Pig ear chews are one of the most popular dog treats as they provide dogs with the tantalizing scent of meat that other chew toys and treats can't offer. But, can puppies have pig ears? You've most likely seen adult dogs chew on pig ears as an edible toy, but are they safe for younger dogs?
Yes, puppies can have pig ears, BUT we recommend that you wait until your puppy is of 6 months of age or older before giving this treat. This is due to health concerns with the pig ears themselves. It should be noted that even after six months of age, there are still risks to consuming pig ear treats.
So what are the safety concerns surrounding puppies having pig ears? Do any of these safety concerns go away once they become adult dogs? What's a healthy alternative to pig ears that will help relieve boredom or anxiety in your dog? What can you replace their favorite treat with?
3 Health/Safety Concerns With Pig Ears for Puppies
Although pig ears are made to be completely edible, and an alternative to rawhide, there are some aspects that could make the treat potentially hazardous for the puppy.
Aside from harmful bacteria strains, there are also physical concerns of pigs ears being a choking hazard and other oral issues, mostly cuts and scrapes to gums.
Sadly, pig ears are not produced in the most sanitary conditions. Pig ears themselves are considered to be a waste product from the production of pork products.
It's this reason, even if these pig ears are dried and of high quality, if they are not sanitized properly, there are various harmful bacteria that are growing and populating on these pig ears. Young pups under six months of age may not have the immunity required to effectively fight off these bacteria strains.
Now, these bacteria strains can prove to be very dangerous for both humans and dogs because, as we have mentioned, there are so many different pathogens that cause sicknesses, living on the insides of a pig. The most notable one and the most common one is salmonella.
In fact, this dangerous characteristic of pig ears was the cause of a recent salmonella outbreak in 2019 during which the government made an official statement telling all pig ear producers to temporarily stop producing them and making the consumers aware of the risks of providing pig ears to their dogs.
The main problem with salmonella is that though it does not kill, it can cause severe sicknesses in both humans and dogs, especially puppies.
Luckily, however, salmonella tends to be an easier fix for humans because there have been many different ways that have developed over time to cure or alleviate salmonella infection symptoms.
On the other hand, this is not necessarily true for dogs. It is crucial that you are careful of bacteria, especially when you are feeding pig ears to puppies with weak immune systems.
2. Choking Hazard
Although this applies to a plethora of other chew treats/toys that are available on the market today, this fact is especially true for puppies and pig ears.
Just like beef jerky, pig ears are made out of dried meat. This means that the treat itself is a lot more chewy and, therefore, more difficult to break down with the teeth before swallowing it.
You want to have dogs chewing on the treat for as long as possible so it softens up enough to be able to swallow it without a problem. Unfortunately, dogs do not think the same way when they are chewing on pig ears.
The scent and taste of meat only encourages them to hastily gobble up the consumable chew toy, just like candy is for humans.
However, pig ears tend to be much more dangerous since they are brittle, hard, and difficult to chew. This means that if it ends up lodged in your dog’s throat, it will be very challenging for you to dislodge it without professional intervention.
However, you have to try until help arrives. What you can do in such cases is to perform the Heimlich maneuver on your dog:
First, put one fist on your dog’s stomach region and have the other hand wrap the fist around as you hold the dog from behind.
Next, pull in so that the fist pushes into your dog’s stomach and aim it slightly upwards, as if to squeeze something out through your dog’s mouth.
If this does not work, the next step is to flip your dog over by holding it by its hind legs and attempting to shake the object out of your puppy’s throat.
Choking hazards apply for all dogs, but because of how hard and brittle pig ears are as a chew treat and how small the throat of puppies are, we really do not recommend that you feed your puppies pig ears if they are less than six months old.
3. Cuts And Scratches
Compared to the other health concerns listed, this health concern is relatively minor. As your puppy chews on pig ears, because of how brittle the treats are at times, their gum lines can be severely agitated, to the point where there are cuts and scratches and potentially bleeding.
Usually, this would not be much different from a normal scratch on your dog’s legs, but for puppies, these injuries can be fatal.
Not because it excessively bleeds, but because of its weak immune system and high risk of bacterial infection.
Your dog’s mouth is one of the regions in which the largest amount of bacteria exist.
Now, this does not necessarily mean that your dog’s mouth is bad, but it can contain pathogens that should not be in your dog’s bloodstream. In such cases, infections may arise. Luckily, most infections are not fatal; they are typically only minor inconveniences.
However, you still do not want your best friend to suffer from a cut in its mouth! This problem might get better when your puppy becomes an adult, but right now, their gum lines are too soft. You would be risking bacterial infection, so please be careful.
Does It Get Better Over Time?
For bacterial issues, no, not really. However, for oral and choking concerns, yes.
In terms of pathogens, it's true that your dog’s immune system improves as it ages, but even the healthiest dogs can suffer from salmonella because it is such a powerful bacteria that can cause severe illnesses.
Luckily, however, oral issues get better over time as your dog’s gum lines become tougher as they age. Once your pup is an adult dog, you do not really have to worry about cuts forming in your dog’s mouth. The same applies for choking concerns, but this is something that you still have to be mindful of.
It all depends on the product: if your dog is gnawing on a pig ear that is too large to swallow or small enough to swallow safely, then your adult dog should be fine.
However, in general, adult dogs tend to be safer when it comes to pig ear treats because they have wider throats. Therefore, this safety concern really gets better when your puppy is older, so it's best to wait until then!
Alternative Chew: Greenies
At this point, you might be worried that your dog and you might suffer from salmonella. That aspect of pig ear treats doesn’t really get better when your dog is older.
If such is the case, we do not recommend that you provide your puppies/dogs with pig ears. Instead, you can look into a healthier, safer alternative: Greenies.
Although like all dog chew treats, Greenies can serve as a choking hazard, but in general they are safe, nutritious and good for dental health.
Instead of risking your dog contracting illnesses due to pig ears, Greenies can provide dental care as well as mental relief since they are chewy and soft. Moreover, it won’t agitate your dog’s gum lines, which is a bonus that pig ear treats do not have!
Also, because of how there are many different types of Greenies products that are available for puppies, it can be a great chew treat for puppies (over six months old) too.