Following concerns this week about a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella tied to pig ear dog treats, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have passed along further clarification. Because the agencies cannot link the outbreak to any one supplier, they advise not to buy or feed any pig ear treats to animals. Just as importantly, they caution humans shouldn’t even be touching them.
According to the CDC, a total of 127 human cases of Salmonella poisoning reported in 33 states have been linked to the dog treats, which are typically dehydrated and intact pig ears—though they may also come from other parts of a swine—that often have added flavoring. By chewing on or consuming the ears, animals can contract Salmonella, the bacteria that causes foodborne illness and prompts symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and fever and sometimes requires hospitalization. In pets, symptoms may also include bloody diarrhea and fatigue.
The CDC and FDA are telling consumers to avoid touching these pig ears altogether because Salmonella can easily be passed from their surface to human hands. If hands are not washed, the bacteria can spread to other surfaces or to a person’s mouth, causing infection. A dog who has just consumed Salmonella and then licks someone’s face or open wound can also pass along the bacteria.
The CDC has examined treats from a variety of suppliers, including some that claim to have been irradiated to kill bacteria. They have yet to isolate the outbreak to a single source. All pig ear treats, regardless of brand, should be discarded and surfaces or containers they’ve touched should be washed with soap and water.