Can Dogs Eat Ham?

Dog eating ham

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No matter what kind of meat you're slicing, chances are you'll find your four-legged friend gazing longingly at your dinner. When it comes to lean meats like chicken or turkey, most experts agree that it's just fine to share some of that healthy protein with your pooch. But what about when it comes to a holiday ham or some that you have gotten from the deli counter?

Can Dogs Eat Ham?

As a higher-fat protein, ham is generally only OK for our pups when offered in strict moderation. Just like for humans, a diet that's too high in fat isn't always the healthiest for our dogs--and fattier meat like ham is no exception.

Although both dogs and humans alike do need fat in their diet, our canine friends are usually getting an ample amount in their regular dog food. Generally speaking, a healthy amount of animal fat found in most dog food varieties hovers around 15 to 20 percent. So, while a fattier meat like ham may taste exceptionally delicious to Fido, some experts believe it may not be worth the potential health risks. Some also argue that it could be more difficult for your dog to digest than other leaner protein sources.

Just like bacon--another canine favorite--ham is one of those meats that may just not be worth the risk of potential health ailments in your dog.

Can Ham Be Dangerous for Dogs?

When it comes to store-bought ham, it's not always just the fat content you'll have to worry about, but the sodium and preservatives that are lurking in most deli ham varieties.

This processed meat can contain a significant amount of pasteurized salts, phosphate, dextrose, sodium chloride, sodium nitrite, and sodium ascorbate. Since all of these preservatives (as well as too much salt in general) can be toxic for dogs, proceed with caution when offering your furry friend a taste of ham. 

Too much salt can cause dangerous bloating in your dog, as well as lead to symptoms such as excessive thirst, urination, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and abnormal fluid accumulation.

When consumed in high quantities regularly by canines, high-sodium foods can also have more serious consequences. These can range from seizures and coma to kidney damage and even death

Too much fat in a dog's diet can lead to pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) as well as other potentially dangerous digestive issues. In fact, some veterinarians believe that even one single high-fat meal can trigger pancreatitis--and if it isn't caught quickly and treated appropriately, this condition can be fatal.

And of course, dogs that are already overweight or have other underlying conditions should also steer clear of fatty, salty meats like ham. The sodium content of this meat alone can be enough to trigger serious consequences for pets with heart conditions.

How Should Ham Be Prepared for Dogs?

If you are going to offer ham to your dog, keep it to just a little sliver on an occasional basis as a very special treat. Just as when offering any other human food, you'll want to be sure the ham hasn't been slathered with any other additives or condiments, like extra salt or mustard. Also, be sure it has been trimmed of all excess visible fat. Lastly, always avoid offering raw ham to your dog, as there is a risk of parasites.

And what about that leftover ham bone after Easter dinner? It's definitely not a good idea to toss it to Fido. Bones from meats like ham can ultimately cause broken teeth or, worse, esophageal or intestinal blockages. Since cooked bones don't easily break down in the GI tract, they can lead to serious internal damage.

The symptoms that your pet is suffering from a blockage can include gagging, drooling, vomiting, and coughing. If left untreated, this can be potentially life-threatening and it is considered a veterinary emergency If you suspect your dog has ingested a cooked bone, it is always best to seek veterinary advice.