Can Dogs Eat Ham? Is Ham Toxic to Dogs?

By: Lindsay BoyersPublished:

can dogs eat ham: dog staring at ham on a plate
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Can Dogs Eat Ham? Is Ham Toxic to Dogs?

As a pet parent, it’s tempting to want to share every meal you eat with your furry friend, but unfortunately, that’s not always in their best interest. While some “human foods” are OK for our pups, and may even offer some nutritional benefit, ham is not the best choice. In short, the answer to the question, “Can dogs eat ham?” is yes. But should dogs eat ham? Not necessarily.

Ham isn’t toxic, but there are other foods that are more beneficial to your dog’s health. If you want to give your dog a small slice of ham every now and then, it likely won’t cause harm, but there are some things to consider.

Expert input provided by Dr. Leslie Sinn, DVM, ACVB, CPDT-KA, founder of Behavior Solutions in Ashburn, VA.

Is Ham Toxic to Dogs?

Ham isn’t inherently toxic to dogs, but it’s still a “proceed with caution” type of food, according to Dr. Sinn.

In other words, a little bit of ham here and there likely isn’t going to cause any harm, but it has the potential to cause stomach upset and inflammatory conditions, like pancreatitis, if your pup overdoes it.

Risks of Ham for Dogs

High Fat Content

One of the biggest risks of ham is its high fat content. The risk is not the ham itself; it’s the fat intertwined with that ham, says Dr. Sinn. Fatty meals can precipitate pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. This can affect all dog breeds and include clinical signs like vomiting, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhea and decreased appetite. While mild cases of pancreatitis typically resolve on their own, your dog may need veterinary care if symptoms persist.

The fat in ham can also slow down digestion, which can lead to bloating and constipation.

High Sodium Content

In addition to lots of fat, ham has a high sodium content. Eating too much can cause excessive thirst and long-term health issues such as high blood pressure (hypertension), kidney disease and heart disease. A small amount of ham every once in a while isn’t enough to trigger these types of health conditions, but large amounts can contribute too much salt to your dog’s diet.

High Sugar Content

Many commercial hams are also prepared with excessive amounts of added sugar, which isn’t a part of a dog’s normal diet. Eating too much sugar can contribute to obesity and metabolic changes, like diabetes, that can affect the way your dog processes food.

Too Many Calories

High-fat typically means high calories too. While a piece of ham here and there won’t likely contribute too many calories to your dog’s diet, you want to be mindful of their overall calorie intake when you’re feeding ham or any other human food (or treats).

According to Dr. Sinn, taking in too many calories doesn’t just lead to weight gain, it can also cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset that results in diarrhea, vomiting and more frequent defecation.

It’s Highly Processed

Ham is a highly processed meat, and it often contains sodium-based preservatives like nitrates and nitrites. Some research has indicated that these types of preservatives can potentially increase the risk of certain types of cancer in dogs. There’s also some speculation that a large amount of nitrates can negatively affect a dog’s thyroid gland.

These findings could be potential issues to consider. And it might not be worth the risk.


This isn’t an issue with the ham itself, but Dr. Sinn says that one of the problems veterinarians—especially emergency veterinarians—see is blockages from opportunistic dogs who got into something they shouldn’t have.

She says that, often, pet parents will trim away excess fat and discard the fat with bones in the trash. This may be wrapped in tin foil or a plastic bag that a curious pup will sniff out and ultimately ingest. In this case, it can become a medical emergency if there’s a blockage.

Can I Give My Dog a Piece of Ham? How Much Ham Can I Give Them?

Dr. Sinn says it’s fine to give your dog a piece of ham now and then, but make sure you’re limiting their intake. There’s no official guidance on how much you should give them because it really depends on their size, specific calorie needs and what else they’re eating.

In general, you should consider ham equivalent to a rich dog treat and give them only a small piece every once in a while. It should not be a daily occurrence, and you definitely don’t want to overdo it.

If you do feed your dog ham, opt for unprocessed and uncured meat if you can, and make sure the meat is unseasoned and fully cooked.

What Do I Do if My Dog Eats Too Much Ham?

Dr. Sinn recommends a “watch and see” approach. Because ham isn’t toxic, eating too much probably won’t do much more than mess with your dog’s digestive system and cause some short-lived stomach upset.

But you want to be aware and monitor your dog for any signs that something more serious is going on. And if you suspect your dog has gotten into anything indigestible that can ultimately end up in a blockage, like foil wrappers or a plastic bag, you want to be extra vigilant.

Some signs of underlying issues include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy or weakness

If you see any of these, it’s best to check in with your veterinarian ASAP.

FAQs About Ham and Dogs

Here are some more commonly asked questions about giving your dog ham, plus expert advice from Dr. Sinn.


Can I give my dog a piece of ham?

A:Yes, it’s okay to give your dog a small piece of cooked ham here and there, but try not to make a habit of it. While ham isn’t inherently toxic, it also isn’t inherently healthy for them and too much can contribute to obesity and negatively impact your pet’s health.


Can puppies eat ham?

A:Just like adult dogs, puppies can have a small amount of ham, but you want to be extra careful with younger fur babies. While puppies have higher protein and calorie needs than older dogs, too many calories can result in weight and overall growth problems. It’s best to stick to pet food for your puppy, but a small ham treat here and there isn’t too concerning.


Can dogs eat spiral ham?

A:It depends. Spiral and holiday hams may have additives and/or sugars injected into them, so there’s still a concern about preservatives. To add to that, many people use various herbs and seasonings in the preparation of spiral ham. You can give your dog some spiral ham as long as there are no added spices or other flavorings or anything else that’s toxic to dogs on the meat, but it’s best to give them meat that’s as plain as possible.


Can dogs eat ham bones? Can puppies eat ham bones?

A:No, you should never give your dog or puppy a ham bone. Dr. Sinn says there are two concerns here: If the bone is hard enough not to fracture in the digestive system, then it’s likely that it’s hard enough to cause damage to your dog’s teeth.

On the flip side, if a bone is soft enough that it won’t cause oral damage, it can splinter and cause an intestinal perforation or blockage if your dog swallows it.

Some ham bones are also considered a choking hazard, according to Dr. Sinn. Bone-in hams can have round bones and if they’re cut just right, the bone can get hooked around your dog’s lower jaw and require an emergency vet visit.

This applies to both raw ham bones and cooked bones. Both should be discarded safely in the trash and not given to your pooch.


Can dogs eat gammon bones?

A:No, your dog should not eat any kind of bones. They come with more risk than they’re worth, according to Dr. Sinn.


Is ham toxic to dogs?

A:No, ham isn’t toxic to dogs, so you don’t have to worry if your pooch eats a little bit here and there. However, too much ham can contribute to obesity and certain medical conditions, so you want to be mindful of how much you’re letting them eat.


What meats can dogs eat?

A:Turkey and chicken are good options for dogs because they’re lower in calories and a decent source of low-fat, high-quality protein. But the same rules apply here: Make sure the meat is unseasoned and thoroughly cooked before giving it to your dog.
While giving your dog a piece of ham here and there likely won’t cause any harm, it’s not the healthiest treat option. At best, it has the potential to cause some digestive upset and, at worst, it can trigger some inflammatory health conditions. If you want to surprise your dog with a delicious treat, a lean protein such as turkey is a better choice.


By: Lindsay BoyersPublished: