, or rapid breathing, bring them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Disodium Inosinate and Guanylate are considered “food enhancers.” These are additives found in many canned foods, particularly canned meats. Disodium Inosinate and Guanylate are absolutely toxic to dogs. In fact, it can have many detrimental and painful effects on your furry friend. The dog may begin to feel tightness and a burning sensation around her mouth and chest.

Crab stick salad. | The Pampered Pup

The tightness and burning sensation in the mouth and chest area are not the only negative effects of consuming these additives. Your dog may also sweat and pant in addition to becoming swollen in different spots across the body. The skin and fur can be affected as well. We’ve already discussed the itchy skin and allergic reactions that can happen; your dog may gnaw at their skin or lick “hot spots” until they begin to lose fur in those areas. The dog’s fur may become brittle and lack sheen. Again, you may be faced with going through weeks or months of trial and error guesswork to figure out why your dog is experiencing this irritation. This is truly a miserable experience for your dog, and it can be distressing for you as well. 

If your dog does eat a small amount of imitation crab meat, the likelihood they will develop high blood pressure, skin irritation, and the digestive issues described above is very small. Most, if not all, of the negative side effects of eating imitation crab come from your dog eating a large amount of it on a regular basis. If imitation crab sticks become part of your dog’s normal diet, then the “bad” ingredients tend to build up in their digestive system, causing all of the negative side effects.


1. Can dogs and cats eat imitation crab meat?

Dogs and cats CAN eat imitation crab meat; keep in mind a dog will eat almost anything he can get to chew on. However, it is important to know that imitation crab sticks should never be a part of a cat or dog’s diet. Imitation crab meat contains many harmful additives and preservatives (particularly a large amount of sodium and potassium chloride) that can build up in your dog’s system and cause some digestive issues as well as possible heart health issues. 

2. How bad is imitation crab meat for you?

We’ve seen how bad regular ingestion of imitation crab meat can be for dogs; however, imitation crab meat can have some detrimental effects on human health as well. Eating a lot of additives can be harmful to our human bodies just as it can to dogs. The high amounts of sodium present in imitation crab meat can be just as harmful to our hearts as it can be for dogs. Humans can also develop heart disease when regularly consuming a great deal of sodium, including sodium pyrophosphate in imitation crab meat. Just like our precious pups, it’s important not to consume a lot of imitation crab sticks on regular basis.

3. Will crab meat hurt a dog?

True, authentic crab meat contains a lot of protein. It is also found to contain a lot of healthy fats such as one would find in other seafood. So, real crab meat can be a great, healthy treat for your furry pal. 

However, imitation crab meat is not really crab meat at all. In fact, most imitation crab sticks are made of a pulverized version of wild Alaska Pollack that is held together by a host of preservatives and additives that are harmful to dogs. 

Yes, dogs can easily eat real crab meat, and it is good for them. However, imitation crab meat should never be purposely served to your dog. 

4. Can my 8-month-old have imitation crab meat?

It is never a good idea to provide a dog of any age with imitation crab meat. Even though it is tasty and seems like a protein-packed treat, incorporating this into your dog’s diet can lead to some terrible—even painful—health issues for your dog. 

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