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Tamale, the stodgy, delicious, and comforting Aztec meal of masa dough stuffed with fillings, was once considered a special occasion meal, even in Mexican restaurants. These days, however, it has become an everyday delicacy and is slowly encroaching on the territory once held by popular Mexican dishes like chicken enchiladas. Specialty restaurants stock different types of Tamales and aficionados have their favorite supplies. Put simply, Tamale is slowly going mainstream! But can we share it with our canine companions?
We’ll find out shortly but before then, let’s understand a few basics…
What are Tamales?
Tamale is a traditional Mexican delicacy made from corn dough mixture (masa) and filled with various meats. The corn mixture is enriched with lard then beaten until it becomes fluffy. Once ready, it is spread on a soft corn husk, stuffed with chicken, beef, steak, or pork in salsa, cheese, poblano, or pine nuts. Tamales date way to 7000 B.C. during the Mayan and Aztec civilizations and the recipes can vary greatly, with the only mainstays being the husk and the masa shell.
Can Dogs Eat Tamale?
The short answer:
Tamale is safe for dogs. So, giving your dog a little bit of this lovely Mexican delicacy won’t adversely affect him. However, certain ingredients used in various corn masa recipes including sodium, lard, salsa, and spices may upset your dog’s stomach and cause other health complications. Corn husk used to wrap the Tamale may also present a choking hazard to your canine friend.
The Long Answer:
As a dog parent, you have the responsibility of making sure that your pup has a clean bill of health. This is why when you walk on your dog swallowing Tamale or any other new food, you need to understand how the food can affect the functions of his body and mind.
So, is Tamale healthy for your dog? Well, let’s begin with some of the health benefits your dog stand to gain when he consumes some Tamale:
Protein and Fiber
Given that most Tamales are filled with high-protein meats—chicken, beef, steak, pork, etc—your dog is likely to get high amounts of his daily protein from chowing down some Tamale. It is estimated that one Tamale contains about 12 g proteins, which is ideal for transporting nutrients through your dog’s body and aiding the repair of his body cells. Tamales are also rich in fiber (one Tamale is believed to supply up to 6g of fiber), so they can promote healthy digestion in your dog. In case you are wondering how fiber can aid digestion in your Fido, you need to understand that fiber increases bulk and water in your dog’s intestines, slowing or speeding how fast food passes his digestive tract.
Extra Vitamins and Minerals
Tamales are rich in a wide range of Vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamin A, B, and K, all of which can go a long way in boosting your dog’s immunity, aiding growth and development of strong bones and teeth, and promoting fast wound healing.
Potential Health Concerns
While eating some Tamale is safe for dogs, some aspects of this savory Mexican dish leave a lot to be desired as far as your dog’s health is concerned.
Tamales are prepared with generous amounts of salt considering that salt is usually added to both the meat fillings and masa. However, too much salt in your dog’s diet can cause a wide range of health issues, including increased blood pressure and risks of cardiovascular diseases. Excess salt can also cause sodium poisoning in dogs, especially in situations where a dog can’t get fast access to clean water for rehydration.
Tamales are only safe for your dog if the fillings don’t contain onion, garlic, salsas, and other seasonings. Human spices like garlic, onions, etc may cause gastrointestinal irritation, diarrhea, and vomiting in dogs. Spices also contain sulfurs such as sulfoxides and disulfides, which can damage your dog’s red blood cells and cause anemia.
The masa in traditional Tamales is typically prepared with a lot of lard, which are basically rendered fats from pigs and other saturated fat sources. These types of fats can increase “bad” cholesterol levels in your dog, increase risks of cardiovascular diseases, and trigger inflammation in dogs.
It is estimated that Tamale packs about 285 calories. However, most dogs need about 25-30 calories per pound to maintain a healthy weight. So, allowing your dog to eat a lot of Tamales could expose him to excess calories.
GMO-tainted Corn Dough
Another health concern about feeding dogs Tamales is that they are usually made from corn dough. And in the US and Mexico, 88% of corn has been genetically modified. So, giving your dog Tamales may be more or less the same as allowing him to eat GMO foods. While some claims are not supported scientifically, there is fear that GMO-tainted foods can cause a wide range of health issues in dogs, including poor blood glucose control, cancer, infertility, allergy, and neurodegenerative conditions.
Choking Hazard from Ingesting Husk
If your dog ingests a small piece of husk, it will be digested normally and your pooch will be just fine. However, if he took a large piece, the dog may manifest symptoms like vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. For starters, while corn husk is not technically toxic to dogs, it may cause an obstruction if your dog ingests a large piece. If it does, a dog’s digestive system may have a hard time chewing on it. This is what causes symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The best news is that these symptoms may clear on their own without surgery or any medical help. But if the symptoms worsen, contact your vet immediately for help.
Making Tamales Healthier For Your Dog
If you want to share some Tamales with your four-legged friend without exposing him to some of the above-mentioned risks, you can make some for yourself—instead of buying relatively unhealthy commercial tamales. Here are some handy tips for making Tamales healthier for you and your pooch:
- Replace the meat and pork fillings with healthier alternatives like shredded white chicken, shrimp, turkey, beans, and vegetables. Beans and vegetable fillings will also boost the nutrient and fiber content of your Tamales, which is beneficial to your dog.
- Replace large amounts of lard or vegetable shortening used for the corn dough with moderate amounts of soft, low-fat cheese. Ensure that your dog is not intolerant to lactose before you opt for the cheese.
- Avoid adding seasonings and use less amounts of salt.
Although these changes will significantly alter the taste of your Tamales, they will be healthy for your Fido.
Tamales are soft, warm, delicious treats that are good for almost any occasion—holidays, family gatherings, special occasions, or otherwise. They are tasty for our dogs too but be cautious if you decide to share some with your dog as some Tamales can be high in sodium, fats, calories, and pose choking hazards to your dog. The only types of tamales that your dog can eat without you worrying about his health are those you’ve taken time to prepare at home because you can control the ingredients in them.
Sable McNeil is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.