Risks of Giving Shark Cartilage to Dogs

Updated February 21, 2017

Shark cartilage is a supplement made from the connective tissue of sharks. It has been promoted as a treatment for cancer in humans and animals. According to Doctors Foster and Smith, it is a traditional Chinese remedy for immune-related problems. This supplement may also be used to treat joint injuries and conditions such as arthritis. The supplement is normally given to dogs in powdered form, mixed with moist food. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence for use of shark cartilage is limited, and giving this supplement to pets carries some risks. Knowing these risks can help pet owners choose the correct supplement regimen for their dogs.


According to Vet Info, shark cartilage supplements may cause digestive side effects, especially when given in excess. Dogs given this supplement may show signs of nausea or stomach upset. These may lead to a poor appetite. Some pets may also vomit or suffer from cramping in the abdomen. Some supplements have an unpleasant taste or odour, which may contribute to digestive or appetite-related problems in dogs. Constipation is another common risk. Dogs taking shark cartilage may eliminate irregularly or strain to defecate.

Blood Nutrient Levels

Shark cartilage may also affect the levels of some nutrients in the blood. According to RxList, humans should not take shark cartilage supplements if they have high calcium levels, due to the increased risk of hypercalcemia. Doctors Foster and Smith state that until appropriate research for animal use is available, veterinarians and pet owners should use the recommendations for human supplementation. Shark cartilage may also cause high blood sugar in some users, making it unsuitable for use in diabetic dogs. Dogs which are pregnant or lactating should not be treated with shark cartilage supplements, since the effects on puppies are unknown.


According to RxList, dogs receiving shark cartilage supplements may appear listless and tired or depressed. Some also suffer from low blood pressure, which can lead to a lack of energy or motivation and make it more difficult to exercise for long periods. Since animals cannot report their own symptoms, owners of dogs receiving shark cartilage supplements should monitor their pets' behaviour for signs of low energy or dizziness.

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About the Author

G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.