Safety of Pig Ears for Dogs

By Laura Payne

Of the many natural chew products available on the market for dogs, pig ears have become one of the most popular. They have more flavor than antler chews, cow hooves and rawhide, and are more digestible than rawhide. However, there are safety concerns to be aware of before you give your dog a pig ear. Check with your veterinarian before giving your dog any chew products.

Salmonella Contamination

Pig ears are known to hold a risk of Salmonella bacteria contamination, prompting U.S. Food and Drug Administration recalls on pig ears. Salmonella bacteria from a pig ear can infect both your dog and you when you handle a contaminated pig ear or through contact with an infected dog.

Signs of Salmonella infection to watch for in your dog include:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Fever.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Lethargy.

Signs of human Salmonella infection to watch for include:

  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal cramping.
  • Fever.

Not all dogs who are infected exhibit signs of infection, but they can still infect other animals and humans.

In general, pig ears from the U.S. are of higher quality and have a lower risk of Salmonella contamination.

Choking and Obstruction Hazard

As with many types of dog chews, pig ears can break or be chewed into smaller pieces. When your dog tries to swallow a broken piece of a pig ear, it can block his windpipe and cause him to choke. Additionally, if a broken piece makes it past his windpipe, it can cause an obstruction in his intestinal tract and can even perforate his bowel.

If you give your dog a pig ear or any other chew treat, you should always monitor him and remove any small broken pieces of the treat to prevent choking or other hazardous outcomes.

Dental Damage

While it is true that dogs who actively chew have less plaque buildup, pig ears and other chews can damage and break your dog's teeth. Even if they do reduce plaque and tartar, pig ears are not recommended by Animal Dentistry and Oral Surgery of Leesburg, Virginia or WebMD because they are known to fracture and break teeth and lead to infection.

Dog chews must reduce plaque and tartar by at least 10 percent to gain the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of acceptance. Both Animal Dentistry and Oral Surgery of Leesburg, Virginia and WebMD recommend using products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

High in Fat

Another concern with pig ears is their high fat content and greasiness. Premium Pig ears have about 230 calories, which makes up a good portion of a dog's recommended daily caloric intake. Pig ears are also very greasy and can cause gastrointestinal problems in any dog, but they are of extra concern for dogs with pancreatitis.

Consult your veterinarian to see if she recommends pig ears as a part of your dog's diet, and if she does, ask how frequently you should give your dog a pig ear.