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Can Dogs Eat Ham?

Dogs are omnivores, meaning they eat meat plus vegetables and fruit. Since ham is unquestionably meat, pet parents who ask, “Is ham good for dogs?” might be expecting a resounding ”yes,” but the answer isn’t that simple.

While dogs can eat small amounts of ham, there are some important factors to consider before throwing them a slice of deli meat or cutting them off a juicy piece of holiday ham. Above all, consult your veterinarian before adding any new food to your dog’s diet to ensure it’s an appropriate snack for them.

Why can’t dogs eat ham? The primary reason is that ham is a processed meat that has gone through a curing process. It’s generally loaded with sodium, sugar and other preservatives, all of which are unhealthy for your pet. This applies to both deli ham slices and to holiday hams. The primary preservatives in ham are nitrates and nitrites, which are both sodium-based. High-sodium preservatives aren’t healthy for dogs and can even be toxic. Too much salt can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination, lethargy, and abnormal fluid accumulation or bloating. In the long term, excessive sodium consumption can lead to more serious problems, including kidney damage, seizures, coma and even death.

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Is ham good for dogs?

While allowing your dog to have a slice of ham here and there should be fine, doing so offers no significant health benefits. While ham is high in protein, it’s also high in fat and sodium, neither of which is healthy for dogs.

In addition to the salt, fat also makes ham tasty, but a diet high in fat is no better for dogs than it is for humans. An appropriate amount of animal fat in a dog’s diet is about 15 to 20 percent of their total daily calories. High-quality dog foods are balanced to provide the right amount of fat to meet your dog’s dietary needs. Ingesting a large amount of fatty ham can lead to digestive problems for your dog and even painful, life-threatening pancreatic inflammation.

In summary, if you’re asking, “Can dogs have ham?”, be aware that a little bit is fine—just don’t make it too common of a treat. 

How to feed ham to your dog

If you’re planning to feed your dog ham, choose one that contains as few additives as possible. Glazed and honey-baked hams aren’t recommended for your pet because they contain added sugar. Low-sodium ham is a better choice. Even though low-sodium ham is plainer than other types of ham, your dog probably won’t care when they’re gobbling it up from their food bowl.

Can you give dogs ham in large chunks? Just like humans need to take small bites to avoid choking on their food, dogs should only be offered ham that’s been cut into small pieces. If your dog consumes a large chunk of ham too quickly without chewing it well, it can get caught in their throat.

Remember that treats—and ham falls into this category—should make up no more than 10 percent of your pet’s total daily calories. Because of its high fat and sodium content, ham should not be offered to your dog every day. Your veterinarian can estimate an appropriate total daily calorie count for your dog based on their weight, age and any medical conditions they might have. Be especially mindful when feeding treats if your pet is overweight or you need to encourage them to pay more attention to their nutritionally balanced and complete dog food

Featured dog food and treats with ham

FAQs about feeding your dog ham

If your dog eats a small amount of cooked ham, there should be no immediate cause for concern. Monitor them closely for the next couple of hours for signs of gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. If your pup experiences any of them, contact your veterinarian.

If your dog eats a large amount of ham, they can develop gastrointestinal or neurologic problems from its high fat and salt content. Ingestion of excess sodium can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, excessive thirst, and urination or abnormal fluid accumulation. Ingestion of excess fat can lead to pancreatic inflammation with vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy and abdominal pain. If your dog shows any of these signs after eating ham, they should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Yes, dogs can eat cooked ham. Cooked ham by itself isn’t the healthiest treat for your dog, but it should not pose any problems for them when eaten occasionally in small amounts. If the ham was cooked in onions or garlic, however, you won’t be able to offer it to your dog as a treat since both onions and garlic are toxic to dogs.

Cloves are another popular ham preparation ingredient. While a tiny bite of cloves is not likely to cause problems for dogs, larger quantities can be toxic because they contain an ingredient called eugenol that can cause liver failure. Since the exact toxic dose is unknown, dogs should never be offered foods containing cloves or clove oil.

Most ham is cooked with a lot of salt, and all that sodium can cause an upset stomach, dehydration or even kidney failure for your dog. Consequently,to be cautious, you should limit how much cooked ham your dog eats.

Can dogs eat ham bones? No. Ham bones, like all bones,are inappropriate for dogs. When a dog gnaws on a bone, it can splinter and damage their esophagus, stomach or intestinal tract. Cooked ham bones are an even bigger problem because they’re even more prone to splintering than most other bones. Bones, in general, are hard to digest and can lodge in a dog’s intestinal tract, leading to a potentially life-threatening obstruction that requires surgery to treat. Therefore, while it’s fine to offer your pup a small bite of cooked ham on occasion, skip the bone to avoid the possible health consequences.

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Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.