Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
We’re reader-supported. When you click on our chosen products, we may receive a commission. Learn more.
dog staring at ham sandwich

The essentials

  • Feeding ham can cause harm — While a small piece of ham is generally okay, this meat is unsafe in large quantities due to its high fat and salt content. 
  • 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 omnivores, so meat 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. The high sodium content and potential toxins added through processing make it a possible risk to your dog’s diet and health.

Is ham good for dogs? 

While dogs can eat pork, 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. For example, sodium nitrites and nitrates are common preservatives in processed meats, but large amounts can poison dogs and cats. 

Ham and other processed meats such as turkey slices may also contain toxic seasonings, such as garlic or onion powder. Always check product labels before feeding your dog any seasoned meats.  

While a small amount of ham may not hurt them, there are better sources of protein that your dog can enjoy in moderation that don’t include harmful preservatives or hold a low nutritional value.  

👉 Wondering if last night’s supper might be a safe snack for your curious pupper? Check out our list of human foods that are okay for our canine friends to sample.

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. The fat content in ham can lead to pancreatitis, which may cause fatal complications. 

Too much salt in your dog’s body can also lead to salt toxicosis , which manifests in neurological issues like tremors and seizures, and gastrointestinal (GI) distress.  Salt poisoning can also lead to kidney damage in severe cases.

Symptoms of poisoning

If your pet gets into the holiday ham, it’s important to watch for key symptoms that can signify serious health conditions. 

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. 

  • Vomiting. Generally one of the first and most obvious signs of gastrointestinal distress, vomiting can point to a serious underlying imbalance of salt and fat. 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 veterinarian when you get to the office.
  • 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 — especially if they might’ve swallowed the ham bone because they could have an intestinal blockage. 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 can affect your pet’s kidneys, leading to excessive urination and even a sodium imbalance .
  • 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 if they’re experiencing pain.
  • Bloat. Also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus, this life-threatening medical condition most commonly affects large, deep-chested dogs. Following a meal, their stomachs may fill with gas which results in a bloated appearance. Sometimes, the gas eventually dissipates. However, in certain cases, their stomach twists as a result of the build-up of gas, cutting off blood supply to vital organs which can lead to necrosis. 

🚨 GDV is always a medical and surgical emergency, so call your vet immediately if you notice a bloated appearance or if your pet acts distressed after a meal or sneaking a large quantity of human food.

Can my dog have ham bones?

Ham bones are never safe for your dog. Beyond the immediate choking risk, ham bones — especially when cooked — can easily splinter and slice your dog’s digestive tract. 

Additionally, if your dog vomits after eating a ham bone, 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, though. If your pup’s a chewer, be sure to check out our list of the safest bones for your dog to enjoy. 

🥩 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

While ham makes the no-no list of people foods you should never feed your dog, there are likely several safe snacks already hanging out in your refrigerator.

 As a general rule, unprocessed fruits and vegetables (like blueberries and broccoli) and thoroughly cooked, unseasoned lean meats are okay for your pet. A balanced diet always takes top priority, though, so ask your vet about appropriate portions and treats for your dog.

👉 If your dog struggles with obesity or might have a food intolerance, it might be best to put the table scraps aside entirely in favor of vet-approved dog food.

Our favorite meaty dog treats 

If your dog is a fan of ham, there are better alternatives! There are plenty of safely processed, pork-flavored treats that are made for dogs. 

By investing in dog-friendly ham treats, you’ll also be able to enjoy peace of mind that your pup won’t be a victim of the potential health risks of fake sweeteners and chemicals.

Out of our favorite healthy dog treats, these top the list for pups that prefer meaty snacks:


Frequently asked questions

Can ham kill a dog?

While ham itself isn’t toxic, the high sodium and fat content can harm your dog. Too much sodium can lead to salt poisoning, and too much fat can cause pancreatitis. These two conditions can be fatal, so it’s a good idea to avoid giving your dog ham entirely and opt for a healthy treat instead. 

What happens if a dog eats ham?

If your dog ingests ham, they’re at risk for stomach upset because of the high fat and salt content in the meat. They can also experience neurological issues due to sodium imbalance, or chemicals and sweeteners used during the curing process. While small amounts may not hurt them, it’s best not to take the risk. 

Can dogs eat slices of ham?

Ham isn’t a safe snack due to the high sodium and fat content. If your dog sneaks a slice off your plate, monitor them for signs of gastrointestinal distress and neurological signs of poisoning. Take note of how much they ate, and call your vet if they experience vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, or changes in urination. 

How much ham is okay for dogs?

Ham isn’t the healthiest treat for dogs. To minimize health risks, choose other meat treats for your fur baby. 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. Cooked bones hold 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.