Can Dogs Have Tamales?

Tamales- can you have enough of this tasty dish? A cocktail of flavors explodes in your mouth with every bite. The delicious and comforting dish comprises Masa dough, stuffed with a savory or sweet filling wrapped tightly around corn husks, then steamed to fluffy, tender, and juicy perfection.

While winding down the holiday with your family and friends and getting together to eat and be merry, you prepare your must-have holiday dish – Tamales. Your Golden Retriever gets its paws on a tamale and wolfs it down with the husk intact while you are not watching. You can’t help but worry if this meaty goodness is safe for dogs.

Wait, can dogs even eat tamales? Find out if tamales are suitable for your dog and how much to feed your Fido.

Tamales: What Are They?

Tamales are a traditional Latin American delicacy synonymous with Guatemalan and Mexican households. The dish’s rich history dates back to 8000 BC during the Aztec and Mayan civilizations. What was once preserved in the Latina community and specialty restaurants is now a popular mainstream dish.

You can prepare different Tamales at home using an assortment of fillings such as pork, beef, chicken, cheese, black or pinto beans, and shredded turkey. Tamales are prepared using corn dough (masa), topped up with various seasoned meats, and steamed inside wraps of corn husks.

The cornflour is enriched with baking powder, lard, and broth, then kneaded to a thick batter. Keep in mind the recipe for Tamales varies significantly among individuals and communities, with the only mainstays being the masa and the corn husks or banana leaves.

If you bought the corn husks from the store, remember to steep them in water for one hour to make them flexible. Once the masa is ready, it is spread on a corn husk. Top up with your meat filling, fold the wraps, and then steam for 1 1/2 hours. The tamales are fully cooked when the husks peel away from the masa filling easily, and the filling is intact.

Can Dogs Eat Tamales?

Yes, you can share the tasty Mexican treat with your pup. But, although tamales are a tempting prospect for most canines, over-consumption can make your Chewy sick. Tamales are made from several ingredients, including chili, spices, onions, garlic, salsa, lard, and salt, which can cause many health issues to your canine.

Your dog can get away with a bite or two, but it is best to prepare your Fido a dog-friendly tamale with no seasoning or spice, minimal salt, and healthy meats and fats.

Are Tamales Good For Dogs?

Tamales have plenty of nutritional benefits and are excellent sources of protein, especially the meaty kind. Tamales are often loaded with high protein meats such as beef, chicken, steak, pork, and turkey. Each tamale is estimated to contain 12 g of protein. Your pup will likely get its daily protein intake from wolfing down a tamale or two.

The dish is also high in fiber, with each piece of meaty goodness containing up to 6g of fiber. This helps to promote healthy digestion in your Fido by increasing the bulk and water in your pup’s digestive system. As a result, it controls how slow or fast food passes through the GI tract.

Additionally, Tamales boast various vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, vitamins A, B, K, and zinc, which boost your pup’s immunity, metabolism, and growth. But, considering tamales are often seasoned, which can further complicate your dog’s health, these nutrients are better sought from canine foods.

Are Tamales Bad For Dogs?


If too much is consumed, it can cause serious harm to your four-legged companion. So, if Chewy gets gobbles on tamales, you should be aware of the following:

Digestive Issues

Tamales are nutrient-dense but with many unhealthy ingredients like vegetable shortening, lard, and spices that can upset your Fido’s tummy. These ingredients can cause other problems such as gastroenteritis- gut inflammation leading to vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Lard and shortening are high in saturated fats, which increase “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood leading to inflammation and heart disease. The pancreas can also be inflamed because of the high-fat content.

Salt Poisoning

If your dog consumes tamales in large quantities at a go or regularly, they are at high risk of experiencing acute salt poisoning. Sodium is critical for your pup’s body functions, but it should be taken in moderation. The salt in the filling and the masa is too much for your canine to handle.

Salt poisoning in your poodle includes dehydration, hypertension, muscle twitching, excessive thirst and urination, and seizures.

Hemolytic Anemia

Human spices like onions, garlic, and salsas are toxic to dogs. These ingredients contain sulfur compounds such as disulfides and sulfoxides that damage your dog’s red blood cells, causing a condition known as Hemolytic Anemia. Symptoms include weakness, lethargy, and death in severe cases.

Further Reading: Can Dogs Eat That Food?

Watch Out For The Husks

Although corn husks are not toxic to pups, they are not easy to digest. If your pooch swallows a small husk, it will be digested normally with no adverse effects. But, depending on the size of your dog, a chunk of corn husks can cause gagging and trigger severe digestive issues.

If the husks block the digestive tract and cause intestinal obstruction, your dog will experience vomiting, abdominal pain, restlessness, loss of appetite, and constipation.

Calorie Dense

Each tamale pack contains around 285 calories, so each serving is calorie-dense depending on the ingredients and meats used. But, most canines need between 25 and 30 calories per pound to maintain a healthy body weight. So, allowing your dog to munch on plenty of tamales can quickly stack up the calories and lead to obesity.

Making Tamales For My Dog

If you want to feed your dog tamales without the risks mentioned above, you can make a healthy dog-friendly version at home instead of the store-bought tamales. Here are some guidelines to follow when making tamales for dogs:

  •  Avoid pork and beef fillings and go for healthier alternatives such as turkey, chicken, shrimp, vegetables, and beans. Vegetables and bean fillings will also enhance the tamales’ fiber and nutrient content, benefiting your poodle.
  • Replace vegetable shortening and lard with moderate low-fat cheese. But, this only applies if your dog isn’t lactose-intolerant. Alternatively, you can use dog-friendly oils such as coconut oil, sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, and fish oil.
  • Avoid adding any seasonings and limit the amount of salt.
  • Exclude the husk when serving your dog tamales. Husks pose the most significant risk to your dog’s health. Only serve the masa and fillings and properly dispose of the husks.

My Dog Ate Tamales! What Should I Do?

If your dog has eaten tamales, you should do the following:

  1. Figure out how many tamales your pup ate.
  2. Work out how long it’s been since they ate it.
  3. Check whether your dog has swallowed the husk.
  4. Is your pup showing signs of restlessness, pain, vomiting, loss of appetite, or abnormal movements?
  5. Call your vet and share the above information, including your dog’s weight.

Treatment Options

Depending on your dog’s symptoms, the vet will induce vomiting and monitor him closely. In severe cases, your pup will be put on an IV drip and given pain relief, gastro-protectant, and anti-vomiting drugs.

The vet will monitor the kidney function and urine output for salt levels. An x-ray will ascertain if there’s any obstruction if your dog swallows the husks.

Wrapping Up

We always want to keep our pups safe as dog parents, but it can be tricky since they always find ways to get their paws on our human foods. Also, most of us are guilty of sharing our tasty human foods with Fido. Tamale is a delicacy perfect for every occasion, but we don’t recommend feeding your pup unless you prepare it with dog-friendly ingredients.

Further Reading:

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