Don't Feed the Holiday Ham to the Dog, Unless You Want a Mess

By: Karin Goodhue
By: Karin Goodhue

With the holidays approaching, think twice before you give ham scraps to your beloved animal. It can do more harm than you know. Here is a story about what happened to me last year, and the repercussions it had on my dog:

With the holidays approaching, it is common for families to cook turkey, roast beef, and of course ham. Many families like to give scraps to their dogs because they love them, and we love giving them treats that make them happy. But I’m warning you to think twice before you give scraps to your beloved animal. It can do more harm than you know. Here is a story about what happened to me last year, and the repercussions it had on my dog:

My boyfriend, Stephen, and I have a beautiful six year-old yellow lab named Merlin. He really belonged to Stephen before we started dating, but I claim him as my own. Merlin is probably the pickiest dog I have ever met, but like every dog, he loves meat. It was the day after Christmas, and I prepared a ham sandwich with some leftovers for my lunch at work. I cut off the fat and put the scraps in Merlin’s dish. He then proceeded in devouring it with a silly grin on his face. He was so happy. That evening, I returned home and found that Merlin had an accident in the kitchen. The thing about Merlin is he never “goes” in the house. He knows it is very bad. However if he must, he respectfully goes in the kitchen as opposed to the carpet in order to make the clean up job easier on his parents.

When I saw the mess, Merlin was nowhere to be found. I began my search, and discovered him cowering in the bedroom, completely mortified at what he had done. I tried to console him, but he is so sensitive. I cleaned up the mess, and assumed that maybe he was inside too long without being let out since Stephen and I both worked that day. So I continued to finish off the leftovers by cutting up more ham and pairing it with other food choices in the fridge. I then put even more scraps than earlier in a now very happy dog’s bowl.

The next morning as I walked in the living room, Stephen was on his hands and knees cleaning the floors. Supposedly, when he rose for his day an hour earlier, he discovered numerous piles of diarrhea and vomit all over the house, including the carpet. I found Merlin sickly laying on his bed in the corner, regretfully watching his dad clean up his accidents. Merlin normally attempts to wake Stephen or me if he needs to go outside in the middle of the night, but he did not even try. Something was wrong.

The pork scraps I had fed him the day before were lingering in my mind. I had fed him sandwich meat and even bacon before, but he never had a problem. Curiosity and concern initiated my search for answers. So I Googled “ham fat + sick dog." I found many forums depicting peoples’ personal stories about feeding ham to their dogs, and the consequences that followed. There were also answers from licensed veterinarians. Apparently, pork fat and other high fat salty meats can lead to indigestion, which causes diarrhea and vomiting. Heavy amounts can also lead to an inflamed pancreas, commonly known as pancreatitis. In extreme cases, the inflammation can cause the pancreas to leak digestive enzymes, which then actually digests the animal’s own pancreas. If this occurs, the condition can be fatal.

By reading this new information, questions flooded my head. How could I have possibly done something to hurt my baby? Why have I not heard this before? And could he be one of those extreme cases?

I explained to Stephen why I thought he was sick, and he called the veterinarian. I knew that I had not fed Merlin a significant amount of ham, so the vet said we should just monitor him and wait for it to pass, but NO MORE HAM. At this point, I had already learned my lesson. Stephen was luckily able to stay home with Merlin. I called constantly checking on him, and Stephen said that his symptoms were slowing. By the time I returned home from work, Merlin cheerfully greeted me at the door. The ham had passed through his system and he was back to his old self. Thankfully, the meat had not impacted his pancreas.

I wish that somebody told me the effect that ham and pork fat could have on dogs. I can only hope that by reading my story, others will learn the same lesson the easy way. And you might think: “I’ve given ham fat to my dog before and he didn’t get sick.” Well you don’t know what the pork fat could be doing to him/her internally without showing symptoms. Do not make my mistake. Your dog will forget the fact that you threw his treat in the trash, but you will not be able to forgive yourself when he/she gets sick. Have a safe happy holiday season for everyone, animals included.

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  • by stephanie Location: Maryland on Jan 8, 2012 at 06:37 AM
    i just gave my dog a ham bone and woke up dismorning to a very sick dog i dont what to do as i have no money for a vet right now is there any advise?
  • by cb Location: usa on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:53 AM
    i feed my dog ham a lot of times he doesn't get sick or anything. although my friend said he gave his dog ham before almost died from it. maybe some dogs may get sick from ham, dogs are like people there all different.
  • by C F Location: Western Australia on May 23, 2011 at 05:22 AM
    I just found out tonight that ham is bad for dogs. I gave my dog a slice of fresh ham and within minutes she had a seizure. She's had seizures before and we suspected epilepsy but it wasn't happening often enough to require medication. Friday night was the final straw, I remembered that had seized once before when I gave her ham and thought maybe it could be a trigger. I was embarassed to ask the vet a "silly" question this evening at a check up and said what the heck - better to be safe than sorry. He said absolutely NO MORE HAM! She was diagnosed wiht epilepsy and my feeding her ham was a likely trigger. For the last 6 of her 7 years that she's been having seizures, I've been contributing. I'm mortified know this, kicking myself - my poor baby :(
  • by Lisa Location: Pennsylvania on Apr 13, 2011 at 10:41 AM
    I learned the hard way too. We gave our boxer pork products and we were cleaning diarrhea for an entire week. Not to mention, the vet bill's of taking her back because she started with blood in her stools. The best rule to follow is "no table scraps" EVER. Strictly dog food.
  • by mary Location: australia on Dec 12, 2010 at 07:49 PM
    thankyou i think i just found out what is making my dog sick
  • by Gerry Location: La Mesa, CA on Jul 7, 2010 at 01:12 PM
    I wish I had known about ham & dogs. Thank God I was lucky. My boyfriend had bought my dog her OWN ham since she appeared to like the taste he had givin her. I made small portions, and froze it and once a week would grind it up and mix it with her dry food. As I said Thank God she didn't get sick or diarrhea or anything. But I won't take the chance again and give her any ham.
  • by Bill Location: New Bedford, MA on Jan 3, 2010 at 10:28 AM
    Thank you Karen Goodhue for sharing your story with WITN. I had this problem with my bulldog last year but couldnt figure out why he got so sick. I gave him some spiral ham fat this year for NEW YEARS and wouldnt you know he got really sick with diarrhea and vomiting. This clicked in my mind and made me google a search regarding DOGS EATING HAM. Your WITN article was the 2nd one that came up. Thanks to this website and you sharing your information I was able to confirm my suspicion.
  • by The sitter on Dec 28, 2009 at 04:20 AM
    Wish I had known this! We are dog sitting over Christmas for a dog that his owners occassionally give a scrap or two to, so my husband thought he would give him a tiny piece of ham fat for a treat. He happily devoured it, but almost right away he started coughing like he was going to throw up, he didn't though so we thought it was just the texture or something. The next morning we woke up to poop smell - the poor thing had crapped in his kennel overnight and has had diarrea all day, the poor thing, we feel terrible!! Thankfully it is slowing but the gas coming from that dog is still gut wrenchingly awful. I hope it's out of his system tomorrow!!
  • by Sarah on Dec 27, 2009 at 05:53 PM
    I wish I had read this sooner. I fed my dog a half a dish of ham and came home to diarrhea all over the house. I feel so awful, I wish I could console her. She's not pooping blood and will most likely need a vet visit.
  • by Mel on Sep 13, 2009 at 10:45 PM
    yup, not just dogs but humans too =)
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