Salmonella Outbreak Among Humans Linked to Dog Treats, CDC Warns

By Zachary Stieber

A salmonella outbreak that has sickened people in 13 states has been linked to dog treats, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Approximately 45 people have been infected with the strain of salmonella, 12 of whom have been hospitalized.

“Epidemiologic evidence indicates that contact with pig ear dog treats is the likely source of this outbreak,” the agency stated.

A probe uncovered a link between the sicknesses and dog treats, finding that 34 people reported contact with a dog before getting sick and 17 people reported contact with pig ear dog treats or with dogs who were fed such treats.

salmonella outbreak prompts ground beef recall
Illustration of Salmonella bacteria. (CDC)

“Both of these proportions are significantly higher than the results from a survey of healthy people who reported contact with dogs (61 percent) or handling dog treats, such as pig ears (16 percent), in the week before interview,” the agency stated.

Information from some people who became sick was not available, meaning the actual numbers may be higher.

“Officials from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development gathered pig ear dog treats at retail locations where ill people reported buying the products. They sampled pig ears for Salmonella. Although the outbreak strain was not identified, other strains of Salmonella were. Investigators are checking to see if any human illnesses are linked to those strains. Retail locations where sampling occurred have removed pig ears from shelves,” the agency added.

The company that supplied the infected treats hasn’t been identified as of yet.

Dog owners were encouraged to wash their hands thoroughly after handling pet food, including pig ear treats, and to store pet food away from where human food is stored.

People were also told not to use their pet’s feeding bowl to scoop the food, and to instead use a clean, dedicated scoop.

A picture of dog food in a dog bowl.
A picture of dog food in a dog bowl. (ariesa66/Pixabay)

Further instructions included not letting pets lick one’s mouth or face after it eats pet food, not letting pets lick open wounds or areas with broken skin, and never letting children younger than 5 years old touch or eat pet food or treats.

“Young children are at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths,” the agency noted.

Illnesses in the outbreak started on dates between Nov. 18, 2018, and June 13, 2019. The people who have gotten sick span from younger than 1 year old to 81 years old, with a median age of 23.

The affected states mentioned were California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.

Iowa had the most cases with 12; Michigan had seven and New York had six. All of the other states had three or less.

A map of states affected by a salmonella outbreak linked to pig ear dog treats. The map was released on July 2, 2019. (CDC)

FDA Investigates Dog Food

The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, said in an alert recently that certain dog food brands may heighten the risk of heart failure in dogs.

The agency said it investigated more than 500 cases of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs that ate dog foods marked “grain-free” and found some suppliers were implicated in more of the cases than others.

“FDA urges pet owners to work with their veterinarians, who may consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, to obtain the most appropriate dietary advice for their pet’s specific needs prior to making diet changes,” the agency stated. It said it had not pinpointed a specific link between heart failure and the brands.

The following list was released:

Acana — 67 cases
Zignature — 64 cases
Taste of the Wild — 53 cases
4Health — 32 cases
Earthborn Holistic — 32 cases
Blue Buffalo —31 cases
Nature’s Domain — 29 cases
Fromm — 24 cases
Merrick — 16 cases
California Natural — 15 cases
Natural Balance — 15 cases
Orijen — 12 cases
Nature’s Variety — 11 cases
NutriSource — 10 cases
Nutro — 10 cases
Rachael Ray Nutrish — 10 cases