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dog staring at ham sandwich

The essentials

  • No, your dog should not eat ham — While ham is generally safe in small doses, it’s not safe for frequent feeding due to its salt content. The same is true for other human food favorites such as bacon and sausage.
  • Beware of processed meats — Processed meats like ham have been associated with certain health risks due to the salting, smoking, or curing process.
  • Ham bones are never safe for dogs — They can splinter and cause gastrointestinal tract bleeding.

It’s tempting to give your furry friend that slice of ham from your holiday celebration or party. After all, dogs are carnivores, so it should be safe, right? Well, not necessarily — and especially not in large quantities. Ham is one of the most misunderstood treats in the pet universe. Its salt content and potential toxins added throughout the processing steps make it a possible risk to your dog’s diet and health.

Is ham good for dogs? 

No, there aren’t any health benefits associated with ham, which is usually saltier than other types of meat in your pup’s diet. In its unprocessed state, ham is considered neutral meat, but it’s often cured, smoked, or salted. This infuses the meat with chemicals, flavors, and other toxins which, if eaten, can introduce possible health risks for dogs.

There are better sources of protein that your dog can enjoy in large quantities that don’t include ham’s preservatives or low nutritional value.

Risks of dogs eating ham

A dog’s body isn’t meant to handle the high-fat content naturally found in ham or the high salt content added in the curing process. A sodium imbalance in your dog’s body can lead to severe neurological issues and gastrointestinal (GI) distress, leading to symptoms of poisoning in your pet. Ham can also lead to kidney damage, especially if consumed in large amounts.

Symptoms of poisoning

If your pet gets into the holiday ham, it’s important to watch for key symptoms that can signal a serious problem. If you notice your dog suffering from any erratic behavior or a combination of the symptoms below, it’s worth a vet visit for supportive care and treatment. In rare cases, the fat content in ham can lead to pancreatitis, which may cause fatal complications.

  • Vomiting. Vomiting is generally one of the first and most obvious signs of GI distress and can point to a more serious underlying imbalance due to salt and fat content. Signs of vomiting and nausea in dogs include drooling, gagging, and panting, along with abdominal contractions.
  • Lethargy. Dogs, like humans, aren’t active when they feel sick. Watch for signs of disinterest in your dog’s normal activities, walks, and playtime.
  • Diarrhea. The high fat and salt content in ham can upset the GI tract, leading to diarrhea and loose stools. Track how many poops your pup makes from the onset of symptoms, and report to your vet.
  • Decreased appetite. If you notice a lack of interest in food or treats after your dog ingests ham, it could be a sign of something more serious. Your vet will be able to assess for pancreatitis or other risks after ham ingestion.
  • Excessive thirst and urination. Ham is salty, which can make your pet excessively thirsty. Too much water and salt intake can affect your pet’s kidneys, leading to excessive urination.
  • Abnormal fluid accumulation. If you notice abdominal swelling in your pet, this can be a sign of further GI distress. Call your vet to get the next steps in treatment.
  • Abdominal pain. It isn’t always easy to tell if your pup is in pain. Lethargy, vomiting, touch avoidance, and panting can be signs of abdominal pain in your dog. Your dog may also put itself in a “praying” or prone position.

👉 To minimize the risk of ham affecting your dog’s neurological and GI systems, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you notice these symptoms after ham ingestion.

How to safely feed your dog ham 

Contrary to what you’ll hear around the pet community, dog stomachs aren’t indestructible. Plain, cooked, home-processed ham is the safest way to feed your dog ham. If you decide to feed your dog ham, we recommend following these steps.

Step 1: Choose minimally-processed ham

Many brands you’ll find at the grocery store undergo chemical curing or chemical flavoring processes, which add toxic chemicals and sweeteners (such as xylitol) to the meat and rind. Xylitol, in particular, can be fatal to dogs if eaten, and the other common chemicals found in ham can cause digestive and neurological problems.

Step 2: Cook to a safe temperature

Your ham must be properly cooked, reaching a temperature of 165 degrees to kill any remaining bacteria that could cause foodborne illness in your pet.

Step 3: Cut meat into small pieces

Choking is also a risk if you feed your dog large pieces attached to the bone. Cut and process the ham yourself rather than giving your dog a slice — this will help avoid bone shards and reduce the risk of choking.

Can my dog have ham bones?

Ham bones are never safe for your dog. Beyond the choking risk, ham bones — especially when cooked — can easily splinter and slice your dog’s digestive tract. If your dog vomits, they may breathe in bone shards that can cause serious damage to your pet’s respiratory system. Bones are also unsafe for your dog to consume when raw, as bacteria found on the bones can cause illness and stomach upset.

Not all bones are bad for your dog. If your pup’s a chewer, be sure to check out our list of the safest bones for your dog to enjoy.

Pet insurance

Sometimes, as a pet parent, you aren’t in control of what your pet pulls out of the trash. Pet insurance can be especially valuable in these instances, giving you the peace of mind that your pet will be covered in case of a medical emergency.


Alternatives to ham for dogs

If your dog is a fan of ham, they don’t have to go without it! There are plenty of safely processed, ham-flavored treats that minimize the risk of illness. By investing in dog-friendly ham treats, you’ll also be able to enjoy peace of mind that your dog won’t be a victim of the serious health effects of fake sweeteners and chemicals.

Out of our favorite healthy dog treats, this one is tops for pups that prefer meaty snacks:

Frequently asked questions

What happens if a dog eats ham?

If your dog ingests ham, they’re at risk for stomach upset due to the high fat and salt content. They can also experience neurological issues due to sodium imbalance or chemicals and sweeteners used during the curing process.

Can dogs eat slices of ham?

While dogs can eat slices of ham, it’s best done in moderation (if at all!). If you let your pup indulge in a bit of holiday ham, cut it into cubes to minimize the choking risk.

How much ham is OK for dogs?

Ham isn’t the healthiest treat for dogs. To minimize health risks, choose other meat treats for your pet. If you decide to give your dog ham, limit consumption to just one or two bites at most to control your dog’s sodium and fat intake. Ham is rich and can cause serious health issues in your dog.

Can a dog have a ham bone?

It is never safe for your dog to have a ham bone. There is a high risk for splintering due to how fragile the bone becomes in the cooking process, which can lead to choking.  There’s also a risk of bacterial infection if the bone is consumed raw. Swap ham bones for another treat for your furry friend.