Can Dogs Eat Ham? Here’s What Vets Say

Easter and Thanksgiving dinners can never miss one thing – ham. The rich, savory, flavorful meat is a timeless choice if you want to dress your table to impress.

You’re serving this classic holiday tradition with Fido stuck by your side, drooling and staring longingly for a bite. Why not cut your furry companion a slice or two? It’s the season for spreading cheer, right?

Experts agree that lean meat like turkey and chicken is okay for dogs. But can dogs eat ham?

About Ham

It is a tasty meat delicacy derived from a pig’s hind leg,  prepared with or without the bone. Usually, the ham is cured using salt, brine, sugar, and chemicals such as sodium nitrate, before smoking or drying.

You’ll find ham cut into ready-to-eat deli-style slices for sandwiches or a sizable uncooked chunk of meat (gammon) for roast dishes. You can prepare it in countless ways, including baking, roasting, and glazing, determining its safety for your dog.

Is Ham Good For Dogs?

Ham is high in protein. Depending on its fatness, it can provide up to 2600 calories per pound thanks to its energizing nutrients such as vitamin B12, choline, iron, and co-enzyme Q10. It also has calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin B (thiamine), niacin, riboflavin, potassium, and phosphorus.

Ideally, ham is lower in saturated fat than lamb and beef. However, there are healthier and safer sources of protein and other nutrients than ham because the preservatives lurking in it can throw your pup’s health off-balance.

While the curing process inhibits bacterial growth and preserves the ham, it leaves it with a very high sodium content, which can harm your dog. This can be bad, especially for pups who are obese, prone to gastrointestinal distress or have chronic illnesses like kidney damage or heart disease. Ham is also fatty meat and can cause pancreatitis in your canine.

If you must treat or reward Fido with a slice of ham, offer it as an occasional treat. Also, seasoned or raw ham is a no-no for Fido. Garlic and onion can cause poisoning, while spices can cause stomach upset.

Ham should never be a meal replacement or a regular addition to your furry friend’s diet to avoid the adverse health effects. High-quality pet food can fulfill all your pup’s nutritional requirements.

Why Is Ham Bad For Dogs?

Ham is not a nutritionally balanced food that you can feed your canine even though it has protein. The risks of feeding your furry friend outweigh its benefits. Small occasional bites are okay for most pups. But, large amounts can wreak havoc on your canine’s health, especially if they have a sensitive tummy.

High Sodium Content

Ham is often cured with sodium-containing compounds such as sodium nitrite and salt. A slice of about 23 grams contains around 260 milligrams of sodium, and 100 grams of ham has approximately 1,203 milligrams of sodium.

Your dog needs between 250 milligrams and 1000 milligrams of sodium in 100 grams of food to help regulate cellular functions like nerve signal transmission, blood pressure, and digestive impulses.

Too much salt is harmful to your canine and can cause salt poisoning, which can be fatal if left untreated. Signs of salt poisoning include:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Fluid retention
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Muscle spasms
  • Confusion
  • Tongue swelling
  • Coma

High-Fat Content

Ham is rich, fatty meat full of flavor, which is why both humans and canines find it appealing, and yet it makes the food potentially harmful. In small quantities, fat may not cause trouble for your pup, but frequent consumption of fatty foods is unhealthy. Fat is high in calories and can make Chewy obese.

Also, consuming too much fat can cause Fido to have digestive upset and experience diarrhea, gas, and vomiting, which can be stressful for you and your beloved pooch. Besides, some dogs can develop pancreatitis, a severe condition where the pancreas tissues are inflamed and damaged.

Clinical signs of pancreatitis include:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain

High Nitrate Content

Nitrates are often included in the curing process of dry-cured ham to protect against pathogens. However, studies show that nitrates can cause methemoglobinemia, a life-threatening condition where hemoglobin is oxidized to methemoglobin and cannot bind and transfer oxygen to vital organs. So, avoiding or cautiously feeding your pup dry-cured ham would be best.


Ham cooked on the bone is risky for your pup because cooked bones can splinter and pierce your dog’s gums, mouth, and gut. They can also cause choking and bowel obstruction, which might require your pup to have surgery.

Raw ham bones are also unsafe for your dog as they can harbor disease-causing parasites like salmonella and bacteria. They can also cause broken teeth.

Related: Can Dogs Eat Bones? Which Ones They Can and Can’t

Gastric Dilation-Volvulus

Ham is tasty and flavorful meat, but it’s highly likely to trigger scoffing. The response is a high risk of a twisted tummy or gastric torsion. GDV is a life-threatening condition associated with rapid eating and consuming large meals or water after strenuous exercise.

Most cases reported involving pups that have eaten Christmas turkey, lamb, ham, and in some instances, prawns. Warning signs include drooling, restlessness, panting, and attempting to vomit.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Ham?

Some store-bought ham is sold raw or “fresh.” But is it a healthier option than cooked ham? Vets say no. It would be best if you did not feed your pup raw ham because of the inherent risk to their health.

One common risk is bacterial infection by Salmonella and E. coli. Additionally, protozoal and parasitic infections from feeding Fido raw ham can be fatal and is not worth the risk.

Can Dogs Eat Ham Rind Or Fat?

Feeding your pup pork off-cuts like ham rind or ham fat is a bad idea. These fatty morsels offer no nutritional benefits, are loaded with fat, and are high in empty calories, which are risky for Fido.

Can Dogs Have Ham And Cheese Soup?

No. ham and cheese soup can be a warm, hearty, and satisfying dish during winter but not for your dog. It can cause tummy upset, and the extra seasoning from garlic, onions, and spices is harmful to your pup.

Related: Can Dogs Eat Cheese?

Can Dogs Eat Uncured Ham?

Uncured ham or “fresh ham” is like cured ham. The only difference is the curing process. Uncured ham is naturally cured using beets, fresh sea salt, and vitamin c rich vegetables like celery. It is safer for your dog to eat than cured ham because it is free from chemical preservatives.

Can Dogs Eat Ham Hocks?

Ham hocks come from the joint connecting the pig’s leg to its foot. Although they are larger than ham bones, they can cause your pup to choke. They are also high in sodium and fat, which can cause digestive issues for your pup.

How Much Ham Is Okay For My Dog?

You should avoid feeding your pup ham as it offers no nutritional value that you can’t get from other safer and healthier dog-friendly foods. But if you’re dead set on feeding your canine companion ham, you should stick to small amounts.

Offer no more than 10% of your pup’s calorie requirement and half an inch or less for canines under 15 lbs. Consider your pup’s health status, as even a thumb-sized piece can cause an adverse reaction.

Ensure you stick to occasional offers and discontinue if your canine companion shows any adverse reaction. Also, consider choosing a high-quality ham with minimal processing chemicals and soak the ham in water for an hour to draw out the excess salt.

Do not feed your pup whole slices or chunks of ham. Chop it into small bits to avoid choking.

Related: How Much Should I Feed My Dog? Factors To Consider

How To Prepare Ham For Your Dog

So far, we’ve seen that a small bit of ham on an occasional basis is a good treat for Chewy. While offering it to your furry friend, ensure it’s not slathered with other condiments like salt, sauce, or mustard, which can cause tummy upset. Also, trim off any excess visible fat and ensure it’s cooked.

Consider pairing ham with other dog-safe foods that are lower in salt to balance the high sodium in ham. Side dishes such as artichokes, squash, potatoes, asparagus, or green beans work well.

Inspect for bones and remove them before serving to prevent your dog from choking.

Opt for a plain croissant or whole wheat bread if you’re preparing a ham sandwich to share with Fido. And top up with crunchy, low-salt dog-friendly vegetables like celery, radishes, cauliflower, cucumber, or cherry tomatoes.

Healthy Alternatives To Ham For My Dog?

There are plenty of reasons to put ham on the naughty list and off the table for Fido. You might be wondering what healthy dog-safe human foods you can share with your four-legged best friend. There are plenty of options that aren’t super fatty or salty but, as always, ensure moderation:

And if you’re looking for healthy meat options for your canine companion, these are the safest choices. They contain lower salt and fat levels than ham.

Final Word

Making the best choices for your pup’s health isn’t difficult. A healthy and happy Fido starts with a healthy gut. Some foods like ham are a no-no if you want a long, healthy, and happy life for your doggo. Ham is tasty but with no significant nutritional value for your dog. However, the tiny bite-sized piece is unlikely to harm your dog.

The problem comes in when Fido grabs the Easter ham off the table without you looking. You should call your vet immediately or rush them to the animal clinic.

Further Reading:

Can Dogs Eat Lunch Meat?

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