Updated: August 2020
Ham is a staple during many American holidays. You probably grew up on juicy hams on Easter or Christmas before getting sick of the leftovers over the next week or so. From ham sandwiches to ham soup, there are lots of ways to prepare your ham.
When you get tired of looking at that ham, don’t be tempted to let your dog help you polish off the leftovers. While they’re going to disappear more quickly, ham isn’t the best choice for your dog.
Can Dogs Have Ham?
While it won’t kill or immediately injure your dog, it isn’t good for them. There are a few reasons why you should keep the ham to yourself, no matter how enticing it is to your dog. Most experts say the high salt content found in ham is the biggest reason not to give it to your dog. Salt is good for people in moderation, but dogs don’t require the same amount of sodium you do.
When dogs get too much salt, they can experience a spike in blood pressure, dehydration, excessive thirst, and even swelling in their limbs. It can also lead to an upset stomach that results in diarrhea or vomiting.
If you want to argue that ham is a natural source of protein, that’s true. But the protein found in ham is actually subpar compared to the protein found in other types of meat. Pork, particularly ham, is harder to digest than other types of meat, especially chicken. Don’t let pork’s “the second white meat” label fool you; it definitely isn’t as nutritious as chicken or fish are.
Ham is considered fatty meat. This means ham and its accompanying fat are the worst possible meat trimmings you can give to your dog if they’re overweight or diabetic. Overweight dogs definitely don’t need the extra calories in ham.
Excessive fat can also create a painful condition known as pancreatitis. The pancreas is responsible for breaking down fat and helping flush it from the body. When it’s overloaded with fat, it becomes inflamed and very painful.
Dogs who have had one bout of pancreatitis are at higher risk for future cases, requiring a lifelong low-fat diet. Even small amounts of fat can re-inflame the pancreas, so if your dog has had pancreatitis in the past, you definitely don’t want to give them ham. Treated promptly, pancreatitis isn’t fatal but requires hospitalization and IV fluids.
The Problem with Commercially Prepared Ham
Glazed ham is incredibly popular. The sweet, brown-sugar glaze coating the outside is definitely delicious, but it is not good for your dog. Sugar is a definite no-no in all dogs, but especially in diabetic or overweight dogs.
Some lab tests have shown that a lot of pork purchased in stores is actually contaminated with a parasite that is only killed at very low or high temperatures. When you purchase ham in the store, it’s already been cooked, but you don’t know how it was handled prior to cooking. It’s possible that there’s still a parasite in the ham, and dogs are particularly susceptible to it.
It’s important to remind yourself that your dog doesn’t require anything outside of their nutritious, high quality dog food. This is hard to remember when your beloved pup is staring at you with the champion “puppy eyes”, so it won’t necessarily hurt your dog to slip them a few ham scraps. Just ensure you aren’t making it a major part of their diet and your dog won’t see any ill effects from it. Moderation is always key, and that’s especially true in regards to your dog’s health.
Should Dogs Eat Ham Lunch Meat?
It makes us feel good to share our meals with our dogs, and who hasn’t been guilty of passing your dog a bite or two from your sandwich? If you’re partial to ham sandwiches (and sharing with your dog), you can be assured that there is no danger in letting your dog sample ham lunch meat.
As with any processed food, too much can certainly lead to nausea, diarrhea, or even vomiting, so your dog’s sampling should be kept to the bare minimum to avoid any potential side effects. If your dog happens to consume a large amount of ham, just keep an eye out for these symptoms and monitor them closely.
Can Dogs Eat Ham Bones?
Did you know that there is always a spike in veterinary emergency room visits around the holidays? Tasty treats on tables and irresistible scraps in the trash means dogs succumb to their whims and end up seeing a veterinarian because of stomach upset or bone ingestion.
Around Easter, a lot of dogs head into the emergency room after inhaling leftover ham or sneaking the ham bone from the trash the next day. Ham’s bones aren’t necessarily bad for dogs as their size and shape make them a decent chew toy, but not necessarily a candidate for swallowing and causing an intestinal foreign body.
If your dog has gotten a hold of a hambone, most likely they will be fine, but you should watch them closely for the next few days to ensure their appetite and bowel movements remain normal and consistent. If they start vomiting after meals or having less frequent bowel movements, you should seek veterinary attention immediately.