We can all agree that ham is integral to Easter and Thanksgiving dinner. With so much food and merry, most dog parents are tempted to dish out the occasional treat. Your pup cannot turn his nose up at the tasty meat scraps offered by well-meaning family and friends.
But just because Chewy likes the tasty ham bits and bones doesn’t mean he should eat them. Although offered to our furry companions with the best intention, a ham bone is one of the most offending foods. Toasting your pup that Christmas ham bone might do more harm than good.
Why Are Ham Bones Not Safe For Dogs?
Dogs are naturally carnivores and can feast on the raw bones of any species. They have pretty strong jaws to crush bones into multiple tiny fragments. Furthermore, their strong stomach acids help to digest bones and destroy pathogens.
Related: Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat? Is Raw Meat Good Or Bad For Dogs?
But feeding your dog ham bones, whether cooked or raw, is like planning an emergency trip to the vet’s office, especially if unsupervised. According to most vets, bones are the most common types of foreign bodies found in the esophagus of dogs.
Bones and dogs seem like the perfect pair, but it’s pretty complicated. Raw ham bones are a good source of minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Also, the chewing process stimulates the production of saliva, which helps prevent gum disease. But there’s the risk of choking and tooth damage from your pup gnawing at the bone aggressively.
Whether raw or cooked, ham bones can also splinter into hundreds of razor-sharp fragments that can puncture your dog’s internal organs. Moreover, feeding your pup raw ham bones can expose them to food-borne infections like E.coli and Salmonella.
Even worse, cooked bones tend to form a concrete-like obstruction in your pup’s intestine which can’t be excreted no matter how much force your dog exerts. So your pooch will have severe constipation from bone impaction and might need surgical assistance to have relief.
Depending on your pup’s size and how big or how much bone they consumed, the risks might be minimal or substantial. We recommend you contact your vet if you notice any strange behavior.
What Happens If My Dog Eats Ham Bones?
Tossing your dog a ham bone without supervision might end up causing more harm than good. Here are the risks of giving your dog ham bones:
Feeding your pup ham bones can cause intestinal obstruction. Your canine can accidentally swallow a chunk of ham bone, and it gets lodged in their esophagus, stomach, or intestines.
Depending on the size of the bone, obstruction can be partial or complete and impair blood flow, cause perforation, and damage the intestinal tract. The longer the blockage persists, the more intestinal tissues become necrotic because of insufficient blood flow.
The damaged portions of the intestines will need to be removed surgically. If your dog has a total intestinal obstruction, it could die within 3 to 4 days if no treatment is administered.
Perforation Of The GI Tract
Ham bones tend to crack and splinter easily when ingested compared to cow and bison bones. The bone shards pass through the gastrointestinal tract and can puncture your dog’s organs, especially the intestines, and cause internal bleeding.
Although most of the fragments can make their way out of the GI tract, there’s the risk that some can travel back into the windpipe, restricting your pup’s breathing and causing suffocation.
Crushing a bone requires strength, but the fragments can pierce your pup’s mouth and get lodged in their tongue, the roof of the mouth, and gums causing an infection. Although not life-threatening, the mouth sores are painful and may involve lots of blood.
When the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum) is inflamed, your dog will have peritonitis. In most cases, a foreign object like a bone fragment punctures the peritoneum, and the perforation causes a bacterial infection. Your furry friend will not show any symptoms but suddenly becomes ill.
Keep in mind peritonitis requires immediate surgery, and only 3 out of 10 dogs survive.
Ham bones are particularly fatty, and we know that fatty foods are problematic to dogs. Pancreatitis is a severe, life-threatening condition to your Fido. It is caused by a sudden inflammation of your pup’s pancreas, whereby it’s essentially auto digesting in an attempt to regulate the sudden influx of salty and fatty foods.
Signs To Look Out For When Your Dog Eats Ham Bones
The following 24 hours after your pup consumes a ham bone are crucial for survival. Stay alert and be ready to take your pet to the vet in case of these worrying signs.
This is often the first sign you’ll see after bone consumption causes an issue. Some pups will successfully vomit pieces of bone, but in other instances, they might vomit without expelling any bone. There might be a large chunk of ham bone stuck in their system that they’re trying to remove. It will help if you rush your pup to the vet clinic when they start vomiting.
When your pup ingests a ham bone, the fragments can pierce the intestines and cause intestinal perforation. Your canine companion may have dark-colored stool if the bone fragments cause intestinal bleeding.
Dark-maroonish or black stool indicates that your pup is bleeding in their intestinal tract. This is often accompanied by loss of appetite and lethargy, so you should rush to the vet immediately if you notice a dark stool.
Intact bones or fragments can cause trauma and lacerations to your pup’s anus as he tries to pass them.
Lack Of Appetite
A sudden lack of appetite could also indicate a problem. It could mean your dog has injuries in their gums and mouth from the bone splinters or a bone is stuck in their stomach. Alternatively, it could be that the bone fragments have pierced their intestinal tract.
A lack of appetite may take hours to notice, but if your pup is frantically drinking water, rush them to the vet as it could be an intestinal obstruction.
If your pup is lethargic after consuming a ham bone, it indicates infection. Since the bone fragments can easily puncture your dog’s GI tract, there’s a high risk of bacterial infection, which can cause lethargy. Internal infections are life-threatening; therefore, you should see a vet immediately.
Difficulty In Defecating
When a ham bone obstructs your pup’s intestinal tract, it will prevent feces from moving to the rectum. So although your dog will feel the urge to poop, he won’t be able to do so even if he tries. If you notice your pup is struggling to defecate after consuming a bone, there might be a bone fragment stuck in the intestine that needs to be removed.
My Dog Ate Ham Bones. What Now?
Although ingesting an entire ham bone is an emergency vet visit waiting to happen, some dogs are lucky to make it out safely without any severe symptoms or health complications.
Here are a few cautionary measures to save your dog’s life if he’s eaten a ham bone. But before you attempt anything, call your vet for guidance.
Offer Plain Bread
This remedy may be an old wives’ tale, but it certainly works. Feed your pup plain bread after eating ham to help coat the bone pieces and prevent them from damaging the gut lining.
Feed It Pumpkin Or Squash
Pumpkin is suitable for dogs, especially for their digestive health. It soothes stomach upset, regulates the pH of large intestines, and bulks up stool, so it can smoothly pass through the GI tract.
If your pup suffers from stomach upset and diarrhea after consuming too much ham bone, offer him a pumpkin for tummy relief.
Related: Can Dogs Eat Squash?
Check For Choking
In some cases, the bone can get lodged in your pup’s airways and cause choking. Your dog may start retching, pawing at its mouth, or pacing back and forth. If your pup is choking, you’ll need to take immediate action.
Check the inside of your dog’s mouth and see if you can remove bone pieces stuck in their throat. In case your dog is frantic and aggressive at this point, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver.
If, after 48 to 72 hours, your canine companion isn’t exhibiting any symptoms, they’re probably okay. But ensure they can’t get their jaws on any ham bones in the future, given the risk. And if they beg for it while you’re food prepping, toss them one of their dog treats.
Safe Alternatives To Ham Bones
The best bones that Fido can chew on safely and happily include:
- Raw knuckle bones
- Dental bones or dog chews
- Nylabones (bones made from nylon)
- Rawhide bones
- Hardened cow hooves
- Bully sticks
- Treat-dispensing toys
Recap: Can Dogs Eat Ham Bones?
Bones are a tempting treat for Fido, but you should offer them under strict supervision. Ham’s bones splinter easily, significantly when cooked, and can damage your pup’s digestive tract. They are also very fatty and can cause pancreatitis. Moreover, they carry bacteria that cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting.
If you have to give your dog a raw ham bone, we recommend you first consult your vet. Also, ensure it’s raw and larger than the size of your Fido’s muzzle.
Only offer Chewy bones after meals so that he chews instead of gnawing or swallowing them out of hunger.
Can Dogs Eat Smoked Ham Bones?
Smoking has similar effects on ham-like cooking. The bones become brittle and can splinter into several fragments, causing severe internal damage. There is also the risk of preservatives and smoke flavorings that can wreak havoc on your pup’s health.
Can Dogs Eat Ham Bones from Petco?
Commercially available bones, although processed, might still present a risk of illness to your canine. Most processed bones are baked or smoked with added flavoring, preservatives, and seasoning. We recommend you chat with your vet before feeding your dog Petco ham bones.
Are Chewing Toys Safer than Real Bones?
Yes. Chewing toy bones are germ-free and have a textured surface, so they gently brush your Fido’s teeth. Although they don’t provide the same nutrients as raw bones, they are safer for your dog.