If you're wondering whether dogs can eat ham, the answer is both yes and no. Ham itself is not toxic to pets, but it's not healthy for them either. All pet owners should understand the consequences of feeding too much ham and what to do if your dog consumes it.
Ham is Not as Ideal Treat for Your Dog
Ham isn't all bad; it does contain essential nutrients like protein, selenium, potassium, thiamine, and other B vitamins. That said, there are many other human foods that can provide dogs with these minerals and vitamins without the risks ham bears.
Ham tends to be fattier than most other meats. It reportedly contains over twice as much saturated fat as chicken and over three times that of equal amounts of turkey. High fat in a dog's diet is a concern because it can lead to acute or chronic diseases.
What sets ham apart from other pork products is its curing process. This preparation requires large quantities of salt, which are absorbed into the ham meat. For this reason, ham typically has a high salt content, which can be harmful for dogs.
Dangers of Ham for Dogs
If your dog gobbles up a piece of ham, it's unlikely to hurt them. However, this isn't a treat that you should routinely give your dog. Given its high salt and fat content, ham can potentially cause a number of medical conditions.
- Salt toxicity: Consumption of large amounts of salt can lead to poisoning. Toxic levels are about 1 gram of sodium chloride (salt) for every 1 pound of body weight. Depending on the exact preparation, ham can contain around 2 grams of sodium for every cup of meat. If a 20-pound dog hops on the counter and munches on the rump or gets into the leftovers, they could be at risk for salt poisoning.
- Sodium-related diseases: Even if your dog doesn't ingest enough salt to have toxic effects, it can still be harmful. Some experts suggest that excess salt in a dog's diet can contribute to high blood pressure, kidney insufficiency, and heart disease.
- Gastrointestinal upset: Just as you might feel ill after a rich meal, the fat in ham can cause an upset stomach in dogs. Your pup might experience vomiting, diarrhea, and inappetence after even a small amount of ham. If these signs persist for longer than 24 hours or worsen, it's important to speak with your vet.
- Weight gain: Excess calories and fat in a dog's diet can cause them to put on the pounds. Overweight dogs are at an increased risk for developing numerous diseases, including osteoarthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Keep your canine friend at a healthy weight with lower fat snacks, and never let treats exceed 10 percent of their daily calorie intake.
- Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is an uncomfortable and serious condition characterized by inflammation of the pancreas. One of the most common causes of acute pancreatitis is consumption of high-fat foods. Signs of pancreatitis include not eating, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and a painful belly. In mild cases, outpatient treatment with oral medications and hydration may be enough to make your dog feel comfortable, but severe cases require hospitalization with intravenous fluids, antibiotics, nutritional support, and pain control.
- Diabetes: Both obesity and pancreatitis put dogs at risk for developing diabetes. Dogs with diabetes require long-term, twice-daily injections of insulin and close monitoring.
Do Not Feed Ham Bones
Offering your dog the bone out of the ham is also not recommended. Cooked bones become brittle and can easily splinter into sharp pieces. Dogs who chew on ham bones are at risk for the following dangerous consequences:
- Fractured teeth
- Intestinal blockage
- Perforated intestine
- Oral injury
- Throat injury
Alternative Meats to Offer Your Dog
When you can no longer resist those puppy dog eyes, consider healthier meats to use as a treat. The following meat options contain lower levels of fat compared to ham and are safe for dogs when prepared without oil, butter, spices, seasonings, onions, or garlic.
- Turkey meat (preferably white meat)
- Chicken meat (preferably white meant)
- Beef (lean ground beef or lean meat)
Skip Ham and Choose Leaner Meats
If you do decide to give your dog some ham, feed them only a small amount. Avoid ham dishes containing toxic ingredients like onion or garlic. There are better, healthier options for your pet, and they will be better off avoiding a tempting piece of ham.