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Can Dogs Eat Ham? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on March 25, 2024 by Dogster Team

Can Dogs Eat Ham? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

VET APPROVED

Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Dogs are omnivores, which means they are not only capable of eating both plant and animal-based ingredients, but their digestive system can process the nutrients in both food types. In the wild, they would individually hunt small animals, and in packs, they might work together to take down larger animals, but they would also eat plants including fruit and vegetables.

Ham, which is derived from pigs, is an animal-based food, but it is recommended that we do not feed ham to pet dogs. Not only does most commercially packaged ham contain large amounts of sodium, or salt, but it is also a very fatty meat when compared to other animal protein sources. It is also quite rich, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset.

With that said, it isn’t considered toxic, so if your dog has eaten some plain, unprocessed ham, it should be fine, although it may lead to diarrhea or vomiting.

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Dog Diet

Dogs are omnivores and eat a combination of meat and animal-based foods. Most commercial foods, whether wet or dry,  contain a combination of these and other ingredients. Complete and balanced dog food meets all of the dietary and nutritional requirements of a dog, including an appropriate amount of protein as well as all the required fats, vitamins and minerals to ensure a healthy dog. There are benefits to both dry and wet foods.

Dry food has a longer shelf life, which means that, even when opened, it will keep longer than wet food. It also causes less mess, but it does not contain the moisture that wet food does so you will need to make sure your dog gets enough fresh water. And, some dogs do not find dry food as palatable or appealing as they find wet food.

Wet food tends to be higher in protein which can lead to an upset stomach, although this isn’t always true. It is also more expensive than dry food and it doesn’t keep as well, but some dogs do prefer wet food. It is possible to feed a combination of wet and dry food, either at each meal or over a day, and there is an increase in interest in raw food or natural food diets.

A natural food diet means putting every meal together yourself using natural ingredients. You do need to thoroughly research your dog’s nutritional requirements and ensure that they are being met. One such requirement is providing enough protein. Although protein can be found in plant sources, the best source is often high-quality meat. Chicken, turkey, lamb, and beef are the most common meats used in commercial foods and in a raw food diet, which begs the question of why pork or ham isn’t used more often.

labrador eating from bowl
Image by: Olya Maximenko, Shutterstock

Can Dogs Eat Ham?

If your dog has eaten a small amount of ham, they should be fine because ham is not considered toxic to dogs. You may see some vomiting and diarrhea for a day or two. Consider speaking to your vet to  inform them what has happened. They will be able to advise on the next best step.

The Pitfalls of Ham

Generally, though, you should not intentionally feed ham to your dog. When people talk about ham, they are usually referring to the processed ham that you can buy in stores. These processed foods can be unhealthy and potentially even dangerous for dogs because of the following reasons:

  • Fatty Meat – Ham is fatty compared to other meats and other beneficial foods given to dogs. When dogs eat too much fatty food, it can lead to weight gain and pancreatitis. Being overweight is as dangerous for dogs as it is for people, and obesity can lead to diabetes as well as joint problems and other health concerns. Removing the fat from unprocessed meat does provide a healthier solution, but there is still fat running through the meat itself.
  • Processed Ham Additives – Most packaged ham is highly processed. It contains high levels of salt and may contain additional additives. Some of these additives may actually be toxic for dogs. Garlic and onions, for example, are toxic to dogs in large enough amounts. Even without these toxic ingredients, too much salt can cause short-term and long-term problems. Initially, it can cause dehydration, and may, over time, lead to kidney disease and hypertension.

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The 3 Tips for a Better Diet for Your Dog

Nutrition is important to dogs. Feeding too much or too little of certain foods can cause problems, so you must check the food you feed. This means checking the label and ingredients, including nutritional values, rather than buying food according to the marketing on the package. You also need to consider any other sources of food that your dog has access to, including the treats you feed during training.

1. Weigh Food Out

Commercial dog foods provide a guideline of how much to feed a dog, and if you don’t have any specific guidelines from a vet to follow, these are a good place to start. Remember to feed according to the desired weight of your dog, and make sure this is at a healthy and sustainable level. If your dog is really overweight, don’t aim for their target weight straight away, but cut down in increments until you reach the desired weight.

When you first start feeding a particular food, weigh the amount you give and then determine how many scoops or cups this is, yourself, rather than using the scoop guideline on the bag.

female hand scooping up a portion of dog food kibble
Image Credit: Omi Works, Shutterstock

2. Feed Treats in Moderation

Most treats contain some calories but do not meet the nutritional requirements of dogs. This means that you are feeding empty calories. Either switch to healthy treats; use praise or toys rather than treats for training; or monitor the number of treats you give and the total calories you feed. You will then need to reduce the amount of food you do give according to how many treats you feed.


3. Increase Exercise

If your dog is overweight, a diet is part of the solution, but it is important to make sure your dog gets enough exercise. This can include the gentle walk around the park you enjoy together, but you should try and find ways to introduce more vigorous exercise. Whether you throw a ball around the dog park, enroll in agility lessons, or take up trail running together, introducing exercise is a good way to help prevent weight gain and control the weight of your dog.

dalmatian dog on a leash walking with the owner
Image By: absolutimages, Shutterstock

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Other Food Facts

Can Dogs Eat Ham Bones?

Generally, you should avoid feeding any cooked bones to dogs. Once cooked, the bones become brittle and are easily broken and splintered when your dog bites into them. These splinters can get caught in the digestive tract which can prove fatal. Bones can also cause chipped teeth and other dental problems, so it is generally better to offer chewy bones rather than brittle ones as a treat.

Can Dogs Eat Cheese?

Although some dogs are lactose intolerant, many can handle small amounts of cheese and some other dairy products. In fact, cheese is often used to hide tablets and medication because most dogs enjoy the flavor of the cheese and will miss the tablet that lurks within. Cheese, in moderation, can also be used as a training treat. However, you shouldn’t feed cheese regularly and avoid feeding too much of it in a single sitting. This is to combat any lactose intolerance issues your dog may have as well the high amount of calories that cheese contains.

Always start with a small amount. If your dog eats it and doesn’t show any signs of being intolerant or allergic, you can feed a little more next time. Avoid cheese with extra ingredients and choose a cheese that is low in salt. Again, keep cheese to a minimum-as a treat or medication hider only.

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Conclusion

Dogs can enjoy a varied diet consisting of meat, fruit, vegetables, and other ingredients because they are omnivores and can digest and process protein, vitamins, and minerals from a wide variety of sources. While dog food typically contains any of several animal-based ingredients, ham and pork are rarely used because these are considered fatty meats that encourage weight gain.

Processed ham is also high in salt and may contain other ingredients that are bad for dogs so these should be avoided. Instead, consider feeding plain chicken, lamb, or beef. These offer plenty of protein and are not usually as fatty as ham.


Featured Image Credit: vikiri, Shutterstock

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