JULY 31, 2019 UPDATE: The FDA and CDC announced today they are advising pet owners not to give their dogs any pig ear treats, and for stores to stop selling them.
Years ago, I gave my dog Larry pig ear treats to munch on because I heard they were safe for pets. But the stench and the fact that they were actual pig ears were a big turn-off for me, so I soon found a better alternative: odorless, nearly indestructible Kong toys (affiliate link).
Now there’s another reason why you might want to think twice before giving your dog pig ear treats. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that it’s investigating a link between these treats and Salmonella infections in humans.
Forty-five human cases of Salmonella enterica serotype have been reported in several states, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is working with the FDA on the investigation. Twelve people had to be hospitalized. Many of the people who got sick had been exposed to pig ear treats.
Samples of pig ears taken from bulk bins in retail stores by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development tested positive for several strains of Salmonella, the FDA reports, although not for Salmonella enterica serotype. Still, the test results are pretty alarming.
Salmonella infections can be deadly for very young and very old people, as well as people with weakened immune systems. In most cases, the infection will clear up on its own, but as those 12 people can tell you, you might end up in a hospital. In the worst cases, it can spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and other body parts.
The most common signs of a Salmonella infection are diarrhea, nausea, fever and abdominal cramps. If you’re giving your dog pig ear treats and are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to see your doctor.
Dogs can also get Salmonella infections. The symptoms are the same as those for humans, but infected dogs may have no symptoms at all. The problem is that dogs can easily pass the infection along to humans. “Once Salmonella gets established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, the animal can shed the bacteria, and the contamination will continue to spread,” the FDA notes.
If you still want to give your dog pig ear treats, the FDA warns that you should be sure to pick up the ears when your dog’s not chewing them, keep them away from small children, clean all areas that came into contact with them, wash your hands after touching them, and don’t let your dog lick anyone or any surfaces in your home. (Good luck with that.)
The FDA is not yet recalling any brand of pig ear treats. Two years ago, four brands were recalled due to possible Salmonella contamination.
If you think you or your dog has been sickened by a pig ears treat or any other pet product, you can report it on the FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal.