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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