Pig ears and many types of dog treats can harbor potentially hazardous bacteria and viruses that are transmissible to humans. Exposure can cause serious illnesses that can have fatal consequences. Contact is especially dangerous to pet owners who have weakened immune systems and for those who contract bacteria with a known multi-drug resistance.
Pig Ears at the Heart of Nationwide Outbreak
As of July 31, 2019, more than 143 people have contracted strains of salmonella from infected pig ear treats. Of these, 33 have required hospitalization and none have died of their affliction. The outbreak has infected individuals in 35 states and it is unclear whether the treats were supplied by any one company or distributor. The risk of death is real and in 2018, 450 individuals died and 1.2 million became ill after contracting salmonella infections.
The size and scope of the outbreak prompted the CDC and FDC both to issue advisory notices warning people not to purchase pig ears for their dogs and to destroy any pig ears they currently have in their homes. Testing on the pig ears in question identified multiple strains of salmonella indicating that pig ears from many different sources are infected. Some of these originated from outside the country in Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. In some cases, the products were mislabeled as irradiated which if true, would have killed the salmonella strains that caused the outbreak.
Recognizing Salmonella Symptoms
Salmonella infection mimics many other types of illnesses and toxic exposures. In general, the bacteria causes nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, fever, chills, and headaches. It may also include blood in the stool. These symptoms typically appear within 12-72 hours post-infection. Because these symptoms are often associated with flu and other common illnesses, it is imperative for pet owners who have handled pig ears to monitor their health and speak with their physician if they develop these symptoms. This is especially important for children under the age of 5, for adults 65 and older, and for any individual whose health is already weakened by other health conditions.
Treatment depends on the extent of the injury and the strain of salmonella infection. Most treatment regimens include a combination of anti-diarrheal medication and antibiotics. All treatments involve fluids and electrolytes. In severe cases, individuals may require hospitalization and close monitoring by medical staff.