As dog owners, we all want to give our canine companions the best of everything. This, naturally, includes the occasional treats!
Other than liver treats and bully sticks, pig ears happen to be one of the most popular and cheapest snacks found in pet stores these days.
But, you may wonder, “Are pig ears actually a good treat for dogs to have?”
“And if so, how many pig ears can I give my dog?”
The short answer to the second question is that you should never feed your dog or puppy more than one pig ear a day. Ideally, pig ears should only be given very occasionally- meaning once or twice a week at most!
This is largely due to the high fat content of pig ears.
While protein may be OK, it is never a good idea for a dog to consume too much fat– especially in one sitting. Too much fat in a dog’s diet can cause severe, unwanted consequences, both in the short and long-term.
For example, excess fat can cause stomach distress and even pancreatitis in the hours or days following consumption. Having lots of fat in the diet consistently can result in weight gain, obesity, and eventual heart disease.
That’s not to say that you can never give your dog or puppy pig ears as a treat or reward. They do provide certain benefits when used correctly, such as a protein boost, improved dental health, better heart health, and a sense of psychological wellbeing (read: happiness).
The caveat remains that pig ears should only be given on rare occasions, and should not be used to make up a regular part of a dog’s food or daily calories!
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- Are Pig Ears Good For Dogs?
- What Health Benefits Do Pig Ears Have For Dogs?
- How Much Are Pig Ears For Dogs?
- Are Cow Ears Safe For Dogs?
- In Conclusion
Pig ears can be a very good treat for a dog. They are usually made simply with no additives through a drying process, give a satisfying crunch that all dogs love, and are undoubtedly delicious. Not only that, but they are also a pretty cheap snack to boot!
However, you might also wonder, “Can pig ears make my dog sick?” The truth is that they must be used in moderation. There are definitely dangers involved when too many pig ears are given, or if a dog is allowed to eat a pig ear unsupervised.
If you happen to give your dog one too many pig ears, any (or all) of the below negative side effects could result:
The average nutritional composition of a pig ear is divided as follows: 73% protein, 15% fat, 2% ash, and 10% moisture. Of course this will differ depending on the size of the ear, as well as the method of drying involved.
Some pig ears can be as high as 90% protein, while others will contain a much larger amount of fat! Regardless, the undeniable fact is that all pig ears are very high in calories.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, the average 33-pound dog should only be eating a total of 14 grams of fat per day.
Eating too much fat over a prolonged period will lead to gradual weight gain. As a result, this will put greater and greater pressure on a dog’s joints and organs such as the kidneys, liver and heart.
The body composition of the dog will also change as muscle is replaced with fatty tissue. If things get really dire, it could be affected by life-changing conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Eating too much fat too quickly can also put your dog at significant risk for something called acute pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is where the pancreas becomes violently inflamed as the pancreas begins to digest itself.
While there are thought to be a few different possible causes for pancreatitis in dogs, the most common is in connection to being overweight or having a high-fat diet. If it is a severe case, it can result in shock, depression and death.
The most common symptoms of pancreatitis are:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
Serious instances of pancreatitis will need to be treated with painkillers, anti-inflammatories and IV fluids by the vet.
In most mild cases, dogs will recover with rest by allowing the body to mend itself. This may mean it goes without food, or eats only easy-to-digest meals, for a few days.
The long term outlook for dogs with pancreatitis is good, though they may become more prone to future bouts.
This just means that it’s better to limit the amount of high-fat foods, such as pig ears, that your dog is given on a regular basis. Instead, it is much better to provide it with low-fat, healthier options instead!
If you were wondering, “Can pig ears cause blockage if my dog ate a whole pig ear?” The answer invariable is Yes.
Due their shape, material, and size, it is quite possible for pig ears to constitute a potential choking and stomach blockage hazard. These two possibilities are why it is extremely important to always supervise your dog while it chews on this dried, rigid treat.
Choking is pretty self-explanatory, but an internal obstruction occurs when foreign objects (such as pacifiers, deodorant cans, or in this case, pig ears) become lodged in the area between the stomach and intestines of a dog. This is also known as a pyloric obstruction.
Choking is more likely to occur with large pieces of pig ear that become stuck in the throat, blocking the airway and making it impossible for a dog to breathe.
This is obviously a very dangerous situation for the dog to be in, possibly resulting in loss of consciousness, organ and brain damage, and eventual death.
On the other hand, stomach blockages become more probable if you have the habit of cutting up large treats and giving it to your pup in small pieces.
This is because in this scenario it is highly possible that your dog will swallow the small pieces whole, instead of chewing them as they are supposed to do. The small fragments of dried pig ear then absorb surrounding moisture and expand, potentially creating an obstruction.
Some of the symptoms of GI obstruction that you need to watch out for include:
- Visible stomach bloating
- Loss of appetite
- Heavy panting
- Bloody stools
- Visible distress, such as pacing or whining
If your dog is choking on a pig ear, drop everything else that you might be doing and immediately try to remove it from your dog’s throat. If it is visible in the upper part of your dog’s throat, use your fingers to pull it out if you can.
Due to the shape and the texture of the pig ear, it may be lodged quite firmly into the spongier flesh of your dog’s mouth and airway. While still being as gentle as you can, don’t be afraid to exert some force in pulling it out as that remains the top priority.
If the pig ear is stuck deeper and you can’t see it, do not try to reach it by pushing your fingers blindly further into your dog’s throat. If you do so, you may push the ear even further in!
Also, do not use any long or sharp objects to try to grab the treat, as this may result in a cut or gash on delicate tissue- the very last thing that you would want to happen.
If you can’t see the piece of pig ear, the best thing to do would be to attempt the Heimlich maneuver as demonstrated in the following video:
If the Heimlich maneuver is not effective, it is time to take your dog to the vet ASAP to remove the snack before it causes irreparable harm.
Internal blockages can be the most significant area of concern if your dog has swallowed a whole large piece (or many small pieces) of pig ear.
Over the next two or three days, monitor your dog closely for any unusual signs or symptoms of distress. That means keeping an keen eye on its poop and looking for pieces of undigested pig ear that may emerge.
A good way to speed up this process is by giving your dog high-fiber foods in the meantime, such as plain pumpkin paste, high-fiber bread, bran flakes or oatmeal. The food should not contain ingredients like chocolate, raisins or certain nuts which can be toxic to dogs.
Psyllium husk can also be used (commonly known as Metamucil) in dosages of ½ a teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight.
If your dog does pass the pig ear successfully or appears fine after three or four days, then luckily your worries are over and your dog will be just fine.
If instead your dog starts to experience vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation or loss of appetite, then you need to quickly take it to the vet for treatment. The same goes for any diarrhea or black/bloody stools.
The vet may induce more vomiting, depending on how large or many of the ears were eaten and what the initial X-ray shows.
If a large piece of pig ear was swallowed, it is likely that the vet will choose not to induce vomiting as the sharply-angled snack could become lodged in the dog’s throat.
If viable, the vet may perform an endoscopy to pull the enlarged ear fragments out. In the worst case scenario, surgery will be required to remove the pieces safely from your dog’s stomach and intestines.
Besides potentially causing issues such as weight gain, heart disease, and internal obstructions, pig ears have also become somewhat notorious for making dogs (and humans) ill in another manner- namely the Salmonella bacteria which may be lurking in the treats.
According to the AVMA, pig ears have been suspected of being directly responsible for Salmonella outbreaks since as early as 1999.
Not only has this affected the dogs that were fed the snacks but also their human owners too, as many neglected to wash their hands after handling the pig ears.
While regulations have continually tightened throughout the years, inconsistencies in manufacturing methods and pathogen control among different manufacturers mean that there is an ever-present risk of harmful microbes being present in the treats.
Salmonellosis commonly results in symptoms such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea. As it becomes more serious, the victim may also experience weight loss, mucus in stool, loss of appetite, dehydration, and shock.
While Salmonellosis is more commonly thought of to be caused by consumption of raw or off foods such as rotten meat or fish heads, it is clear that they are also a (albeit lesser) risk when it comes to pig ears.
While the previous section probably put you off giving your dog pig ears at least a little bit, they can actually still be a good treat for a deserving pup.
There are several health benefits of which your dog will be able reap- if you serve the ears in the correct quantity, of course! Here’s a look at a few of the main ones:
Pig ears are fully dehydrated during the manufacturing process, making them durable both for extended periods of storage and chewing. While the ear is nearly entirely cartilage, if you’ve ever handled one you’ll know that they are stiff, hard, angular, and unyielding.
It’s these very qualities that make pig ears an excellent teeth-cleaner for dogs! Since they will spend at least a few minutes to half an hour working on the chew, it gives the sharper edges of the ear a chance to poke at food stuck in the gums and to scrape plaque off the teeth.
Without regular cleaning through the use of either chews, bones, toys, water additives, or brushes, a canine’s teeth are extremely susceptible to decay. In fact, it is estimated that more than 66% of dogs over three years old suffer from cavities or dental disease.
Plaque that is allowed to remain on teeth eventually turn into harder tartar. This then leads to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), weakening the structures and ligaments. In severe cases, teeth can begin to fall out.
Providing a pig ear once or twice a week can be a good additional way of ensuring that your pal’s teeth stay in tip-top shape!
While pig ears do contain a large amount of fat, you’ll be glad to learn that not all of it is bad.
In fact, pig ears do pack some levels of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids– usually the domain of foods like deep sea fish and flaxseed. Admittedly, the levels aren’t high- and neither is the ratio of Omega 6 to 3 acids ideal- but it’s better than nothing, right?
Omega fatty acids provide many benefits for dogs, ranging from improved joint and heart health to an upgraded skin and coat appearance.
Omega fatty acids have the ability to naturally regulate the amount of cholesterol in a dog’s body by clearing out the bad fats that may be clogging up the arteries. As a result, this can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.
However, it is important to always remember that there are a lot more bad saturated fats in pig ears than there are good ones.
This means that the amount of pig ears provided needs to be carefully controlled, and it would also be best if you provided your pup with additional Omega fatty acids through foods such as dried fish snacks or specialty supplements.
From a dog’s perspective, chewing could very well be one of the most enjoyable activities in the world. There’s actually a scientific basis for this: It has been found that chewing stimulates the release of endorphins (the “happy” hormone) in canines!
Therefore, it’s not a stretch of the imagination by any means to believe that rhythmic chewing has a calming, therapeutic effect on dogs.
In this manner, pig ears are well-suited as “Keep-em Busy” treats– snacks which are especially helpful in taking your dog’s mind off negative emotions such as anxiety or insecurity.
By giving them an aromatic pig ear at the right time, you may be able to distract your dog from its troubles very effectively in the short-term.
Each bite and crunch into the flavorful layers reminds a dog to focus on the pleasure of the present and to ignore everything else that might be going on. Make sure that you don’t break the pig ears into smaller pieces, so that they get to savor the treat to its full extent!
Every dog needs plenty of protein daily for muscle repair and development.
As already established above, pig ears contain a high level of protein. Not only will this protein go a long way in keeping your pup’s muscles strong, the collagen and chondroitin content will also help to make sure that its skin, hair and joints are kept in good shape.
Pig ears are readily available in every pet store and are relatively expensive. On average, pig ears range from about $2 to $4 per ear, depending on different factors such as size, quality, and source of the treat.
For example, larger ears will cost more, and ears imported from certain countries such as Australia are seen as “premium”.
How affordable this really is to you will depend on the type of dog you have. If you have a big dog with powerful jaws, a pig ear may only last a matter of minutes before it disappears into your pooch’s stomach.
However, a small dog such as a Jack Russell or Chihuahua may take hours or even days to get through even one treat! In this case, the pig ear will be great value for money.
If you feel that pig ears are too expensive for your situation, you may want to try out rolled-up pig skin treats such as these Oinkies Rawhide-Free Sticks. They are still just as natural as pig ears, but have the added benefit of being able to last much longer.
You can also always try to pick up raw pig ears at your local butcher! More often than not they are considered a waste product, and can therefore be picked up very cheaply upon enquiry.
The only thing is that you will have to dehydrate them yourself. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered for that too in the section below!
move to a butchery where you will get it cheaply since it is considered a waste in the butchery. You only need to learn how to dehydrate it for prolonged storage.
Dehydrating pig ears is very simple. You can do so by following these steps:
- Clean the fresh pig ears thoroughly.
- Trim any excess fatty areas off the ear. Keep in mind that the thinner the ears are, the faster they will dry. However, ensure that the ears remain as wide as possible so that chewing rather than swallowing whole is encouraged.
- Dry the pig ears. This can be achieved by placing them in an oven at the lowest heat setting, or by setting them directly under the sun. Drying under the sun is a process that may take one to three days, depending on the weather. Leave the ears evenly-spaced for best results!
Cow ears are safe for dogs in most cases, and may be the better treat when compared to pig ears!
This is because cow ears are simultaneously bigger than pig ears (by at least 50%) while also being much less fatty. Cow ears only contain approximately 1-3% fat, with the rest being protein and moisture.
They are also highly digestible, which greatly reduces the risk of stomach blockages. Care still has to be taken while the dog is eating a cow ear however, as their large size renders them a potential choking hazard.
All in all, cow ears are a very viable alternative to pig ears if you aren’t overly fond of the greasiness and want to keep an eye on your dog’s fat intake!
“How many pig ears can I give my dog?” is a question that has crossed many a dog owner’s mind when watching their canine friend so happily devouring the porky treat.
Due to their high fat content, it is recommended that you do not give more than one pig ear to your pup in a day. Indeed, pig ears should be very occasional treats that are given once or twice per week at most!
While it does provide some health benefits such as dental care, a protein boost, and heightened sense of well-being, the negatives outweigh the positives in this case when too much is given.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.