3 reasons not to fed your dog the Christmas ham

6 December 2017

Christmas is a time of feasting for the two-legged members of the family but care needs to be taken with our four-legged friends, according to new research.

Some of the most common ailments and causes of premature death in companion animals are easily preventable – that’s a key finding of VetCompass UK, which is now established in Australia led by the University of Sydney.

VetCompass is an opt-in nationwide veterinary records research database project using to provide a better understanding of disease risk factors for common disorders. The data is non-identifiable, protecting the privacy of animal owners.

Veterinarians are providing a timely reminder to be pet-food aware this holiday season.

“There are some festive treats that dogs should never eat – like macadamia nuts or raisins, or chocolate,” says University Veterinary Teaching Hospital Sydney CEO Dr Mark Lawrie, in the video.

For many families, ham is also a staple item on the Christmas table. Unfortunately for Fido, there are 3 very good reasons to resist.

1. A disease called pancreatitis

Dogs can suffer from a disease called pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, which can be triggered by fatty treats like ham offcuts and trimmings.

2. A symptom called steatorrhea

Fatty ham can give dogs the equivalent of indigestion, which may lead to steatorrhea, often resulting in foul-smelling fatty stools. Professional practice lecturer at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science Dr Anne Fawcett said she sees plenty of dogs after Christmas suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea.

“Most of those cases have involved dogs that have eaten either the Christmas ham, lamb or turkey – and we have seen some incidences as a result of prawns.

“Dogs often have a reasonably bland diet. A sudden influx of fatty festive foods can wreak havoc on their gut, leading to gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, pancreatitis etc. They can also suffer from intestinal obstruction or perforation due to foreign bodies like bones, kebab sticks and toothpicks," says Dr Fawcett.

3. The risk of gastric dilation-volvulus (AGDT)

Ham, as one of the “tasty meats”, is more likely to encourage scoffing – this can increase the risk of gastric dilation-volvulus, referred to as ‘twisted stomach’, a condition commonly associated with large meals especially after strenuous exercise.

University of Sydney Veterinary Professor Paul McGreevy has recently been involved in a study about gastric dilation-volvulus using emergency-care veterinary clinical records from the VetCompass program in the United Kingdom.

Key warning signs are restlessness, drooling, panting and retching. The findings indicated about four in five surgically managed cases survived to discharge, underlining the importance of presenting dogs to veterinarians promptly.

If your pet is unwell please get them to your vet. Don’t delay particularly if they have vomiting and/or diarrhoea and especially if they are not drinking. It could be life threatening like pancreatitis or AGDT.

Information about VetCompass in Australia is at; vets can register their interest in signing-up at or by emailing