Whether pig ears make dogs sick depends on several factors such as the dog's digestive system and overall health, the dog's chewing habits and the source of the pig ears themselves. If your dog recently ingested one or a few pig ears, and is now acting sick, the pig ear may or may not be to blame. It may be difficult at times proving whether a particular food or treat is the actual culprit for a dog's illness. However, pig ears have been found many times to be guilty for making dogs sick, so much so, that some dog owners have committed to no longer purchasing them again for their beloved companions.
Can Pig Ears Make Dogs Sick?
Is the pig ear to blame or not to blame if your dog got sick shortly after consuming one? It can be difficult at times clearing such dilemma considering the indiscriminate eating habits of some dogs.
If there are many other items on your dog's daily menu such as cow manure, a few licks from your toddler's ice cream and several leftovers that were stolen off the table, you may be out of luck. So many of these ingested items may be a culprit for your dog's sudden onset of uneasiness or upset stomach.
However, if your dog is quite a picky eater, one of those types of dogs who won't eat anything other than their food served in their food bowl, or if your dog is with you most of the day and you do a great job in supervising him, then the pig ear may truly to blame. Especially, if your dog eats the same food every single day and the pig ear was the only new addition.
For those wondering, pig ears are truly a pig's ears. They often smell awful to dog owners but dogs seem to love them. Pig ears are often smoked to add a pleasant flavor.
Can pig ears make dogs sick? Yes, they surely can and for a variety of reasons such as your dog's gut not being used to them, your dog swallowing pieces whole or the pig ear itself being of inferior quality. Let's take a look at several of these possibilities.
A Novel Introduction
If your dog is often fed the same food over and over, chances are, his gut has adjusted to that food and all is fine. Problems often start when a novel food is added to the dog's menu whether this is a new type of kibble or a new type of treat such as a pig's ear.
For a good reason, most bags of dog food clearly state on the back how to switch a dog to a new dog food. Dogs require gradual introductions so to not upset their digestive system.
But why does this happen? Why do dogs get tummy upsets when switching to a new dog food or treat cold turkey without a gradual introduction? It's ultimately a matter of gut flora.
A sudden dietary change disrupts the natural flora residing in the dog's gut leading to nausea, vomiting, flatulence or diarrhea. It doesn't help that pig ears on their own are not the easiest food to digest, often causing gas and diarrhea.
If this is the first time your dog ate a pig ear, of he is fed these treats very sparingly, there are chances that this novel treat is causing the digestive upset. Fortunately, most dogs who are sick from an abrupt dietary change, recover fairly quickly (within 48 hours) after fasting and being put on a homemade dog upset stomach bland diet.
However, if your dog is lethargic, vomiting repeatedly, vomiting and having diarrhea and/or running a fever, see your vet. Also see your vet, if you have a young puppy or senior dog as they may be more vulnerable to the effects of repeated vomiting/diarrhea and its subsequent dehydration.
A Possible Blockage
This is mostly a problem seen in dogs who have a history of chewing large pieces and swallowing them in large chunks rather than careful nibblers.
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The large piece of pig ear may get lodged in the dog's throat or further down the dog's digestive system. Although pig ears are known for being digestible, they are not really 100 percent digestible when chewed and swallowed in large pieces.
If the pig ear is stuck in the dog's throat the dog may attempt to clear the throat by coughing and gagging and perhaps the dog may drool and paw at the mouth.
Attempting to retrieve the lodge piece can cause a bite due to panic and further moving the item down can cause more problems such as damage the esophagus or choking if sent down the wrong way. In such a case, the best course of action is rushing to the vet who will attempt to remove the lodged piece of pig ear with a scope.
If the pig ear is lodged in the dog's stomach or intestinal tract, then it may create a blockage there. Affected dogs typically develop vomiting, straining to defecate, lethargy, pain and loss of appetite. On top of a blockage, sharp pig ears pieces may scrape the intestinal tract and even cause an intestinal perforation in dogs.
An Inflamed Pancreas
A problem with pig ears is that they are very greasy and high in fat. Dog owners can feel the greasy surface when handling them. Excess fat can cause a bout of pancreatitis in predisposed dogs. Pancreatitis is simply the medical word for an inflamed pancreas.
When pancreatitis occurs acutely, as it may happen after ingesting a fatty food, the inflammation may cause digestive enzymes from the pancreas to leak out the dog's abdominal cavity leading to troublesome signs such as nausea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, pain, diarrhea and a lowered appetite.
Some dogs in deep pain may assume a "praying position" with their rear end up, while their front legs are lowered as if the dog is taking a bow. Pancreatitis is known to occur frequently in small dogs such as teacup and toy breeds.
Treatment requires fasting (no food) so to allow the pancreas to recover. Many cases will also require anti-inflammatory drugs and medications to control the vomiting and/or diarrhea. Severe cases require hospitalization while fluids and medications are given until the dog is better and can go back to ingesting food.
Presence of Bacteria
On top of being fat, pig ears often contain bacteria, often Clostridium bacteria which are associated with rotting food, and can essentially cause food poisoning, explains veterinarian Dr. Ralston.
What happens in these cases is the bacteria produces a toxin which ends up irritating the dog's colon and causing bouts of severe diarrhea, and possibly, vomiting as well.
Another type of bacteria that may be teeming on pig ears is salmonella. Not all dogs are susceptible to salmonella bacteria. In order to cause illness, the bacteria must be in great amounts and/or the dog's immune system must be compromised.
Some pig ears seem to happen to have much more bacteria than others and are therefore more likely to cause illness. Fortunately, pig ears manufactured in the U.S.A. are safety inspected and should be less likely to be contaminated by bacteria. Caution is needed when dog owners are handling pig ears. Washing hands with soap and warm water after handling them is important.
If your dog has food poisoning from presence of bacteria in pig ears, he will likely develop nausea, drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. He can be helped to feel better by seeing the vet and having him/her prescribe a course of an anti-diarrheal medication such as Flagyl for dog diarrhea.
Other Potential Problems
Although not causing overt signs of illness in dogs, pig ears can also cause several other problems. For instance, pig ears from certain sources may contain growth hormones used to increase the weight of the livestock. Pig ear after pig ear, these substances that enter the dog's body may end up having a cumulative effect.
Another issue is the potential for pig ears to cause dental problems. Bones (cooked or uncooked), cow hooves, pig ears, hard rawhides, nylon bones, large ice cubes and tennis balls should be avoided, warns Dr. Mary Buelow, a Diplomate of the American Veterinary Dental College.
Finally, a tip: if you must purchase pig ears for your dog, skip the ones produced by foreign countries using shady practices. Look for pig ears that are 100 percent sourced and produced in the USA and following strict guidelines