In many cultures worldwide, people use pig’s trotters to make traditional broths for human cuisine. More recently, though, natural treats have gained popularity for pet dogs. And so buying pigs trotters for dogs seem an obvious choice for owners to consider.
But don’t rush to buy some delicious trotters for your favourite canine just yet. It’s first essential to understand their pros and cons. In this article, we’ll discuss the health benefits and risks of pig’s trotters. Then you can decide if they are the best choice for you and your pet.
Pig’s trotters are an appetising snack for your dog but they are high in calories. It’s best to feed them as an occasional treat, not as part of your dog’s regular diet.
A great source of protein, fat, calcium and other nutrients. Trotters provide many health benefits for your dog.
Chewing trotters is a great way to reduce plaque, keeping your dog’s teeth clean and healthy. Plus, they provide hours of mental stimulation, keeping their brain healthy too.
Pig’s trotters carry many risks. Including scratches to the mouth and throat, diarrhoea-blocked intestines and pancreatitis. For this reason, pig trotters are probably best suited to large breed dogs.
Do not feed pig’s trotters to growing or elderly dogs. And take special care when feeding them to small breed dogs.
What Are Pig’s Trotters for Dogs?
Pig’s trotters or pig feet are a by-product of the pork industry. They include the entire pig foot and trotter from the ankle joint down. This means they are very sustainable, cheaper cuts of meat.
Pig’s trotters can be raw or air-dried. Air drying is a simple process where warm air passes around the trotters for several days. Eventually, most of the water content evaporates. This decreases the chance of harmful bacteria growing and extends the product’s shelf-life. It also maintains the trotters’ goodness and taste without additives or preservatives.
Some shops sell smoked pig’s feet. Avoid these. Smoked foods can be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) if eaten often. They are also salty, which is not ideal for your four-legged pal.
The Food Standards Agency regulates the human food industry. It stipulates that food sold for people should be suitable for human consumption. Remember, other countries will have different laws controlling food standards and animal welfare. So finding out where the trotters you buy come from is always a good idea.
Your local butcher is likely to offer fresh, locally-farmed meat products. Buying organic produce is great for your dog too. It reduces their exposure to chemicals and medicines that accumulate in the food chain.
If you’re not feeding raw, air-dried trotters are available in pet food stores. The Food Standards Agency also governs the production of commercial pet foods and treats. This is under a different set of legislation to human nutrition. Be sure to check your pet food labels for hidden additives. There’s no need for extra ingredients or flavours in this simple, nutritional foodstuff.
Air-dried trotters can feel oily and have a distinctive smell. Some owners report that the smell is unpleasant, and the oils can stain soft furnishings. So think carefully about giving your dog a trotter on your best cream rug just before guests visit!
Benefits of Pigs Trotters for Dogs
A fantastic source of collagen and natural oils. These keep your pet’s joints and skin in excellent health.
Long Chew Time
Most dogs take several hours to get through a pig’s trotter.
Brilliant for plaque removal and general dental hygiene.
Most dogs will suffer from dental disease at some point in their life. Chewing treats can never replace daily tooth brushing, but they definitely help. The mechanical chewing, gnawing and tearing action removes plaque from your dog’s teeth. When plaque calcifies, it becomes tartar which causes periodontal and gum disease. Dental treatment often means tooth extractions, so prevention is always better than cure.
Ligament and bone make up a large part of the trotters. That’s pretty strong stuff! This means hours of chewing for your dog and tonnes of mental stimulation. If your dog loves to chew, it’s a great diversion from destructive behaviours. It might even stop them from chewing your best leather shoes.
If your dog tends to over-groom, chewing treats can be a fantastic distraction. The natural action of chewing relieves stress and anxiety. It also increases feelings of well-being and contentment. But don’t forget to supervise your dog at all times. And don’t give trotters to dogs with separation anxiety when they are alone.
Collagens and Fats
Collagen is a type of protein. It makes up a large part of joints, skin, ligaments and other connective tissues. So trotters are naturally high in collagen, which is great for your dog’s joints. Natural fats also promote healthy skin, fur and joints if given in moderation.
Micronutrients are often forgotten. Trotters are a fantastic source of iron, which is essential for oxygen transportation in the blood system and muscle tissue. Trotters also provide your dog with zinc. Zinc supports growth, protein production and immune system function. Then there’s Vitamin B12 in the trotters which helps red blood cell production. It also contributes to nerve and brain cell development – which all sounds pretty good!
Nutritional Information for Pig’s Trotters
Nutrients & Compounds
*percentages don’t add up to 100% as they are averages from several sources.
The nutritional value of pig’s trotters is highly variable. Of course, the dried product is far more energy dense than fresh feet. Trotters are high in protein and moderately high in fat, making them tasty but full of calories. The chart above provides an average guaranteed nutritional analysis of pig’s trotters.
Dried pig’s trotters weigh around 250g, providing roughly 867 calories. For an average 30kg labrador, that’s about 50% of their daily calorie needs. If you think about it, that’s pretty impressive! So ideally, only give trotters as an occasional treat or over several sittings. If your dog is on a weight loss plan, look for a lower-fat alternative.
Pig’s trotters should not replace a balanced diet. They are pretty fatty and very high in calories, so they should be fed in moderation. Most sources agree that feeding one trotter every 1-2 weeks is enough to satisfy your hungry hound without him piling on the pounds.
Avoid these fatty snacks if your dog is prone to digestive disorders. This includes dogs with pancreatitis and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. If your dog has a pork intolerance or inflammatory bowel disease, definitely keep them away from pig feet!
As with any new food or treats, you should introduce trotters to your dog slowly. Try a short taster session first. Some raw-feeding pet owners suggest thawing and refreezing raw trotters allow lots of chewing sessions. But you should avoid repeated freeze-thaw cycles with meat products. They encourage the growth of harmful bacteria, which can be dangerous to your dog.
Are Pig’s Trotters Safe for Dogs?
If your dog is a strong chewer, there is a risk of large pieces of bone causing intestinal obstruction or perforation. Digestive upsets might arise from swallowing small pieces of bone. The higher fat content of trotters might also cause diarrhoea or pancreatitis.
The number 1 rule of feeding pigs trotters is to supervise your dog at all times. No exceptions. That’s because these treats carry serious risks. In fact, it’s due to these risks that some people prefer to steer clear of trotters altogether.
If your dog has any issues after eating a pig’s trotter, seek veterinary advice immediately and avoid feeding trotters again.
Here’s a list of the main dangers to watch out for:
Any hard food substance is a choking hazard. That’s why you must ensure the trotters are large and your dog can’t swallow them whole. If your pup is biting off big chunks, then it’s time to ditch the trotter. The risk of choking may be higher in small dogs. So, some people recommend that you only give trotters to large-breed dogs.
There is always a risk that large pieces of joint, hoof, or bone can act as a foreign body in the stomach or intestines. Foreign bodies can cause an obstruction in the guts. This is a severe condition requiring rapid intervention (usually surgery). Typical symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy and a decreased appetite.
Fragments of bone and trotter can be difficult for some dogs to digest. They may cause irritation to the lining of the stomach and intestines. This leads to intestinal bleeding, and you may see fresh (red) or digested (black) blood in your dog’s poop.
Sometimes foods with increased fat content can also act as a laxative. This can cause diarrhoea. You might also find that your pet is a little gassier than usual, which is quite an unpleasant side effect!
Higher fat content can trigger an episode of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). This is because the pancreas has to work super hard to help digest the fat. The risk is greater in dogs with a previous record of pancreatitis. Certain breeds are also prone to the condition, e.g. miniature schnauzers. Pancreatitis can cause vomiting, poor appetite and severe tummy pains.
Raw meat products contain an increased bacterial load. Handling and storing the product incorrectly throughout the supply chain exacerbates this issue. Harmful bacteria can cause a nasty gut infection in dogs. Infections like salmonella and campylobacter can be very serious for your pet and contagious to the whole family. The first symptoms are typically vomiting and diarrhoea.
Obesity is a huge problem in dogs, and diet is the biggest factor affecting your pet’s body condition. This useful body scoring system can help if you’re unsure whether your dog is overweight. Pig’s trotters are not a balanced nutritious meal but a high-calorie treat. So be sure to limit their use and watch that waistline!
A few infectious diseases can pass to dogs through eating raw pork. Thankfully these are not an issue in the UK pig industry. Aujeszky’s disease, or pseudorabies, is a viral condition found in parts of Europe, Asia and Central to Southern America. It can pass to dogs but not humans.
Trichinella spiralis is a roundworm found in raw pork worldwide but less commonly in Europe and rarely in the UK. Knowing the origins of the meat products you feed your dog is essential. This ensures the product is as fresh and safe as possible.
- Your dog is still growing or elderly.
- Your dog has a history of tummy upsets.
- Your dog has had pancreatitis in the past.
- Your dog has a food intolerance to pork (or an unknown intolerance).
- Your dog is suffering from obesity.
Are Pig’s Trotters Good for Puppies?
Some manufacturers state that dried trotters are safe for puppies from 12 weeks old. But really, it is best not to feed your pup pork trotters until your dog is fully grown. This is due to the high calcium and phosphorus content. These minerals affect your dog’s bone and joint development. Also, the very hard bones can cause oral trauma and fractured teeth. Plus, your pup’s digestive system might be more sensitive than an adult dog’s.
Alternatives to Pigs Trotters for Dogs
There are plenty of natural alternatives to pig’s trotters. Try to select one with a specific goal in mind.
- Lamb’s feet are a good substitute if you are looking for an alternative protein source.
- Fish skin chews make a delicious snack if oils and fats are important.
- Beef tendons or yak’s milk chews can be an excellent choice for dogs that love to chew. Ensure that the yak’s milk is air-dried, not smoked, and watch the salt content too.
Enrich your dog’s experience by hiding the chew in a room or under a blanket and allowing them to sniff it out. Fish skin chews are pretty smelly, so your dog is bound to have great fun finding them!
There is controversy around the safety of feeding pigs trotters to dogs. There are several serious risks associated with feeding your dog cooked bones. These include intestinal obstruction/perforation and diarrhoea. Avoid pig’s trotters in growing or elderly dogs. Also, dogs with food intolerances, digestive issues and pancreatitis should steer clear.
Raw bones do reduce the risk of swallowing sharp shards. But they carry a higher risk of passing bacterial infections to your dog.
Pig’s trotters certainly don’t suit all dogs. Before offering them as a snack, you must weigh the pros and cons carefully. The greatest risks involve obstruction or perforation of the intestines. Trauma caused by eating sharp shards may lead to tummy upsets. Eating pigs trotters might trigger an episode of pancreatitis too.
Air-dried trotters are high-protein snacks that help to keep your dog’s teeth clean. They are also amazing at providing mental stimulation. Dried trotters carry a lower risk of bacterial infections than raw trotters. But with dehydrated trotters, you risk intestinal obstruction or perforation. Particularly if your dog swallows a large or sharp piece of bone.
Pig’s trotters are just a treat and are pretty energy-dense. The general rule of thumb is to offer just 1 trotter every 1-2 weeks. Otherwise, the increased calories will outweigh the health benefit.
Follow these 5 tips to ensure you are giving your dog pig’s trotters in the safest possible way:
1 – Don’t offer trotters to high-risk dogs
2 – Use a reliable source of pig’s trotters
3 – Store them correctly (raw foods: freezer or fridge for up to 3 days)
4 – Do a short 5-10 minute trial
5 – Supervise your dog at all times