There’s nothing too surprising in the latest CDC update on the US outbreak of salmonellosis linked to pig ear treats. People continue to get sick, which is the frustrating aspect, since this has been a known issue for a while and has been communicated extensively.

At last report (yesterday), the total case number was up to 143. That probably means well over 1000 people have actually gotten sick, since the diagnosed cases likely include only the minority of cases that occur.

  • 20% of affected people have been children less than 5 years of age. Young kids are more susceptible to developing salmonellosis and are at greater risk of serious disease (which is more likely to be diagnosed), so it’s not surprising. Kids also tend to have very close contact with pets, and by extension their treats.
  • Thirty-three (33) people have been hospitalized.
  • People from 35 states have been affected.
  • Treats from many different suppliers have been implicated. So, it’s not a matter of just avoiding certain brands. It’s a matter of avoiding all pig ear treats. Actually, it’s a matter of avoiding all raw animal-based treats. You can buy a  bewildering range of dehydrated (but still uncooked and therefore high risk) animal bits as treats (e.g. lung, trachea, penis, liver) and they all come with risk of contamination with Salmonella and other bacteria. Whether pig ears are higher risk or they’re simply easier to implicate because they are more common isn’t clear.

Take home message

Avoid pig ear treats and any other treat that’s not cooked or otherwise processed (e.g. irradiated) to kill things like Salmonella.

There are others things that can be done to help reduce the risk when it comes to these items (e.g. avoid buying from bulk bins, wash your hands after handling treats, pay close attention to sanitary handling of dog feces, keep kids and high risk people away from pet treats) but ultimately this is a situation where we need to say no – just don’t feed them.  It’s not worth the risk.