Are Pig Ears Safe for Dogs to Eat?
Dogs love chewing on pig ears (real ears of pigs you can buy in pet supply stores) but are these safe for your dog to eat? Let us look at the risks and dangers of letting a dog eat, or chew, a pig ear.
Pig ears are a fairly new treat offered for dog owners to feed their dogs, they are dried ears, and are hard, chewy, and crunchy. Although dogs love them they can be risky
Some dogs have allergies to pork, others simply find it hard to digest. In either case diarrhea is not uncommon, vomiting can also occur. Dogs with pork allergies may also have hot spots, inflamed itchy areas on their skin, as a result of eating the pig's ear. This is not the only concern.
Pig Ears have the potential to carry bacteria, such as e-coli, or salmonella, in fact there have been several recalls related to salmonella on pig ears. Risks are higher when the pig ears come from foreign countries such as China.
Another risk of feeding your dog pig ears is that they can splinter. A splinter can get driven into the dog's gums, or even get stuck in the throat. For this reason a pig ear should never be fed to a dog that is not being supervised.
Puppies under 6 months have sensitive stomachs and should not have pig's ears to chew on until they are a bit older. Always supervise a puppy with a new chew.
Pig ears are also fatty, for this reason if they are fed they should only be fed as an occasional treat.
Alternatives to Pig Ears
Popular alternatives to pig ears are rawhide and bully sticks, but are these safe?
Rawhide has been around for years, it can be bleached or natural, and is often formed into shapes such as bones. Rawhide is made from the hide of cattle, so any dog that has allergies to beef may have the same problems as a dog that has allergies to pork; diarrhea, vomiting, itching.
Rawhide is not highly regulated, some tests have found rawhide tainted with antibiotics, arsenic, or even lead (particularly if it originated in China). Rawhide has sometimes been found to have salmonella.
The biggest risk from rawhide is the fact that it is not easily digestible. Dogs can swallow large chunks of rawhide, especially if the rawhide was shaped like a bone or ball. This can be a choking hazard. Dogs have been autopsied with large blobs of undigested rawhide in their stomach. While this may not have caused their death it certainly impeded their digestion and could have been a contributing factor to a dog's death.
Bully sticks are actually dried bull, or steer, penises. They are more digestible than rawhide, but could be a problem for dogs with beef allergies. They have a small risk of salmonella but are generally considered safe for dogs.
Other alternatives are cotton rope toys and kong type toys, as well as large beef bones.