Can Dogs Eat Tamales? (The Corn Husk Is Dangerous)

can dogs eat tamales
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Every few years, my family and I travel to Texas for the Christmas holiday. Our friends in Texas are of Hispanic heritage and invited my family to come down and celebrate by preparing Tamales and drinking fresh ground Columbian coffee. My friend’s labradors would always linger nearby waiting for food scraps. One Christmas my friend asked me if her homemade Tamales would be safe for her dogs to eat, which inspired me to write this post.

Can dogs eat Tamales? It depends. Most Tamales are safe for dogs to eat. Before you hand over those Tamales to your pooch, remove the corn husk fully and double-check the meat, Tamale mix, and seasonings for harmful ingredients. Some Tamales may contain spices, salsa, or even cheese that can cause upset stomachs in dogs.

In fact, many human foods with lots of seasonings and spices can be dangerous for our canine friends. Always consider the ingredients in the food before you offer any to your pooch.

What are Tamales?

Tamales are a Mexican delicacy made with corn dough mixed with meat and cooked inside wraps made of corn husk. They are a traditional Latin American dish and are common in Mexican and Guatemalan households. The dish’s history dates back to 5000 to 8000 BC.

How are Tamales made?

Tamales are made by mixing corn dough with broth and lard until it forms a thick batter. The batter is then spread on a corn husk or banana leaf.

Next, beef, pork, or chicken meat is added on top of the batter, with salsa for extra flavor. The husk is then wrapped and the Tamales are steamed. Before eating them, the husk is removed.

What are Tamales made of?

are tamales bad for you and dogs

The masa and the husk are the two ingredients that haven’t changed since the dish was served in ancient Aztec and Mayan households.

Masa is a dough that comes from corn. It’s actually a common ingredient in many popular Latin American food like pupusas, corn tortillas, and gorditas.

Modern Tamales also includes salsa, seasoned meat, cheese, vegetables, and chili peppers.

What are Tamales wrapped in?

Tamales are wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves. The wrapping is only used during cooking and is taken off before eating.

What ingredients are in Tamales?

The ingredients used inside Tamales vary greatly based on individual preferences. However, two things that are common in all recipes are masa and the corn husk or banana leaf wrapping.

Tamales are made with meat as well as vegetables. The meat varieties use beef, pork, or chicken with their broth and lard to enrich the masa.

Other recipes may substitute meat for cheese, beans, peppers, onions, and broth for vegetable stock. Spice is a popular flavor in this dish so some will add chili paste for flavor, along with other spices.

Fun Fact: These 5 spices are harmful to dogs: garlic, onion, cocoa powder, salt, and nutmeg. It’s best to avoid giving your pup any food with high content of onion and garlic.

Is Tamale bad for dogs?

Let’s look at the ingredients commonly found in Tamales and how they may affect our furry friends.

1. Cornhusk

dog ate corn husk

Although cornhusks are not toxic, they’re a choking hazard. The husk may get lodged in the dog’s throat, causing severe discomfort and suffocation. Cornhusks are also indigestible and can clog your pup’s intestines. 

Eating cornhusk can cause the following symptoms:

  • Suffocation.
  • Choking.
  • Sore stomach.
  • Vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Internal bleeding.

2. Masa

Masa is made from maize or corn dough. It is safe for dogs to eat on its own. However, the masa used in Tamales is enriched with unhealthy ingredients like lard, vegetable shortening, spices, salt, and salsa. These ingredients can upset your furry friend’s stomach.

Without those ingredients, masa is safe for dogs to eat.

3. Meat

Dogs are natural carnivores or meat-eaters, so any meat used in Tamales is safe for doggie consumption.

The least healthy meat option would be pork, which is rich in saturated fats. That aside, meat is the safest part of the Tamale for your canine pooch.

4. Salsa and chili peppers

Salsa contains spicy peppers and chilies, which your four-legged friends may find irritating. The canine digestive system isn’t made to process spice.

Ingesting lots of spicy food can lead to the following:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting. 
  • Indigestion.
  • Gagging.

Salsa also contains two toxic ingredients: onions and garlic, which we will discuss next.

5. Onion and garlic

Onion and garlic are both toxic to dogs. They contain a chemical that breaks down red blood cells in canines, leading to a condition called Hemolytic Anemia.

Eating onions or garlic in any form may cause these symptoms:

  • Lethargy.
  • Weakness.
  • Anemia.

6. Salt

Tamales are food with high sodium content due to the amount of salt added to the meat and the masa for flavoring. Some recipes also call for baking powder and chicken broth, both with their own sodium content.

Altogether, the sodium content of the Tamales can get very high. A dog that feeds on too much sodium or salt may experience the following symptoms:

  • Hypertension.
  • Dehydration.
  • Excessive urination.
  • Sodium poisoning.

7. Lard or vegetable shortening

Many Tamale recipes call for lard or vegetable shortening to be mixed with the masa for added richness. However, this makes Tamale a very unhealthy treat for our canine companions. Dogs that frequently eat fat-rich foods are prone to:

  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes.
  • Cholesterol imbalance.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Cardiac issues.

How the calories in Tamales can be bad for your dog

tamale outer wrap

Tamales can be pretty calorie-dense depending on the type of meat and additional ingredients used. When considering Tamales as food for your pooch, know that they are a snack.

Snacks should form no more than 10% of a dog’s daily consumption. Considering that an adult 25-pound dog needs no more than 625 calories a day, let’s see how different Tamale variants stack up.

Tamale typeCalories (per Tamale)% of a 25-pound dog’s Daily Requirement
Beef Tamale25040%
Canned Tamale23037%
Cheese Tamale27043%
Chicken Tamale21034%
Pork Tamale25040%

As you can see, even the lightest Tamales can fulfill much of a 25-pound dog’s daily calorie quota. Since snacks should not be such a big part of your dog’s diet, this calorie count is definitely unhealthy.

When shouldn’t you feed Tamale to your dog? 

When you make Tamales for people, you usually add flavoring and seasonings to enhance the taste. A dog’s stomach may be bothered by these ingredients, and they may get sick. So never feed dogs Tamales that are made for humans.

Additionally, never let your dog eat Tamales wrapped in a cornhusk. If you feed your dog cornhusk, it may get lodged in their throat or intestine, causing suffocation and constipation.

To save your dog from potential pain, dispose of the husk before giving your pooch some Tamales. 

Fun Fact: Spicy food is bad for dogs so avoid spicy human snacks like Takis that are not only spicy but also highly processed.

Does Tamale provide any nutritional benefit for your dog?

Tamales made with meat have lots of proteins and fiber. They’re also rich in vitamins A, B, and K.

Other nutrients include calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc.

But considering that Tamales can be unsafe for doggie consumption, these nutrients are better sought from safer foods specially designed for canines.

What if my dog accidentally eats a Tamale?

The only cause for immediate concern is if your canine friend eats the cornhusk with the Tamale. If your dog is small and the Tamale husk was big, they may need veterinary help to remove the blockage.

Keep a close eye on your pooch and immediately call your vet if he seems to be struggling. If your pup throws up and the husk comes out, there is no need to worry. But if your canine starts gagging, they need immediate help as soon as possible.

Symptoms to watch for

If your dog eats a large cornhusk, it may get lodged inside an intestine and cause a blockage. An excessive amount of sodium in Tamales, especially canned Tamales, can also trigger sodium poisoning.

Lastly, Tamales containing onion and garlic can induce toxicity in dogs.

Symptoms of blockage include:

  • Vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Stomachache.
  • Restlessness.
  • Constipation.
  • Gagging.

Symptoms for sodium poisoning include:

  • Excessive urination.
  • Fever.
  • Muscle spasm.
  • Runny stool.
  • Weakness.
  • Convulsions.
  • Dizziness.

Symptoms for onion or garlic toxicity include:

  • Breathing problem.
  • Vomiting.
  • Weakness.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Diarrhea.

Treatments if your dog has Tamales poisoning

If your dog seems to be choking after eating a Tamale, they need professional help right away.

The vet may try to induce vomiting by giving them hydrogen peroxide. The husk can also clog the dog’s intestines, in which case the vet may prescribe Metamucil to help pass it more smoothly. In more severe cases, the dog may require surgery.

Onion or garlic poisoning would be another pressing concern if your pooch consumes a lot of Tamales. A blood test will show the extent of the problem.

Fun Fact: Another human food that can get lodged in your pup’s throat if they didn’t chew it properly is Fortune cookies so it’s best not to give your small dogs a huge piece of it. Try breaking it into smaller pieces before giving it to your furry friends.

Can dogs eat Tamale husk?

how long are tamales good for dogs

No, dogs can not eat Tamale husk. Cornhusks are NOT food. They are used to wrap the Tamale and are inedible. Of course, your furry friends may not know the difference and may gobble down a bunch of cornhusks anyway.

Cornhusk isn’t toxic, so ingesting a little bit won’t harm your canine companion.

It is, however, difficult to digest and can cause blockage in your pup’s digestive tract. The risk is more severe in smaller dog breeds as they have narrower intestines and throat.

Can dogs eat the meat inside the Tamales?

Yes, dogs can eat the meat inside the Tamales. The meat is the safest part of Tamales—as long as it isn’t seasoned with ingredients toxic to dogs. If you’ve made Tamales with plain meat, they’re fine for canine consumption.

However, if you used chilies, onion, or garlic to season the meat, don’t let your four-legged friends eat it.

Can dogs eat hot Tamales candy?

No, dogs should not eat hot Tamales candy. Hot Tamales are a cinnamon-flavored candy with a sweet and spicy taste. They contain high amounts of sugar and corn syrup.

This much sugar is bad for our furry friends and can cause stomach problems, hormone imbalance, and diabetes. They also contain a slew of artificial ingredients and coloring, which may not sit well with your canine’s stomach.

What are some dog-friendly and safe non-toxic Tamales alternatives?

While Tamales contain a good amount of fiber, proteins, and vitamins, you can get all those nutrients from these safe snacks:

  • Bananas are an excellent source of potassium, copper, fiber, and vitamins. Feed them to your dog in moderation, as they can be pretty sugary.
  • Apples are high in fiber and loaded with vitamins. Slice them up and remove the seeds before giving them to your dog.
  • Pumpkin is a superb source of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. It helps keep the dog’s digestive system and immunity in top form.
  • Carrots are crunchy and sweet sources of fiber and lots of vitamins. Chop them into bite-sized chunks to make them easy to eat.
  • Eggs are loaded with protein and vitamins. Feed your dog plain cooked eggs without seasoning to help give them a protein punch.
  • Peppers—not chili peppers—make anti-inflammatory and vitamin-rich snacks for dogs. Make sure to remove the core.

When my friends come over for dinner, we usually make 2 to 3 Tamale dishes. They prefer spicy Tamales with lots of seasonings. Since our canine pups’ safety comes first, we usually try not to feed them any Tamales. Here’s what we give them instead:

How do I make Tamales for my dog at home?

Sometimes, when we make Tamales, I try to make dog-friendly versions. We use unseasoned meat and remove the husk after cooking. However, Tamales take a lot of time and effort to make so we just give them regular cooked meat. In all honesty, our dogs can’t tell the difference.

So, can dogs eat Tamales?

Dogs can eat Tamales if and only if the Tamales are made with plain meat, doesn’t have any seasoning, and is served without cornhusk. It’s best to only give your pup a small bite of it. Too much Tamale can be dangerous for our pups.

Related Questions:

Can dogs eat beef Tamales?

Yes, dogs can eat beef Tamales. Beef is perfectly fine for doggie consumption. Make sure the beef Tamales you’re feeding your pooch are free from seasoning and without the cornhusk.

Can dogs eat canned Tamales?

No, dogs should not eat canned Tamales. Canned Tamales have lots of salt and have a high amount of preservatives, making them unfit for dogs.

Can dogs eat corn Tamales on vegan diet? 

No, dogs should not eat corn Tamales on a vegan diet. Corn Tamales actually contain a high amount of sugar and butter. Our canines need neither of these ingredients in their daily diet and eating them will serve our pooch no benefit. The high sugar may even cause an imbalance in the dog’s blood sugar level.

Can dogs eat corn Tamales?

No, dogs should not eat corn Tamales. Corn Tamales are a sweet version of the dish and contain lots of sugar and butter. While dogs can eat them occasionally, be careful not to feed your dog corn Tamales too often.

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding dietary needs.