Are Cow Ears Safe for Dogs?

Are Cow Ears Safe for Dogs?
When I was growing up, my dad would buy a grisly bone at the grocery store to treat our pups when we got back home.

I figured that meant all dogs would love all bones, but I learned the truth the hard way.

Maggie will gnaw on a fresh bone for hours, but when the crystallized marrow inside the bone got in her system, she couldn’t stop having diarrhea for three days.

It took a visit to the vet’s office to calm her gut down.

I felt terrible afterwards, which is when the vet pointed me in the direction of other chews.

There are a ton of chews out there that won’t upset a dog’s stomach.

Cow ears are something sold at almost any pet store for dogs to try.

But are they actually safe? Here’s what I’ve learned.

What Are Cow Ears?

Cow ear chews are made from cows that are raised for beef-focused dog food.

They’re dried out and roasted, so they last a long time and provide a natural taste.

Are Cow Ears Safe for Dogs?

what is cow bovine ear chew toy treat safety

This part. Minus the rest of the cow, of course!

There’s a common misconception you may have heard about cow ears.

Some people say that they’re actually unsafe for dogs, but that’s not the case.

That information usually comes from the recent switch many dog owners have made from cow hooves.

People were encouraged to let their dogs chew on cow hooves to maintain their dental health, but recent studies have shown that they cause dog teeth to crack and puncture digestive tracts.

Cow ears are a completely different chew. They’re made of cartilage that’s protein dense, so they’re safe to chew on and even keep your dog’s hunger satisfied.

Are They Safe for Puppies?

It’s good to be aware of what you’re giving your dog at what age, especially when they’re young and still teething.

Puppies may confuse chews with their kibble, and that can lead to many different problems, such as choking.

Ultimately, cow ears are safe for puppies because they soften as puppies chew. Just don’t forget to throw out the chew when it gets small enough to fit entirely in their mouth.

Dangers of Giving Dogs Cow Ears

While cow ears provide many health benefits and aren’t hard on the teeth, there are still a few dangers to be aware of.

Ears Aren’t Regulateddried roasted cow ear dog treat chew toy for adults and puppies

Pig ears and cow ears are very common chews for dogs, but they aren’t regulated like other treats are.

Most of the time, that means that the ear chews are made from whatever process the manufacturer chooses and can come from any country. This leads to lesser quality products being sold.

Ears can crack and pose a choking hazard or be treated with chemicals that aren’t listed on the packaging.

For this reason, the FDA has issued alerts in the past specifically about pig ear production.

Cow and pig ear chews are both made with the same processes, so be aware of the lack of regulation before buying cow ears for your dog.

Ears Carry Bacteria

Bacteria lingering on cow ears is another risk of buying unregulated chews for your dog. They may not be cleaned off thoroughly, so they’ve been known to carry salmonella that infects dogs and humans.

Ear Pieces Could Cause Chokingcow ear dangers choking bacterial contamination FDA recall safety

Another big worry about ears is that they’re easily gnawed down to tiny sizes, especially if they’re smaller ears.

This should mainly concern dog owners who have puppies.

Puppies will chew incessantly at the ears until they’re ground down, and they won’t know the difference between an ear chew and their kibble.

What to Look for

As I was considering getting ear chews for Maggie, I realized I had no idea what to look for.

Here’s what I’ve found as a general guideline for buying ear chews and living with them in your house.

Made in the USA

While it’s true that there aren’t regulations for ear chews, it’s a safer bet to buy them if they’re from the USA.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires all pet food to be made in sanitary conditions with no harmful substances, so you’ll at least know the cow ears are honestly labeled.what to look for in cow ears for dogs size quality made in USA

Size of the Chew

Cow ears come in many different sizes, but always watch your dog while they chew on one to make sure they don’t choke.

Puppies are especially at risk for this, since they’re more likely to swallow chewed ear nubs that aren’t meant to be eaten whole.

Immediate Dog Reactions

Like with any food, dogs can have allergic reactions to ear chews. Reactions may look like:

  • Itchy skin
  • Hives
  • Itchy paws

Watching carefully for allergic reactions will help you and your dog find more favorable chews if they have a bad reaction to ears.

Try a different brand if there are allergy symptoms, since each company can make them a little differently.

Safe Alternatives

Want to have a backup plan ready in case your dog doesn’t like cow ears?

Try some of these safe alternatives instead:

Bully Stickscow ear alternative bully sticks flat bone chews toys treats

Bully sticks are long lasting chews that are great for dogs.

They scrape away plaque and provide a healthy dose of amino acids.

Be aware that they do tend to be higher in caloric content than ears, so they’re not an everyday treat if your dog isn’t super active.

Interested in learning more about bully sticks? You can find a review of Raw Paws Bully Sticks here.

Flat Bones

Flat bones are found in the spine, shoulder, and pelvis area of animals.

They don’t have any marrow in them, which is what upset Maggie’s stomach so much.

These can be bought in grocery stores, butcher shops, or even certain pet food stores.


Most of the time, cow ears are going to be safe to give to your dog.

As long as they’re made in the USA and aren’t small enough to choke on, they’re a safe alternative to marrow bones.

I haven’t given any to Maggie yet, but she loves to chew, so these will definitely make my eventual pet supply list.

It’ll be safe to start out with one and see if she even likes it before buying more.

About the author

Emily Pierce

Emily Pierce is a self-published novelist, award winning short story writer, and freelancer. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking and making clothes for dogs.