Can Dogs Eat Tamales? A Comprehensive Guide for Pet Owners

Tamales, a popular traditional dish, have been cherished for generations for their flavorful taste and cultural significance. As pet owners, we often find ourselves wondering whether our beloved canine companions can enjoy the same culinary experiences we do. So can dogs eat tamales?

Dogs should not eat tamales as they contain ingredients like onions and garlic, harmful to them. High-fat content may lead to pancreatitis. However, some tamale variations could be safer, but caution is key.

What are tamales?

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish that dates back to around 7000 B.C. The ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations developed the initial recipes that still play a large part in the modern dish.

This delicious delicacy is eaten all over Latin America and even the United States.

What are they made of?

To make a tamale, a corn dough mixture, called masa is used. “It is made by taking dried corn kernels and cooking them with lime – a process called nixtamalization – and then grinding them in a mill to make a rough dough or “masa”. This is dried and powdered and packaged.”, explains Richard Cornish, for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Lard and water are added to the mixture and then it is spread on a soft corn husk. Once prepared, this is filled with meats like chicken, beef, steak, or pork. Salsa, cheese, and pine nuts are added for extra taste and texture. Then, it is wrapped and steamed, after which tamales can be consumed.

What are the risks of dogs eating tamales?

There are a few reasons why tamales are not safe for dogs. For one, dogs should eat grain-free food instead of one that is high in carbs. And corn-based dishes contain a lot of grains. But there are a few more serious problems that can arise from the added ingredients.

Choking Hazard

If the dog loves eating and decides to quickly take in large pieces of the tamale, it may expose itself to choking. The corn husk is usually the most problematic thing of all the ingredients. A choking dog looks scared, unable to breathe, and prone to collapse. If the corn stuck gets stuck alongside the intestines, signs of blockage may occur. The symptoms will be the same as those that occur after a dog eats a string from a rope toy.


Because some people add garlic and onions to their tamale recipe, they may intoxicate their dogs. These vegetables are part of the Allium family and contain a compound that can break down red blood cells. 

Tamales are also made with additional spices that can irritate the gastrointestinal system and cause issues. Vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea can result from this.

Obesity risk

You should not share your tamale leftovers with your dog because they are a high-calorie dish. One of the main ingredients of this meal is lard, which is caloric and has saturated fats. If your dog continuously eats these high-calorie meals, it will start gaining weight and become obese.

Tiffany M. Powell-Wiley et al., in a study regarding obesity, explain that:

Obesity contributes directly to incident cardiovascular risk factors, including dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and sleep disorders. Obesity also leads to the development of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease mortality independently of other cardiovascular risk factors.


Besides getting your dog fat, the high amounts of lard will also expose your dog to developing pancreatitis. This life-threatening condition will cause immense pain and discomfort to your dog. It is usually accompanied by vomiting, lethargy, and constipation as well. Recognizing early symptoms of pancreatitis is important and veterinary care is required as soon as possible.

Sodium toxicity

Salt is a main ingredient of tamales as its responsible for giving it its taste. However, dogs are only allowed to have low amounts of salt in their diet. If they eat too much, they can develop symptoms of sodium toxicity. 

High amounts of salt also increase the dog’s blood pressure. If a dog eats that much salt, it needs to get clean water and rehydrate.

GMO ingredients

Additional health risks of giving tamales to pets are the fact that genetically modified ingredients are added for certain benefits. The corn dough which is an essential part of this meal can be made from genetically modified corn.

Even though not completely proven, there are fears that GMO food can cause serious problems for dogs and people. This can include problems such as cancer, infertility, allergies, and poor blood glucose control. However, this is not an immediate risk to think of when giving tamales to dogs.

What are some dog-friendly tamale ingredients?

Even though many of the tamale ingredients are unhealthy, there are a few that can benefit your dog. Because it can be filled with different kinds of meat, tamales can provide a lot of protein for dogs. 

Besides protein, fiber is another nutrient found in this delicious meal. Fiber is great for maintaining healthy digestion in dogs. Other important nutrients in tamales are a wide range of minerals and vitamins.

How can we make healthier tamales for dogs?

If you really want your dog to try tamales, you can adjust the ingredients a bit and make a completely healthy meal.

Use lean meats like turkey or chicken to get the highest amount of protein while reducing unnecessary fats. You can also add beans and vegetables to make a vegan version of the recipe. 

Then, replace lard with soft, low-fat cheese. Of course, for lactose-intolerant dogs, dairy should be taken off altogether. Salt and other seasoning should also be avoided.

What should you do if your dog accidentally consumes tamales?

Dogs can not have tamales so if they accidentally ingest some, they will experience symptoms. If you notice your dog eating a tamale, stay calm and try to take it out of its vicinity. Then, try to figure out how much it ate. Knowing the ingredients of the food will give you an idea of what to expect.

Monitor for any immediate symptoms while calling your vet. Sometimes dogs will vomit, faint, or experience diarrhea due to poisoning. Your vet will want to know all the information about your dog and the food it ate. Sometimes, you will need to bring the dog to their office. There, they will diagnose and treat your dog accordingly.

Can dogs eat hot Tamales candy?

Hot Tamales candy is not connected with the standard Mexican dish we know. But dogs should not eat that too. These candies are cinnamon-flavored and have a sweet and spicy taste. 

Because it’s candy, the ingredient list contains high amounts of sugar and corn syrup. Both foods can be very harmful to dogs and cause digestive issues, obesity, and diabetes.

The spicy taste can also burn the throat and intestines, while the artificial ingredients and colorings can additionally damage the intestinal system. Some dogs don’t know when to stop eating, so obedience training and control are essential in stopping this behavior.

Final thoughts – can dogs eat tamales?

While tamales are a cherished dish among humans, they are not ideal for our canine companions. Considering the types of ingredients included in this delicious meal, dogs can suffer from a few significant health problems if ingested.

The high fats and carbs can cause problems like obesity and pancreatitis. The corn husk itself can get stuck in the dog’s windpipe and cause choking. The spices and salt can cause serious intoxication.

Luckily, there are ways to prepare this dish for your furry friend without causing damage. But you will have to make some significant changes to the recipe. You can also just count it as food to avoid feeding your dog. Remember, sharing love with our pets doesn’t always mean sharing our food.


How many tamales can a dog safely eat?

The number of tamales a dog can safely eat depends on their size, breed, and individual tolerance. However, it’s best to avoid giving tamales as a regular part of their diet and instead offer them as occasional, special treats.

Can dogs eat the meat inside the tamales?

Dogs can not eat tamales, but the meat inside can be fine to consume. You just have to make sure that it isn’t seasoned with salt or other spices. If it was cooked with ingredients like onions and garlic it can cause an intoxication.

What other human foods can I feed my dog?

Some human foods safe for dogs include plain cooked meats like chicken or turkey, certain vegetables like carrots and green beans, and fruits like apples and blueberries. Always consult with your veterinarian before introducing new foods to your dog’s diet.

More dog nutrition resources

Here are a few other resources talking about giving certain foods to dogs and the effect they have on their health and safety.

You can find a lot more information on the types of food you can feed your dog on our site Dogisa!

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