In the wild, it’s common for turtles to consume animal-based proteins in the form of fish and other meat carcasses that find their way into the ponds, rivers, lakes, and streams.
After all, they’re omnivores, which means that they consume both plants and meat as part of their diet.
This has led many turtle parents to wonder whether or not they can feed ham to their pets.
Unfortunately no, you want to avoid feeding ham to your turtles. Ham has too much protein and fat, and is a very calorie-dense food. When consumed in large amounts, this can cause serious problems in turtles, such as pyramiding (where the shell and underlying bone structure forms pyramids) or rapid, unhealthy weight gain.
In today’s post, we’re going to take an in-depth look at why you should avoid feeding ham to your turtles, what to do if you accidentally fed ham to your turtle, and how to create a healthy, well-balanced diet for your turtle.
Here’s what you need to know!
Do Turtles Like Ham?
If you give a piece of ham to a turtle, they’ll eat it without question. Like dogs, turtles love meat.
It could be old meat, rotten meat, or cooked meat, and the chances are that they would still chomp down on it without a second thought.
In the wild, it’s rather rare for turtles to come across meat, so they take advantage of the opportunity. It’s their biological programming.
However, the meat that turtles are used to eating in the wild is typically low-fat meat like fish.
Even then, fish are hard to catch, so this is often a rare treat.
Unlike fish, ham is very high in fat and protein, which can lead to health problems in turtles.
Despite how much your turtle may enjoy ham, it’s your job as a responsible pet owner to make sure that your turtle only eats what they’re supposed to.
Your turtle should get all of the nutrients and protein they need from a good turtle pellet food.
Nutrition Facts For 100g Of Ham Vs. 100g Of Shrimp
So, just to show you how unhealthy ham is compared to shrimp (a common staple in turtle diets and turtle pellets), we figured that we would show you a side-by-side comparison of the nutrition values for a 100-gram serving of ham versus a 100-gram serving of shrimp.
|Nutrient||Ham (100g)||Shrimp (100g)|
|Total Fat:||5.1 grams||1.8 grams|
|Protein:||22 grams||22 grams|
|Carbohydrates:||1.1 grams||1.6 grams|
As you can see, the ham has more than double the amount of fat that shrimp does. Below, we’ll discuss why it’s dangerous for turtles to consume large amounts of fat and protein.
Reasons Why Turtles Should Avoid Ham
Even though ham and shrimp have similar levels of protein, ham contains far more fat.
Now, you may be thinking,
“But don’t they use shrimp in turtle pellet food?”
Yes, while turtle food does contain shrimp, the amount is relatively low.
Simply put, the amount of shrimp contained in a serving of turtle food is safe and isn’t enough to hurt your turtle.
However, if you’re dropping large chunks of whole shrimp or ham into your turtle’s tank, then that will almost certainly cause some problems.
Here are the top reasons why you should avoid feeding ham to your turtle and the problems that are associated with high protein and fat consumption.
Ham Has High Fat Content (Rapid Weight Gain)
Of all the meats in the world, ham easily has the highest fat content.
This means that gram-for-gram, ham has more fat than chicken, fish, shellfish, and even beef.
So, just why is fat so bad for a turtle?
Well, when a turtle consumes a lot of fatty food, they end up consuming far more calories than they need to.
Even though the amount of food may seem small (a small piece of ham compared to a handful of veggies) the turtle will need to eat more of it to be full.
This, in turn, means they’ll consume too many calories and too much fat.
When turtles overeat, their bodies grow too fast under their shell. Unfortunately, their shells won’t be able to keep up with the rapid tissue growth, meaning that the turtle can become squeezed and uncomfortable in their shell.
This also leads to lethargic behavior and makes moving hard for them, which can lead to even more health problems.
Ham Has High Protein Content (Shell and Bone Deformity)
While turtles do need to consume small amounts of protein, they shouldn’t be eating large chunks of meat on a daily basis.
As we mentioned above, their regular turtle pellet food should be more than enough to satisfy their protein needs.
When turtles consume protein, their body turns the excess into a compound called keratin. This is what their shell is made of.
When too much protein is consumed, its shell (and the underlying bones) builds on itself rapidly. This causes the turtle’s shell to “pyramid.”
Points of the shell raise up to form large, bulky pyramids.
While pyramiding is not deadly, it can cause discomfort in your turtle and hinder their mobility.
How Much Ham Is “Too Much?”
In general, you should avoid feeding your turtle ham at all. The health risks associated with eating high-fat meat are just too great to ignore.
What To Do If You Feed Your Turtle Ham
If you accidentally fed your turtle some ham, don’t stress out. After all, you didn’t know better. One time isn’t going to hurt your turtle.
However, if you continue to feed them ham, that’s when problems can start to arise.
If you notice that your turtle has started to become obese or their shell is pyramiding, you should immediately reduce their protein and fat intake (food pellets, extra snacks), and supplement in more fruits and vegetables.
If you catch it early enough, they can lose the extra weight and their shell can smooth out before permanent damage occurs.
If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this:
Don’t make a habit of feeding your turtle ham or other high-fat meats. You should even limit the amount of low-fat meats (like chicken, fish, or shrimp) that you give your turtle.
By feeding your turtle a healthy balance of turtle pellets and fresh veggies, they’ll get all of the nutrients they need to live a long, happy, and healthy life.