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Can dogs eat ham?

by Scott Marshall June 21, 2024 9 min read

Can dogs eat ham?

Ham is often viewed as a simple, everyday meat, overshadowed by the culinary prestige of beef or the versatility of chicken. Yet, it holds a special place in the realm of pet treats, offering a taste that many dogs find irresistible. This unique appeal sets it apart in the diverse world of dog snacks, marking ham as a treat that, while not essential, can add a bit of variety to a dog's diet in moderation.

Key considerations when thinking about feeding ham to dogs include its high sodium and fat content, potential for causing obesity and heart disease, and the risks of pancreatitis and salt poisoning. It's also important to be aware of the choking hazard posed by bones in ham. Each of these concerns highlights the need for caution and informed decision-making when including ham in your dog's meal plan.

Diving deeper, the article will address the specific risks associated with feeding ham to dogs, such as the dangers of high fat and sodium levels, and how these can impact a dog's health. It will also provide guidelines for safe feeding practices, including the importance of moderation, choosing low-sodium options, and ensuring all bones are removed before offering ham to your dog. Further sections will explore alternatives to ham that can provide safer, healthier treat options for dogs, including lean meats like chicken or turkey, as well as dog-safe vegetables.

This comprehensive approach aims to offer dog owners a thorough understanding of the complexities surrounding the feeding of ham to dogs, ensuring that our furry friends can enjoy a varied, balanced, and safe diet.

What is ham?

Ham is a type of pork that originates from the hind leg of a pig. It undergoes a curing process, which can involve salting, smoking, or aging. This process not only enhances the meat's flavor but also serves to preserve it, giving ham its unique taste and texture.

Ham's preservation method is a key factor in its high sodium content, making it distinct from other pork products. The variety of ham available is broad, ranging from fresh and uncured to dry-cured and fully cooked, offering a wide spectrum of flavors and preparation methods. While ham enjoys popularity among humans for its savory qualities, its nutritional profile—notably high levels of sodium and fat—poses important considerations for its suitability as a treat for dogs.

Can dogs safely eat ham?

When considering whether dogs can safely indulge in ham, it's crucial to acknowledge the high sodium and fat content inherent in this type of meat. These elements significantly elevate the risk of obesity and heart disease in canines, making ham a less-than-ideal dietary choice. While ham is not inherently toxic to dogs, the health risks it poses necessitate a cautious approach.

Moderation is essential, and when choosing to feed your dog ham, opting for less processed, low-sodium varieties is advisable. Ultimately, despite dogs' likely enthusiasm for this savory treat, the potential health implications suggest it should be considered an occasional indulgence rather than a regular component of their diet.

High in sodium and fat

Ham, while delicious, is high in sodium and fat, elements that are harmful to dogs in large quantities. The excessive sodium can lead to conditions such as salt poisoning, and the high fat content is a known trigger for pancreatitis—a condition that can be life-threatening if not addressed promptly.

Risk of obesity and heart disease

The caloric richness of ham, combined with its fat levels, poses a significant risk of obesity in dogs. Obesity acts as a gateway to a host of other health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and joint problems. Given these risks, the decision to include ham in a dog's diet should be made with caution.

Risks of feeding ham to dogs

Feeding ham to dogs introduces several health risks that warrant serious consideration. The high fat content in ham is a primary concern, as it can precipitate pancreatitis, an acute and potentially life-threatening condition. Equally alarming is the excessive sodium levels present in ham, which pose a risk of salt poisoning, a condition that requires immediate veterinary intervention.

Additionally, the presence of bones in ham can lead to a choking hazard or cause internal blockages, further underscoring the dangers associated with feeding ham to dogs. Given these significant risks, pet owners are advised to seek healthier, safer alternatives to ham for their canine companions.

Pancreatitis due to high fat content

The high fat content found in ham is a direct trigger for pancreatitis in dogs. This serious condition involves the inflammation of the pancreas, leading to symptoms such as intense abdominal pain, vomiting, and dehydration. Veterinary care is essential to manage and treat pancreatitis effectively.

Specific symptoms to watch for include lethargy, abdominal pain, or changes in appetite, which could indicate the onset of pancreatitis.

Salt poisoning from excessive sodium

Excessive sodium levels in ham can lead to salt poisoning, a dangerous condition for dogs. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, and in severe cases, neurological issues. Dogs exhibiting these symptoms after consuming ham should receive veterinary attention immediately.

Details on sodium levels considered excessive for dogs suggest that more than 1.5 grams of salt per pound of body weight can be toxic, and symptoms of salt poisoning may appear within hours of ingestion.

Choking hazard from bone fragments

Ham can contain cooked  bone fragments that pose a serious choking hazard for dogs. Beyond the immediate risk of choking, these fragments can also cause internal blockages or perforations in the digestive system. It is imperative to ensure that any ham offered to dogs is completely bone-free to avoid these health risks.

Information on bone sizes most likely to cause issues indicates that both large and small bones can be dangerous, as large bones may cause blockages while small, sharp fragments can perforate the intestines.

Safe feeding practices

Incorporating ham into your dog's diet requires adherence to safe feeding practices to ensure their health and safety. Key to this is serving ham in moderation, considering its high levels of fat and sodium, which are detrimental in excess. Choosing low-sodium options and meticulously removing all bones from the ham can significantly reduce the risks of salt poisoning and choking hazards.

Moderation is key

Moderation is paramount when incorporating ham into your dog's diet. Given its high fat and sodium content, ham should be viewed as an occasional indulgence to avoid health complications associated with overconsumption.

  • Recommended Frequency: Once a month
  • Suggested Portion: 1-2 small pieces (depending on the dog's size)

Avoid processed types, opt for low-sodium

It's advisable to avoid processed types of ham, which often come laden with additives and high sodium levels, posing additional health risks to dogs. Instead, opt for low-sodium varieties, which are a safer choice for those rare treat moments.

Brand Name

Sodium Content (per 100g)


Brand A Low-Sodium


Widely available, no additives

Brand B Lite Ham


Limited availability

Homemade Cured Ham


Sodium content depends on preparation method

Remove all bones

Removing all bones from ham is essential to prevent choking hazards and potential internal injuries in dogs. Even small bone fragments can pose a significant risk, making it crucial to inspect the ham thoroughly before offering it to your pet.

  • Inspection Method: Visually inspect and feel the ham for bones before serving.
  • Preparation Tip: Cook large pieces to make it easier to identify and remove bones.

Alternatives to ham for dogs

In light of the health risks posed by feeding ham to dogs, seeking out safer, healthier alternatives is a wise choice. Lean meats such as chicken or turkey provide a high-protein option with significantly lower fat and sodium levels than ham. For those looking to diversify their dog's diet further, vegetables safe for dogs, like carrots, offer a crunchy, nutrient-rich snack option.

Alternatively, small amounts of plain, cooked pork—free from added seasonings or preservatives—can be a safer pork option, allowing dogs to enjoy the benefits of a varied and balanced diet without the associated risks of ham.

Lean meats like chicken or turkey

Offering lean meats, such as chicken or turkey, presents a nutritious alternative to ham for dogs. These options are rich in proteins yet low in fat and sodium, aligning better with a dog's dietary needs and promoting overall health.

Vegetables safe for dogs, such as carrots

Incorporating vegetables safe for dogs, like carrots, into your pet's diet provides a wealth of nutrients. Carrots are not only low in calories but also high in fiber and essential vitamins, making them an ideal, healthy snack.

Small amounts of plain, cooked pork

Small amounts of plain, cooked pork can serve as a safer pork-based treat for dogs, compared to ham. It's important to ensure the pork is devoid of added seasonings or preservatives, minimizing the risk to your dog's health and well-being.

Detailed Table for Alternatives to Ham for Dogs

Alternative Food

Preparation Tips

Serving Suggestions

Nutritional Benefits

Chicken (Lean meat)

Fully cooked, no bones, skinless

Shredded or cut into small, bite-size pieces

High in protein, low in fat

Turkey (Lean meat)

Fully cooked, no bones, skinless

Shredded or cut into small, bite-size pieces

High in protein, low in fat, contains essential vitamins

Carrots (Vegetable)

Raw or lightly steamed, no seasoning

Whole, sliced, or diced depending on dog's size

High in fiber, vitamins A, C, and K

Green Beans (Vegetable)

Raw or cooked without salt or seasoning

Cut into small pieces or served whole

Low calorie, high in fiber, vitamins A, C, and K

Sweet Potatoes (Vegetable)

Cooked, skin removed, no seasoning

Mashed or cut into small, chewable chunks

High in fiber, vitamins A and C

Plain, Cooked Pork (Lean meat)

Fully cooked, no bones, unseasoned

Cut into small, bite-size pieces

Higher in protein, ensure it's lean to keep fat content low

Note: Always consult with a veterinarian before introducing new foods into your dog's diet, especially if your dog has specific health concerns or dietary needs.

Consulting a veterinarian

Before incorporating new items like ham or its alternatives into your dog's diet, consulting with a veterinarian is essential. A vet can offer tailored advice that considers your dog's unique health profile, dietary needs, and any specific sensitivities or allergies. Moreover, should your dog exhibit any adverse reactions to new foods, immediate veterinary attention is crucial.

A veterinarian's expertise can swiftly identify and address any dietary mishaps, safeguarding your dog's health. This proactive measure is key to ensuring the well-being of your pet amidst dietary changes.

Before introducing new foods

Consulting a veterinarian before making any additions or changes to your dog's diet is crucial. This precaution ensures that the new food is appropriate for your pet's unique health needs and dietary restrictions, safeguarding against potential issues. Below is a detailed table of questions to ask your veterinarian, which can prepare owners for a more productive consultation:

Question to Ask Your Veterinarian

Reason for Asking

Is ham safe for my dog's specific health condition?

To identify any potential risks associated with your dog's existing health issues.

How much ham can my dog safely eat?

To understand the safe quantity that can be given to avoid health issues.

Are there any low-sodium ham options safe for dogs?

To find out if there are safer alternatives that minimize health risks.

What signs of sodium poisoning should I look out for?

To be able to act quickly if your dog reacts negatively to the ham.

Are there healthier treat alternatives you recommend?

To explore other options that might be better suited to your dog's dietary needs.

If adverse reactions occur

In the event that your dog exhibits any adverse reactions to new foods, immediate veterinary attention is crucial. A veterinarian can quickly assess the situation, diagnose the problem, and initiate the appropriate treatment to ensure your dog's health and well-being. Below is a detailed table outlining the steps to take if a dog shows adverse reactions, including how to document symptoms and what information to provide to the vet:



Information to Provide


Observe and document symptoms.

Note the time symptoms began and their nature (e.g., vomiting, diarrhea).


Discontinue feeding the new food.

Inform the vet about the new food introduced and when.


Contact your veterinarian immediately.

Share the documented symptoms and any relevant dietary changes.


Follow the veterinarian's advice.

Provide details on your dog's overall health and any pre-existing conditions.


Monitor your dog's recovery.

Keep a log of your dog's recovery progress and any further symptoms.

This structured approach ensures that you are prepared to provide your veterinarian with comprehensive information, facilitating a swift and effective response to safeguard your dog's health.


Ham is not an ideal treat or food for dogs. You have high sodium content, high fat content, spiced and sugars that are typically used when cooking ham, and so on.

IF you insist on feeding ham, please do so in very small amounts with very little frequency. 

It’s best to opt for leaner, lower sodium, no salt/spice/sugar added treats for your dog.  

Scott Marshall
Scott Marshall

Scott has been feeding a raw dog food diet for over 13 years. He lives in Utah with his wife Arianne, his 11.5 year old german shepherd Wolken, and his 2.5 year old labradoodle Montu. Scott has been teaching others about raw feeding since 2013, started Raw Feeding 101 in 2017, and has been solely focused on simplifying the process of pet parents meeting their dogs’ daily nutrient requirements since 2018.

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