Can Dogs Eat Ham?

Key takeaway

Ham is a staple holiday food in many households, but it is not a healthy food for dogs. Ham is often too sweet, salty, fatty, and high in calories for dogs, and ham bones break apart easily and get lodged in dogs’ throats. There are much healthier alternatives to feed your dog during holiday season and raw bones are the best for dogs to chew on.

With the holidays approaching quickly, there are a lot of people who love to share a treat with their dog from time to time. In some cases, this could include human food. Even though a lot of people assume that food that is safe for people is probably safe for dogs, that is not always the case. For example, some people are wondering, can dogs eat ham? Is ham bad for dogs?

If you are wondering, “can dogs have ham,” the answer is generally no. As you take a look at the best dog food, even if you are trying to feed a puppy, the vast majority of dogs require dog food that is approximately 18 percent protein or higher.1 This is important because protein is a vital nutrient for dogs to maintain cells, tissues, and organs. Even though ham is high in protein, ham is generally not a safe option for dogs.

Even though a lot of people are wondering, “is ham good for dogs,” it is generally not a healthy option. Even though dogs can technically eat ham, ham also has a lot of salt, fat, and sugar. It can cause a significant number of health issues when dogs get older, which is why it is a good idea to feed your dog something else.2

Learn more about ham and dog food below, and always reach out to an expert if you have questions about food that dogs won’t eat or will eat.

Why Is Ham Bad For Dogs?

So, why can’t dogs have ham? As you take a look at the list of toxic dog foods, ham is not technically a toxic food for dogs, but it is definitely not the healthiest option.

Ham is typically cured with salt to prevent it from spoiling. This is important for preventing ham from going bad quickly, but the salt is generally not good for dogs. Furthermore, ham is frequently seasoned with a variety of spices to make it tastier for people. A few examples include cinnamon, cloves, mustard powder, onion powder, and garlic powder. Even though they might make the ham taste good for you, some of these spices are actually toxic for dogs. Garlic and onion cannot be consumed by dogs, and they could lead to medical emergencies and conditions such as hemoglobinuria caused by large numbers of red blood cells being destroyed.3 

Furthermore, ham has a tremendous amount of protein and fat. Even though it is true that dogs need to eat protein, it is critical for dogs to have a nutritionally balanced diet. If dogs consume too much protein, it could lead to excessive weight gain. You might even be interested in weight management dog food if your dog is overweight. In addition, if your dog has a history of kidney or liver issues, consuming too much protein can actually increase the wear and tear on these organs, making their conditions worse. Even though dogs need protein, too much protein can be a bad thing.4

Furthermore, ham has a lot of fat. When dogs consume too much fat, they can develop chronic medical conditions such as pancreatitis. This leads to inflammation of the pancreas, causing significant metabolic issues. It can also lead to extreme pain and abdominal discomfort.5

Ham may have an excess amount of sugar, depending on its flavor and seasonings. Too much sugar can lead to an upset stomach, weight gain, cavities, diabetes, and a host of other medical complications.6 Ham may also have too much salt. Too much salt can be toxic for dogs, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal fluid accumulation, excessive thirst, kidney damage, and seizures.2 It is critical for pet owners to control the amount of salt they give their dogs, and ham is generally a very salty food. 

Finally, ham may also have a lot of preservatives. Examples include nitrates and nitrites, which are both salt-based. Therefore, they can result in a lot of the same medical complications listed above caused by salt.

So, is ham good for dogs? Generally, the answer is no. It is important for pet owners to severely limit the amount of ham they give their dogs, if they give their dogs any ham at all.

Can Dogs Eat Ham Bones?

Ham bones splinter easily and can get lodged in your dog’s throat or gastrointestinal tract

So, can dogs eat ham bones? Generally, dogs should not eat ham bones. Dogs frequently chew on bones as a source of mental stimulation. Dogs also chew on bones to exercise their jaws, clean their teeth, and engage in practicing their natural behavior. Even though there are some bones that are perfectly safe for dogs, ham bones usually do not fall into this category. Ham bones tend to have a lot of salt. As mentioned above, too much salt can be very bad for dogs. In addition, ham bones tend to be cooked for a long amount of time. They can break apart easily, which can be a significant concern if your dog is chewing on them.

For example, these bones could end up lodged in the throat or windpipe of your dog, leading to a medical emergency. If you spot your dog hacking, coughing, or salivating, it could be a sign that he or she is choking. Even if your dog is able to swallow the bone, it could get lodged in the intestines causing a bowel obstruction, leading to bloating and vomiting.7 You may want to learn more about what to do if your dog has a bloated stomach

If you are interested in giving your dog bones, try to give your dog some raw meat bones. This means that you should give your dog bones that are less likely to break apart into small pieces. Think carefully about the size of the bone you give your dog, and make sure you always supervise them. That way, if your dog ends up choking on the bone, you can intervene before it gets worse.

What Can I Do If My Dog Ate Too Much Ham?

If you are concerned that your dog has eaten too much ham, you are likely worried about the salt, sugar, and fat that they have just consumed. This can be dangerous, especially the amount of salt your dog has just eaten. The exact symptoms will depend on the degree of sodium abnormalities in your dog’s bloodstream. 

If your dog looks visibly uncomfortable, or if your dog is behaving abnormally, you need to reach out to your vet as quickly as possible. Watch out for signs of salt toxicity like vomiting and weakness. There are also some situations where a high level of sodium can be a medical emergency as it could cause muscle tremors and even seizures. A vet may need to flush the excessive sodium from your dog’s system.8 The sooner you reach out to a veterinarian, the faster the issue can be addressed.

Signs of salt toxicity in dogs

To keep your dog’s sodium levels in check, make sure you severely limit the amount of ham you give your dog. If you need to give your dog a treat, you might be better off giving your dog a specific dog treat. Again, treats should only be given to your dog in moderation, as you do not want them to displace your dog's regular food.

Healthier Holiday Foods For Your Dog

If you want to give your dog a holiday treat, you should always consult your vet before doing so. You need to make sure the food you give your dog is safe for them, and you should limit the treats you give your dog. That way, you do not displace your dog's regular food.

Some of the foods that you may want to give your dog include:

  • Turkey: Turkey is considered very safe for dogs. If you are making turkey for a holiday meal, you may want to set aside a small portion for them. When you give turkey to your dog, make sure you do not season it. You should try to give your dog white meat instead of dark meat. White meat has less fat, so it is healthier for your dog. Furthermore, avoid giving your dog turkey that has any skin or bones attached to it.
  • Green beans: Green beans are also very safe for your dog. You can give your dog green beans that have been steamed or are still raw. Do not season green beans, and do not give your dog canned green beans. Canned green beans tend to be submerged in a sodium solution. Green beans are very high in vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Green beans also have plenty of calcium and fiber.
  • Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are also safe for your dog. They have a variety of important nutrients, but make sure you do not season them. Some people like to put brown sugar and cinnamon on their sweet potatoes, but you should stay away from these if you give sweet potatoes to your dog.
  • Pumpkin: Pumpkin is also safe for dogs when it is unseasoned and cooked. Pumpkin is a popular holiday ingredient in bakery items such as pie, but it is often combined with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg that are not safe for dogs to eat. Just be sure you do not give too much pumpkin to your dog, as you want your dog to still eat their regular food.
  • Cranberries: Cranberries are also a nice treat for your dog. Keep in mind that a lot of cranberries can be sweetened, so check the sugar content before you give them to your dog. Not only is cranberry sauce and jam too high in sugar, they are also sometimes sweetened with xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.
  • Carrots: Carrots are very high in vitamin A and could be another delicious treat for your dog.
  • Apples: Apples are also great for your dog. Apples are high in vitamins C and E, but be careful not to give the core to your dog. It could be a choking hazard and the seeds contain small amounts of cyanide.
  • Peas: Peas are a nice, safe treat for your dog. Raw peas are fine, but stay away from canned peas, as they have a lot of sodium. 

If you wish to share holiday foods with your dog, consider these safer options rather than feeding them ham.

Can Dogs Eat Ham?: FAQs

How much ham can dogs eat?

Dogs should not eat ham because ham is very high in sugar, salt, and fat. It is best to avoid giving ham to your dog at all.

What meats can dogs eat?

Chicken and turkey are great meats for dogs as long as you do not season the meat and you avoid giving them bones. 

What meats should dogs avoid?

Bacon and ham contain a lot of salt and fat. They can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion, and pancreatitis. Try to stay away from these meats with your dog. 

Dog in holiday attire at the dining table with a bone on their plate

Final Notes

This holiday season, you might be looking for a nice treat to give your dog, but you should try to stay away from ham. Always talk to your vet before you give your dog human food for the first time. At Dutch, we have a lot of resources that can help you take care of your dog, including information about probiotics for dogs. Reach out to Dutch if you would like to learn more about what foods are healthy for your dog and what foods should be avoided.

References

  1. Dunn, T.J. "Focusing on Protein in the Diet." PetMD, 2 Mar. 2011, https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_focusing_on_protein_in_the_diet.

  2. Reisen, Jan. "Can Dogs Eat Ham?" American Kennel Club, 24 Aug. 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-ham/.

  3. Gwaltney-Brant, Sharon M. "Allium spp Toxicosis in Animals." Merck Veterinary Manual, Jul 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/toxicology/food-hazards/allium-spp-toxicosis-in-animals.

  4. Gallagher, Ashley. "The Dangers of High Protein Dog Foods." PetMD, 20 Aug. 2013, https://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_dg_dangers_of_high_protein_dog_foods.

  5. "Pancreatitis in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment." American Kennel Club, 22 Feb. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/pancreatitis-in-dogs/.

  6. Traverse, Teresa. "6 Reasons Why Your Dog Shouldn't Have Sugar." PetMD, 19 Sept. 2016, https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/6-reasons-why-your-dog-shouldnt-have-sugar/.

  7. "Bowel Obstruction In Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention." American Kennel Club, 16 Jan. 2020, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/bowel-obstruction-in-dogs/.

  8. Thompson, Larry J. “Salt Toxicosis in Animals - Toxicology.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Oct. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/toxicology/salt-toxicosis/salt-toxicosis-in-animals#:~:text=Excess%20salt%20intake%20in%20dogs,%2C%20muscle%20tremors%2C%20and%20seizures.