Health officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of salmonella infection in humans. The suspected cause? Pig ear dog treats.

Pig Ear Dog Treats Making Humans Sick? The FDA Is Investigating!

UPDATED: July 19, 2019

Health officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of salmonella infection in humans. The suspected cause? Pig ear dog treats.

Back on July 3, 2019, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and State partners released a notice about their investigation into a suspected link between pig ear treats and human cases of salmonellosis.

On July 17, 2019, health officials released an update. Now, they’re reporting even more illnesses spanning across a total of 27 US states. 

People Affected By The Outbreak

The CDC is now reporting 93 cases of human infection with Salmonella — 20 people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported at this time.

This outbreak is spreading across the United States, now spanning 27 states. Infections were reported in:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Ill people range in age from less than 1 year old to 90 years old (with a median age of 38). Reported illnesses began October 1, 2018, to June 20, 2019.

While health officials are issuing a warning that links this outbreak to pig ears, the CDC reports: 

“In interviews, 63 (90%) of 70 ill people reported contact with a dog before getting sick. Of 49 people with available information, 34 (69%) reported contact with pig ear dog treats or with dogs who were fed pig ear dog treats.” 

An official CDC notice calls contact with pig ears the “likely” source.

About Salmonella

Salmonella can affect both human and animal health. 

People with salmonella infection can experience diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. The infection usually lasts for 4-7 days and most people recover without treatment. However, for some people, diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.

If you suspect you may have salmonella, contact your doctor immediately. Additionally, while the focus is on human illness today, if your pooch experiences similar symptoms then you are urged to call your vet immediately. 

A MultiDrug-Resistant Outbreak?

According to the CDC’s updated report: 

“Whole genome sequencing analysis of Salmonella isolates from 33 ill people predicted antibiotic resistance or decreased susceptibility to ampicillin, ciprofloxacin, gentamicin, nalidixic acid, streptomycin, sulfisoxazole, and tetracycline.

 If antibiotics are needed, infections related to this outbreak may be difficult to treat with some commonly recommended antibiotics, and may require a different antibiotic choice.”

What Pet Parents Should Do

In their official notice, FDA officials said this alert is to help consumers choose whether to remove pig ear treats from their homes. If you choose to keep them in your home, here are some safety tips: 

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling pet meals and treats. This includes pig ears.
  • Clean items in your home that may have come into contact with contaminated pig ears — like floors. 
  • Did you know animals can actually shed the bacteria? That’s why it’s important to pick up and dispose of your dog’s poop in your yard and public parks where people or other animals may become exposed.

Watch Out For Pig Ear Recalls

Back on July 3, 2019, Pet Supplies Plus recalled bulk pig ears stocked in open bins because they might be contaminated with Salmonella. Do not feed recalled pig ears to your dogs and handle them carefully. 

If your dog has chowed down on a recalled pig ear and isn’t showing any signs of infection, play it safe and still toss the treat. 

Reporting Illness

This is an ongoing investigation. FDA officials encourage consumers to report complaints about pet food products electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal