Can Turtles Eat Ham? What To Do If Your Turtle Ate Ham?

Jun 13, 2021

Can Turtles Eat Ham

If you are like me, I am sure you’re guilty of giving your pet turtle table food every once in a while. But over the years, I’ve completely cut off this behavior after knowing how harmful it could be for turtles. And that brings us to our question of the day. Can turtles eat ham? After all, this meat has a somewhat notorious reputation for harboring viruses. Remember swine flu? 

Let’s find out. 

Can Turtles Eat Ham?

Although a small amount once in a while is not harmful, turtles shouldn’t eat harm. Irrespective of the species, ham is not something a turtle would eat in the wild. It is very high in protein and fat, which can cause health complications like pyramiding and obesity in turtles. Ham can also contain the salmonella virus, alongside other deadly viruses.

On the other hand, it contains very minute traces of nutrients like vitamin A and calcium, which are beneficial for turtles. 

Thus, as you can see, the risks outweigh entirely any benefit that ham imparts to turtles. It’s best to stick to other protein sources they can easily digest and are familiar with, like bugs, critters, and live fish. 

Now that you know whether or not can turtles eat harm, let’s see if they actually like it. 

Do Turtles Like Ham? 

Omnivore turtles are likely to eat any food you give them. So, there’s a good chance that your pet turtle will love nibbling on ham, just like any other meat. However, you’re the wiser one here. So, don’t give ham just because he likes it. 

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My Turtle Accidentally Ate Ham. What Can I Do? 

Don’t worry. If it’s just once, your turtle should be fine. At worst, he may experience some discomfort in digestion. However, it is wise to monitor his behavior and pooping pattern for a day or two to be sure. 

Let’s suppose your pet turtle consumed a big piece of ham. In that case, it’s best to seek your vet’s advice. This time, be even more vigilant of his symptoms. 

Nutrition Facts For 100 Grams of Ham 

NutrientAmount
Calories 139
Total Fat5.1 grams
Cholesterol64 milligrams
Protein22 grams
Phosphorus157 milligrams
Vitamin A 0.9%
Calcium0.3%
Iron4.6%

Note: The percentage value is based on a 2000 calorie diet.

As clear from the table above, there’s a high concentration of calories, fat, protein, and cholesterol in ham, which isn’t necessarily good for turtles. 

Ham has a lot of benefits to offer to humans. For instance, selenium present in ham helps boost immunity, while niacin raises good cholesterol and reduces bad cholesterol levels. 

But is ham any good for turtles? Not so much. 

5 Reasons Why Turtles Shouldn’t Eat Ham

ham
ham

Since ham isn’t healthy for turtles, you should refrain from giving it, whether as a snack or regular food. Its high protein content can cause pyramiding, while its fatty nature can cause obesity. Likewise, it has the wrong calcium: phosphorus level and can contain salmonella. 

High Protein Levels Can Cause Pyramiding 

Turtles, especially young ones, need to intake a good amount of protein every day to ensure proper development. However, if you overfeed protein-rich food, it can backfire in unforeseen ways. For example, it can cause pyramiding of the shell and impair their growth. 

And 100 grams of ham contains about 22 grams of protein. That’s a very imbalanced ratio given the turtle’s body weight.

So, what’s pyramiding? Pyramiding is one kind of metabolic bone disease (MBI) that is quite common in turtles. It causes the turtle’s shell to deform and elevate. In more severe cases, your turtle can ever experience tremors, extreme weakness, and bone fractures. 

Fatty Food Can Cause Obesity 

100 grams of ham contains 22mg of fat. Once again, that’s quite a lot, given the turtle’s weight. If you consistently feed fatty food like ham, your turtle will become obese in no time. And as you may have guessed, obesity comes with a host of caveats – such as fatty liver disease. 

The fatty buildup in the liver will compromise your pet’s immune system and make him prone to a host of other diseases. 

Likewise, obesity also hinders a turtle’s movement. For instance, he may not be able to retract his body into the shell or move properly. 

High Phosphorus Content

The ideal calcium: phosphorus ratio for turtles is 2:1. But as you can see in the table above, the ratio for ham is very far from what is deemed healthy. Ham is known for its high phosphorus content, which can be good for humans but not turtles. 

Overfeeding food rich in phosphorus is known to disturb the calcium absorption process in turtles by forming calcium phosphate – an insoluble compound.

To supplement a turtle’s calcium needs, you can also add one of these slow-release calcium blocks for your pet. 

Ham Can Contain Deadly Viruses 

Ham may contain salmonella, alongside other viruses that could be potentially life-threatening to turtles. Since ham is not a part of a turtle’s natural diet, his body may not be able to deal with the potential pathogens ham may contain. 

While the risks are reduced with cooked ham, it’s best not to give any form of ham at all. 

Low Traces Of Nutrients Turtles Need 

As apparent from the table above, you can see ham contains minuscule traces of vitamin A and calcium that are indispensable for turtles. Ham also has vitamin D in very minute amounts. Thus, it isn’t a nutritious snack for turtles by miles, is it?

On the flipside, ham contains many nutrients that could serve antinutrients in turtles – like high amounts of protein and phosphorus. 

Conclusion: Can Turtles Eat Ham?

No, turtles shouldn’t eat ham because it’s not a healthy reptile. A turtle’s body isn’t built to digest ham, which can lead to obesity. Likewise, its high protein content can cause pyramiding. 

Ham also has the wrong calcium: phosphorus ratio for turtles and can contain salmonella. 

Instead, you can give your pet turtles earthworms, June bugs, slugs, feeder fish, and other critters to fulfill their protein or meat requirement. 

Keep Reading!

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.