My Dog Ate Ham and Seems Fine – What Should I Do?

Published on
Fluent Woof is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ham is high in salt and fat, and these ingredients can be toxic or harmful to dogs in high doses.
  • While a few bites of ham are probably safe for your dog, it’s not the healthiest choice for a treat.
  • If your dog eats ham, assess the situation and report your findings to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Sometimes in practice, I would get a call from an owner because their dog ate some holiday ham. They asked if their pup would be OK. I would find out how much meat their pooch ingested and provide counseling or care accordingly. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how much ham is dangerous to dogs, what you should do and expect if your dog eats ham and the signs of toxicity. We’ll go over why ham can be harmful and how your vet will treat your pooch if your dog eats ham.

So, let’s dive in.

How Much Ham Is Harmful to Dogs?

If your pooch snarfs a few bites of ham, he should be OK. But larger quantities can be dangerous for your furbaby. 

Because ham is generally higher in fat than most other meats, it can trigger digestive upset and be harmful to your pup’s health. Processed hams are also high in sodium and preservatives like nitrates, and these ingredients are toxic in large quantities. 

With these dangers, it’s best to avoid giving ham to your pooch. There are better options for a tasty treat.

Small quantities such as a bite or two of ham shouldn’t harm your dog. However, this processed meat is packed with sodium and preservatives that can be toxic to dogs in larger doses. It’s better to find other options for a treat and avoid giving any ham to your pooch. 

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Ham?

If your dog got a bite or two of ham, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. Give your pooch some water and watch for the next several hours. If he’s particularly sensitive to the meat or preservatives, he may experience mild digestive upset and have some vomiting or diarrhea.

When a pup wolfs down a slab of ham, it’s a different story. The salt and fat can cause more serious reactions in large doses. Contact your veterinarian. Let him know approximately how much ham your dog ate and report any unusual symptoms. He may want to observe your pooch for signs of salt toxicity or pancreatitis. 

If your dog eats a few nibbles of ham, he should be fine. Offer him water and watch him for several hours. When pups eat a lot of ham, you should call your vet. Report the approximate amount of ham ingested and any symptoms you observe.

What You Should Do Immediately If You Suspect Your Dog Has Been Poisoned by Ham?

Ham in small quantities is usually not toxic to dogs. However, if your pooch consumes too much of this meat, he can suffer from sodium toxicity. So, if you walk into the kitchen and notice your dog finishing a package of deli ham or a few slabs from a ham roast, you should assess the situation.

  • How much did your dog eat?
  • Is she having trouble breathing?
  • Is she vomiting?
  • Is her abdomen swollen from fluid retention?
  • Are there any other symptoms?

If there’s any ham left, remove it from the area to prevent your dog from eating more. Then, determine how much ham your dog ingested and call your veterinarian immediately. Let the doctor know if your pup has any symptoms. Depending on symptoms, the amount of ham ingested, and your dog’s age, the vet may want you to bring your furbaby in for an evaluation, or he may recommend you observe your pooch at home.

If your dog ate ham, quickly assess the situation. Determine how much your pooch ate and check her for symptoms of distress or illness. Remove any remaining meat from the area and call your vet. Let the doctor know your observations and follow his instructions.

What if My Dog Ate a Lot of Ham But Is Acting Normal?

If your dog inhaled the dinner ham or munched a package of lunch meat, remove any remaining ham from the area and call your vet as soon as possible. Because ham is processed meat, it’s high in sodium and other potentially harmful preservatives. Additionally, ham is higher in fat than many other types of meat. 

When dogs eat a lot of ham, they can become very sick, but you may not notice the symptoms immediately. Unless your dog vomits the ham right away because his stomach can’t handle the salt shock, it may take 3 or more hours for the first symptoms of salt toxicity to appear. 

If the salt doesn’t harm your dog, the fat might. When dogs ingest too much fat at one time, they can suffer from a life-threatening condition called pancreatitis. After eating high-fat food, it takes most dogs about 12-24 hours to develop symptoms of pancreatitis. However, the sooner you seek treatment for your furbaby, the better the prognosis. Don’t wait until your dog is looking sick. 

If your dog eats a lot of ham, you should call your vet immediately whether she’s showing symptoms of problems or not. The salt and fat contents of processed pork products can make your dog extremely sick, but you may not notice symptoms for at least 3-24 hours. 

Signs of Salt Poisoning and Pancreatitis

If your dog ingests enough ham to get a heavy dose of salt, it triggers the cells to release water into the bloodstream to balance the electrolyte levels. This release of water content can cause cellular damage in multiple organs and trigger a range of symptoms. 

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Confusion
  • Ataxia
  • Respiratory distress
  • Lethargy
  • Fluid retention and swollen tongue
  • Seizures
  • Coma

A sudden fat intake from ham can cause inflammation in the pancreas(pancreatitis). Dogs with pancreatitis will exhibit:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Prayer position posture – (hindquarters in the air; head and chest on the ground with front legs extended out)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • jaundice

If dogs experience salt toxicity, it can cause cellular damage to various organs. In this case, you may see digestive and neurological symptoms along with increased thirst. Pups that develop pancreatitis from eating high-fat meat will show abdominal distress, fever, and a prayer posture.

What Happens to Dogs When They Eat Ham?

When dogs eat ham, salt, other preservatives, and fat can negatively affect their body in different ways. 

  • Upset stomach and vomiting – Some canine stomachs can’t tolerate the sodium content. As a result, they will experience vomiting and/or diarrhea even after eating a few bites of ham.
  • Salt toxicity – When dogs ingest larger quantities of ham, the sodium content can be toxic and cause bloating, vomiting/diarrhea, and other symptoms. If the salt dose is high enough, it can be lethal.
  • Pancreatitis – Extreme amounts of fat in the digestive system cause an inflamed pancreas. When this happens, the gland malfunctions, and digestive enzymes attack the pancreas instead of digesting food. Untreated, pancreatitis is deadly.

Ham can negatively affect dogs in a few different ways. It can trigger digestive upset and vomiting. Sodium in ham can cause toxic effects including vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating. Because ham is a fatty meat, it can trigger pancreatitis which causes the gland and digestive enzymes to malfunction.

Why Is Ham Harmful to Dogs?

Ham can be harmful to dogs because it’s higher in fat than most other meats, and it contains high levels of sodium as well as other preservatives. When dogs ingest too much salt, it causes an electrolyte imbalance in the blood. So the cells release water to regain balance—unfortunately, the loss of liquid damages the cells and impacts organ health. 

High levels of fat in the blood can overwhelm the pancreas. As it works overtime to digest the lipids, the pancreas becomes inflamed and starts to malfunction. Digestive enzymes that usually break down food materials in the intestines begin to attack and digest the pancreas. 

While it’s true that most dogs can handle an occasional tidbit of ham, it’s truly not a nutritious treat for canines. Even in small quantities, regular ham treats can cause your dog to gain weight, which contributes to other health problems.

Ham is dangerous to dogs because of its contents. Salt and other preservatives can cause sodium toxicity which triggers cellular damage in various organs. Ham is also high in fat and can trigger pancreatitis in dogs. If you feed your dog small quantities of ham as a regular treat, he can gain weight.

How Will My Vet Treat Salt Poisoning or Pancreatitis?

When your dog eats a lot of ham, your vet will start with a physical exam, bloodwork, and a urinalysis. Based on the findings, he will choose a treatment regimen.

Salt poisoning

Dogs that exhibit symptoms of salt poisoning may require hospitalization. Your veterinarian will want to provide IV fluids to counteract dehydration and restore the fluid and electrolyte balance in your dog’s body. Depending on the severity of the toxicity and symptoms, treatment may require several days. It’s crucial to lower the salt levels in the body gradually because rapid changes in the electrolyte balance can cause brain swelling or a heart attack. If there’s already swelling in the brain, the doctor will give medications to reduce inflammation.


If your dog has symptoms of mild pancreatitis, your veterinarian will put your dog on a fast for a few days to rest the pancreas and provide supportive care. More severe cases call for IV fluids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain medications. Treatment includes hospitalization and observation for 2-4 days. As your dog recovers, the vet will gradually reintroduce food.

The treatment for dogs that eat too much ham depends on how the ham affects the pooch. Dogs suffering from salt poisoning will require hospitalization and IV fluids to gradually reduce the sodium concentration in the blood. Dogs with severe pancreatitis will also be hospitalized and treated with IV fluids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain meds.

How Long Will it Take for My Dog to Recover?

For dogs with salt poisoning, recovery usually takes several days to restore the electrolyte balance in the blood. After this, your veterinarian may schedule periodic rechecks over the next few weeks. Many dogs that suffer from salt toxicity are placed on a low-sodium diet to prevent a relapse. As long as there’s no organ damage, the prognosis is favorable.

When dogs develop pancreatitis, the prognosis and the recovery period depend on how early your dog receives treatment and the severity of the symptoms.  Pups with mild cases and early, aggressive treatment usually have a good prognosis. Recovery may take a month or more. However, dogs that have severe symptoms such as lethargy and depression have a guarded prognosis and may not recover.

The Final Woof

Small quantities of ham are usually safe for dogs to eat. However, ham is high in fat and salt, and it contains other preservatives that can be harmful to canines. If your pooch ingests large quantities of ham, he will probably become very sick. If your pooch snarfs a lot of ham, call your vet right away.

The ingredients in ham can be harmful to your pooch. With high concentrations of sodium, ham can cause salt toxicity if Fido eats too much. The fat content can also trigger pancreatitis. If your dog munches lots of ham, take him to the vet. The doctor will examine your pup, run diagnostic tests, and treat him based on his findings. 

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

Leave a Comment