Pigs ear dog treat.

Pigs Ear For Dogs - Should You Give Them To Your Dog or Puppy?

Conscious pet parents are always on the lookout for natural and healthy treats for their canine companions. However, just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s healthy and some natural treats can do more harm than good. But is that the case with pig’s ears for dogs?

In short, pig’s ears are a fairly healthy and wholesome treat. However, there are some risks to be aware of if you decide to feed pig ears. Moreover, these treats work great for some dogs but might be dangerous or unhealthy for others. Keep reading if you want to find out whether feeding pig’s ears to your dog is a good idea.

Pigs ear dog treats.

Are Pigs Ear Treats Healthy?

Pig’s ears immediately attract attention when you see them on a shelf in the pet store or online. They look funny, they are not over-processed, and most dogs go crazy about them.

These are the main positive sides of pig ear dog treats:

A Wholesome Single-Ingredient Treat

First, pig’s ears are a simple natural treat. If you’ve been wondering what pig's ears are - they are exactly what the name suggests. Unlike some other treats, they are not ground up and formed into different shapes, they are simple pig’s ears, or rather the tips of their ears. You can usually find them air-dried or baked, and they do not contain any additives except sometimes salt. You can often find pig’s ears that are smoked too, but these are not that good for dogs.

On that note, if you get your pig’s ears from a reputable manufacturer, you won’t need to worry about deciphering the ingredient list and identifying suspicious substances. There really should be only one ingredient listed - pig ears. This also means pig ears are compatible with limited-ingredient diets, unless, of course, your dog doesn’t respond well to pork.

Pig Ears Are Nutritious

Second, pig ears are nutritious. The part of the air that is made into a dog treat is made mostly of cartilage and skin. Dogs can get glucosamine and chondroitin from the cartilage which is good for joint health. Pig’s ears contain lots of protein, but they are also rich in fat. However, as long as you are aware that a pig’s ear is a calorie-bomb and take that into account when feeding your dog, the fat content shouldn’t be that much of a problem.

A Natural Chew-Toy

Finally, pig’s ears are great for satisfying the dog’s chewing instinct. Pig ears are chewy, but not as tough as some animal bones or antlers for example. This means that the ear will get eaten quickly, but it will still offer some chewing activity for your dog. Since they are made of cartilage and not bones, pig’s ears have a flexible quality to them. This means they are safe for your dog’s teeth, unlike hard bones which can cause dental problems [1].


Are Pigs Ear Treats Harmful?

As you have seen, there are many reasons why pig ears are a good treat. But are there any dangers one should worry about? While this doesn’t necessarily mean that pig ears are bad overall, there are some pitfalls to consider before deciding whether you will offer an ear to your dog.

Choking Hazard

While not nearly as dangerous as cooked bones, for example, which can break into sharp pieces and hurt your dog, pig’s ears are still not 100% safe (but is anything?). While pig ears are chewable, some voracious eaters can be too eager and swallow whole chunks of the ear. These pieces can then cause choking, intestinal blockage, or general stomach upset.

On the other hand, some dogs will be perfectly fine and chew their ears carefully bit by bit. This is more a question of character than the size of the dog. In any case, it’s best to supervise your dog when feeding pig ears and stop doing so if you notice dangerous behaviour.

High Fat Content

The second often mentioned concern about pig ears is their high fat content. Now, the amount of fat is not a problem in and of itself. Dogs do need fats in their diets, and those who enjoy a lot of physical activity will benefit from more fat [2]. However, pig ears do contain an unusual amount of fat for a treat. In some dogs, such fatty foods can cause stomach upset. If you notice this, it means that pig ears are simply not the best choice for your dog. They are also not the best choice for dogs who need a low-fat diet (like those that are overweight or those suffering from pancreatitis, for example.


Can Dogs Get Sick from Pig’s Ears?

Contamination is one of the main risks associated with pigs ears dog treats. Recalls and warnings about salmonella outbreaks connected to pig ear dog treats seem to pop up recurrently in  North America every couple of years [3, 4]. While salmonellosis can be a problem for dogs, sometimes they can also carry the infection without showing any symptoms [5]. Humans can also get salmonella from handling contaminated dog food if not practising proper hygiene.

Now, while there is always a potential risk of food being contaminated (and not just pig ears for dogs), the risk can typically be lowered by buying from trusted manufacturers. Moreover, this is only an issue with raw treats. Baked pig ears don’t carry such risk because the heat treatment kills the bacteria.

There were also some cases where an obscure toxin that seems to be coming from various dog treats, including some pig ears, has caused kidney problems in dogs [6]. The exact story behind these cases, however, is still unknown.


Can Puppies Have Pig’s Ears?

Pig’s ears are a perfectly fine treat for puppies. The same risks that are present when feeding pig ears to adult dogs apply here too. One is the potential for contamination in raw products, and the other one is the potential for swallowing pieces of the ear that are too large. However, most of the time, pig ears are a great treat for puppies. These treats will let puppies satisfy the chewing instinct while still being soft enough not to damage their teeth. Just make sure to keep an eye on the puppy while it’s chewing.


How Many Pig’s Ears Can I Give My Dog?

A pig’s ear is a large treat, so that’s something to keep in mind whenever you are feeding them to your dog. No matter how much your dog loves them, you should feed these treats in moderation. A single pig ear is estimated to contain 184 calories, so adjustments to the daily amount of food your dog gets should be made following that. A common recommendation is one pig ear per week for a medium-sized dog.


Pig’s Ears: The Verdict

So, in the end, are pig ears good for dogs? Well, our answer is - most of the time they are. Pig ears are a natural treat, made without any preservatives or additions. They are softer than bones and fairly safe for dogs to chew. They are also rich in both protein and fat.

On the downside, raw pig ears can carry a certain degree of risk of salmonella infections. They are also not the best choice for dogs who devour their food without chewing properly. Another case where pig ears don’t work well is with dogs who shouldn’t have (or can’t tolerate) overly fatty foods.

However, as long as you are aware of this, you can try feeding your dog some pig’s ears if you think they will enjoy them.

Tips for feeding pig’s ears to your dog safely:

  • Shop carefully. The risk of contamination is much lower if you buy your pig’s ears from reputable and familiar manufacturers.
  • Feed in moderation. Remember that pig’s ears are a highly caloric treat. Even if your dog chews up the ear in 30 seconds, no, they probably shouldn’t have another ear.
  • Always feed under supervision. Pay attention to your dog when you feed them pig’s ears. This way, you’ll be able to notice a bad reaction early and stop your dog from swallowing small chunks of the ear.

References

  1. Schade, Victoria. January 23, 2017. “4 Treats That Can Harm Your Dog's Teeth”. PetMD. Retrieved January 13, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/4-treats-can-harm-your-dogs-teeth-0#slide-1
  2. PetMD Editorial. October 21, 2011. “Fats and Oils: Good for Your Dog’s Health?”. PetMD. Retrieved January 13, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_fats_and_oils_good_for_your_dogs_health
  3. “Avoid All Pig-Ear Dog Treats: U.S. Officials”. September 6, 2019. FETCH by WebMD. Retrieved January 13, 2021. https://pets.webmd.com/news/20190906/avoid-all-pig-ear-dog-treats-us-officials
  4. Hendrick, Bill. May 5, 2011. “Recall of Pig Ears for Pet Treats”. FETCH by WebMD. Retrieved January 13, 2021. https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/news/20110505/recall-of-pig-ears-for-pet-treats
  5. PetMD Editorial. January 23, 2009. “Salmonella Infection in Dogs”. PetMD. Retrieved January 13, 2021. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/digestive/c_dg_salmonellosis
  6. “What should I know before feeding dog treats?”. December 10, 2021. RSPCA. Retrieved January 13, 2021. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-should-i-know-before-feeding-dog-treats/
Vedrana Nikolic

Vedrana Nikolić is a professional writer, anthropologist & dog lover with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying the communication between animals and humans. Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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