Pig ears are making both dogs and humans sick.

By Dan Nosowitz
Updated September 11, 2019
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If your pooch loves pig ears, we're sorry to say they're going to have to do without them for awhile—for their safety and your own. At the end of July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning to throw out and stop buying the dog treats because of a salmonella outbreak. The agency just released an update on the original investigation, and unfortunately, the epidemic is getting even worse.

The agency reports that now 143 people from 35 states have contracted salmonella from handling pig ears. The site notes that out of the 110 people with available information, 33 have been hospitalized. It adds that 26 of those who've fallen ill have been younger than 5 years old. Fortunately, no deaths have been reported.

Salmonella is a varied genus of bacteria that can cause all sorts of illnesses, for both people and dogs. In humans, it tends to show up in gastrointestinal disorders, including diarrhea and stomach cramps. Usually, illness lasts four to seven days and does not require treatment. In severe cases, the infection can spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and may require hospitalization. For dogs, diarrhea is also common, but it can be harder to tell when a pet is sick; after all, they can’t tell us what’s wrong. So it’s not unlikely that salmonella infection in your pet pup could just look like fatigue, apathy, or lethargy. In severe cases, salmonella in dogs can require hospitalization, mainly consisting of fluids and antibiotics, to help the dog fight off the bacteria.

To prevent illness, pet owners are advised to wash their hands after handling any unpackaged dog food and treats, and to avoid letting dogs lick their faces after eating (it's also important to make sure young children abide by these safety suggestions, the CDC says).

The CDC issued a statement saying that an investigation is ongoing, and the CDC took the somewhat unusual step of issuing a blanket warning for the entire product. “CDC and FDA are now advising people not to buy or feed any pig ear dog treats to pets, including any that may already be in homes,” the statement says.

So what should you do if you have pig ears on hand? The CDC recommends that pet owners securely bag and throw away any pig ear dog treats they currently have, and take whatever steps necessary to keep your dog from investigating that delicious pig-ear odor in the garbage can. If you see any of the telltale symptoms of salmonella infection, go to the doctor or veterinarian immediately. And please don’t buy any more pig ears until this is all figured out!

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