Are Pig Ears Good For Dogs?

pig ears for dogs

Dog owners have become more health-conscious, so they’re reconsidering many popular dog treats. Things like rawhide and even peanut butter are not as harmless as we once thought.  And you want to find wholesome, natural nutrition that’s safe for your dog.

So there are two big questions: Are pig ears good for dogs … and are pig ears safe for dogs?

The answer is yes, but only if they’re the right kind of pig ears. The same goes for cow ears. Pig ears and cow ears for dogs can be a good treat option … but you need to know what to look for and what to avoid when you buy ears for your dog.

The Benefits Of Pig Ears For Dogs

You might think ears are a very fatty treat … but in fact pig and cow ears are both made of cartilage, so they’re high in protein and fairly low in fat.

Cartilage contains natural glucosamine and chondroitin, so chewing on ears can benefit your dog’s joints. They’re soft and easy on the teeth … so they’re good chews for dogs with sensitive teeth or dogs who prefer a leisurely chew. Gnawing on ears helps remove plaque and tartar, promoting dental health … and chewing helps keep your dog’s gums healthy too.

And because they’re just cartilage, pig ears and cow ears are quite digestible for your dog. Just monitor your dog if he’s a gulper who doesn’t chew his food thoroughly, so he doesn’t choke or get a bowel obstruction from swallowing big chunks of ear.

Are Pig Ears Safe For Dogs?

When you buy pig ears for your dog, there are some things to look for so you know they’re safe. The most important thing is … how have the pig ears you buy for your dog been processed?

Pig ears are usually sold whole … so they’re recognizable as ears! Pig ears that are safe for dogs should be an unaltered whole ingredient. Don’t buy pig ear strips or pieces as they’re more likely to be processed with chemicals.

Some raw dog food suppliers sell frozen raw pig ears … and those are the best choice if you can get them.

In stores, you’ll usually find pig ears that are cooked. This is when you need to watch out for potentially harmful additives.

Because of concerns about bacteria and trichinosis parasites in raw pork, you’d expect cooked ears to be safer. But cooked ears have some pitfalls.

  • Many of the ones you’ll find in stores are roasted, boiled or smoked to prevent salmonellosis. But even so, they can be a bacterial risk or cause digestive upset … or even an intestinal blockage if your dog doesn’t chew thoroughly before he swallows.
  • If you buy cooked pig or cow ears, choose baked ears without any additives. They don’t need any chemicals or preservatives … and you should verify that they don’t have any before you buy them.
  • Some ears are irradiated to remove bacteria … but irradiation isn’t safe for your dog, so ask the manufacturer if they irradiate their pig ears. If the ears look white, they’re likely irradiated.
  • Smoked ears are popular … but don’t buy them. Always avoid smoked meats for your dog. Any smoked meat increases cancer risk

RELATED: Is your dog food irradiated? Read about the risks …

Are Cow Ears Good For Dogs?

Just like pig ears, cow ears are good for dogs if they’re raw, whole ears. Buy them frozen and thaw before feeding. Again, they’re made of cartilage, so they can be a good chew that supports oral and joint health. But again, there are other things to consider when you ask are cow ears safe for dogs.

  • Beware of cow ears that are cooked and may be treated with chemical additives or preservatives. If you buy cooked cow ears, looked for baked ears and not boiled or smoked.
  • Again, never give your dog smoked meats because of increased cancer risk of smoked products.
  • Read the small print or call the company to find out where the ears are sourced, whether they’re from pasture-raised cows, and that they’re all natural with no chemicals added.
  • Some cow ears have been irradiated, which isn’t safe for your dog. The ones that look white are most likely irradiated, and that can be harmful to your dog, so don’t buy those. Call the manufacturer to find out if you’re not sure.

There’s one other thing to consider. Cow ears have fur, so they’ve likely been through some kind of chemical processing to remove the fur. Find out how your brand was processed and avoid any that were treated with chemicals.

Cow Ears Vs Pig Ears For Dogs

There are two main differences between cow ears and pig ears for dogs.

The first is the nutritional content.  As mentioned earlier, both are made of cartilage, so they’ll provide your dog with natural glucosamine and chondroitin, as well as a chew that can help with his oral health. But pig ears are a little higher in fat than cow ears. Pig ears are about 15% fat and 22% protein … while cow ears are about 12% fat and 26% protein. 

The other big difference is in the fur when you buy cooked ears. Cow ears are quite furry, while pig ears have a few sparse hairs. So cooked pig ears may not need to have the hair removed … and it the manufacturer does do this, it may be by blanching or scalding the ears. 

Cows are much furrier than pigs! Raw ears from a raw dog food supplier will likely still have the fur … which adds valuable fiber for your dog. But, as we said earlier, cooked cow ears will have had the fur removed … and that’s when you need to ask how it was done to make sure no chemicals were used in the process. 

Pasture Raised Ears Are Best

If you can … buy ears from pasture raised animals. Pasture-raised animals are nutritionally superior, with a better ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Unliked factory farmed meats, they aren’t given antibiotics or dewormers. And they eat the foods that nature intended instead of the animal feeds given to factory farmed animals … that are mainly GMO corn and soybean meals.

Pastured animals are kinder to the environment … and from an ethical point of view. the animals lead healthier, happier, less stressed lives.

RELATED: Find out why pastured and grass-fed meat for dogs is healthier … 

Salmonella Risk

In 2019 the FDA issued a warning about pig ears for dogs due to salmonella risk. The products in question came from Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. The ears came from various vendors and were sold at some major retail chains … including Pet Supplies Plus and Hollywood Feed. 

No dogs became ill. That’s because dogs aren’t really susceptible to salmonellosis. 

But 154 people in 34 states got sick … and 35 of them were hospitalized. The bacteria were also multi-drug resistant. So always ask your retailer how they make sure they’re not selling contaminated ears. 

Always wash your hands and surfaces after handling them. Teach your children to wash too – or keep them away from the treats altogether!

Beware Rawhide Fake Ears

Some manufacturers try to fool you with rawhide in shapes that look like pig or cow ears. Rawhide is quite dangerous for dogs because of indigestibility, chemical processing. other toxins like heavy metals, and the risk of intestinal blockage, so don’t buy these phony lookalikes.

RELATED: Why rawhide for dogs is dangerous

Feed Ears In Moderation

Ears are big treats, so even with just a single ear, the calories can add up very quickly. If you feed pig or cow ears, make sure you account for them in your dog’s daily food totals … or you might end up with a chubby dog on your hands.

Monitor Your Dog With Chews

Always monitor your dog when giving him any kind of chew treat or bone … no matter how experienced a chewer he is.  Any chewable dog treat can pose a choking hazard. Large chunks can break off and cause blockages. (This is another reason to avoid the rawhide fake ears … rawhide is notorious for causing blockages.)

Or your dog may be a gulper and try to swallow the ear whole. So … never leave your dog unsupervised with any kind of long-lasting chew.

RELATED: Find out when to worry about your dog’s bowel obstruction …

Other Pig Ear Questions

Are pig ears digestible for dogs?

Pig ears are made of cartilage, which is 100% digestible for dogs. Raw ears are softer and easier to digest, but cooked ears can sometimes be over-dried and harder on your dog’s digestive system

Are pig ears better than rawhide?

Yes, pig ears are better and much safer than rawhide. Rawhide is often treated with chemicals and may be contaminated with other toxins. Rawhide is indigestible and is known for causing intestinal blockages. 

Do pig ears give dogs diarrhea?

While pig ears (especially raw ones) are 1000% cartilage that is easily digestible, any new food could give your dog diarrhea or loose stool. You may want to start out slowly and cut pig ears into smaller portions until you see how your dog handles the meat. 

So … with the above cautions in mind … it’s fine to give your dog an pig ear or cow ear treat once in a while. Raw and natural, unadulterated food is always best!


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