Sometimes it is nice to share our food with our pets, after all, they are members of the family! But for some foods, it isn’t clear if they are safe for our furry friends or not. Corn is one of those foods that you might be wondering about, especially if your dog ate some corn off your plate.
The good news is, corn kernels (removed from the cob) in plain form, are typically safe for canine consumption. It has plenty of fiber and other nutrients beneficial to their health. Many dogs eat corn without any adverse effects. But corn doesn’t just come in vegetable form.
There are multiple forms of corn, and corn is often mixed or seasoned with things that aren’t safe for our canine companions. So, when is corn OK and not OK for my dog to eat? Let’s take a look at when it’s safe, and when you’ll need to call your local veterinarian.
Is Corn Safe for Dogs?
Yes and no! Corn comes in a variety of forms, so it is important to look at the different types when deciding what is suitable for our pets. First, let’s look at the examples of corn that are typically safe for canine consumption.
Corn removed from the cob is perfectly safe for dogs to eat, as are both tinned and frozen sweetcorn kernels. These should all be fed in moderation and are best served unseasoned without fats like butter to reduce the risk of an upset stomach.
Baby corn is another way you could feed your pup corn. Again, these small vegetables should be served plain and cooked without seasoning. Serving them with other vegetables introduces another unknown, and can cause problems in certain cases where the seasoning or vegetable is toxic.
Occasional pieces of popcorn are unlikely to do much damage if they are given plain with no salt, sugar, or butter. Popping your own kernels at home can be a good idea so that you can control how they have been cooked and processed.
Make sure you keep an eye on your dog’s teeth though, as pieces of popcorn have the potential to get stuck, which could lead to dental disease.
Commercial Dog Food & Corn
Corn also appears regularly as an ingredient in dog food and is perfectly safe. Although dogs eat predominantly meat and meat-based products, they are omnivorous, which means they will benefit from having cereals like corn as part of their diet.
All commercial pet diets will be FDA-approved (Food and Drug Administration), which means the ingredients they contain are safe and have been deemed suitable for inclusion in your pet’s diet. For extra confidence, you can look for packaging that has The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement on it—foods that have this statement include nutrients at the minimum and maximum levels set down by AAFCO.
There has been some confusion in recent times about corn allergies in dogs, but most pets do not need to be on a grain-free diet unless a veterinarian has made a specific recommendation.
There is some evidence that grain-free diets may actually do more harm than good, with some cases of a heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy being linked to this type of food. More research is needed in this area; however, it does so far indicate that corn and other cereals/grains can be an important part of their diet.
When is Corn Bad for Dogs?
Despite the nutritional benefits of corn, there are some instances where it may be dangerous for dogs. You should definitely avoid feeding the following items.
Unfortunately, corn cobs are risky for dogs and should be avoided. While it may seem like a good idea to allow your pup to gnaw the corn directly from a cob, some dogs will get carried away and chew or even swallow the tough, fibrous cob itself. This part of the vegetable is undigestible, so there is a large risk of it obstructing their gut.
If an obstruction occurs, your canine companion could become very unwell. The cob could pass from the stomach relatively undigested and become stuck in the pylorus (the exit from the stomach) or along the intestines. If this occurs, then emergency surgery will be required to remove it.
Dogs that suffer from blockages in this way will often become very unwell. Food and water aren’t able to pass along the digestive tract as normal, so your dog will likely vomit or have constipation or diarrhea. They will usually go off of their food and become lethargic and depressed.
Some dogs could also have abdominal pain and may look at their stomach or whimper when touched. They might also adopt ‘prayer positioning’ to get more comfortable. You’ll see this when they have their front half-lowered on the floor and their rear end up in the air. This is to attempt to relieve pressure on their abdomen. In extreme cases, dogs can become dehydrated and collapse, particularly if treatment is not sought promptly.
What will the veterinarian do if my dog has eaten a corn cob?
Your veterinarian will examine your canine companion, looking for signs of pain in their abdomen or dehydration. Usually, diagnostic imaging is required to try and locate the cob. Sometimes this is seen on an X-ray, but other times it is hard to visualize the cob itself, so instead, the vet will look for things like gas buildup in the intestines.
It may be possible to retrieve the piece of cob via endoscopy in some circumstances. A small rod-like camera can be put into the stomach with a basket or grabbers to pull the foreign body back out through the esophagus (food pipe) and mouth.
However, many dogs require surgery to remove the cob. Particularly if it has already moved out of the stomach and into the intestines. Abdominal surgery allows your veterinarian to fully assess your dog’s digestive tract and examine it for damage. It will also allow them to retrieve the cob. Your dog will likely need to stay in the clinic for pain relief and monitoring post-surgery. They may also require fluids via a drip.
You shouldn’t feed corn to a dog if it’s been heavily buttered or seasoned. For some dogs, consuming a high volume of fat can trigger an upset stomach or even an episode of pancreatitis. This condition causes inflammation of the pancreas (a small organ that helps digest fats), which leads to abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Salted food should also be avoided as high levels of salt can be harmful to our pets. So, any corn you feed your pup should be cooked and served plain.
While popcorn served plain and air-popped or cooked in a little oil is unlikely to do much harm, heavily flavored or seasoned popcorns could. There is a recent trend for gourmet-style popcorn, where the corn is coated in all sorts of ingredients that could be harmful.
Chocolate-coated popcorn is toxic for dogs as they cannot metabolize theobromine. This chemical is found especially in dark chocolate and will cause hyper excitement, tremoring, and even seizures. Liver failure can occur in some cases.
Many other popcorns are coated in toffee or sugar, which is not healthy and could lead to weight gain in our pets. Salted popcorn is also not a good idea for dogs. Popcorn served buttered or cooked in large amounts of oil will be bad news for dogs prone to pancreatitis.
So, Can I Feed My Dog Corn?
Yes, you can feed your dog corn if you stick to the safe varieties we discussed earlier. Corn must be cut from the cob and served in kernels. Do not give your dog corn that has been seasoned or buttered. You should always stick to plain types.
Remember to feed any additional food items in moderation, as feeding too much of anything can lead to digestive upset. Also, feeding more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie allowance in an unbalanced food like corn can unbalance his vitamins and minerals for the day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can dogs digest a corn cob?
No, corn cobs are very tough and indigestible. If swallowed whole, there is a significant chance of it becoming lodged in your dog’s digestive tract, causing problems. Even smaller chunks of corn cob could become stuck in their narrow intestines (guts), so don’t take the risk.
Can dogs eat raw corn?
Yes, dogs can eat raw corn though it will probably pass through relatively undigested and not provide much nutrition for them. Never allow your pup to eat the corn cob, though only the corn (kernels) itself. Large amounts of uncooked corn could also cause tummy upsets.
How can you tell if a dog has a blockage?
Dogs with foreign bodies (an indigestible object that causes a bowel obstruction) will become quite poorly if left untreated. These dogs can be off their food, have a painful tummy, and be more lethargic than normal. Blockages stop food and water from passing as normal, so these dogs will have digestive upset like vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
How long can a corn cob stay in a dog’s stomach?
Corn cobs are extremely tough and fibrous, which means they can stay relatively unchanged for a long time in a dog's stomach. After a few hours, corn cobs can be passed through the stomach and into the narrow intestines (guts), where they are very likely to get stuck.
This is an emergency, as a corn cob obstruction will not pass on its own. If a corn cob stays in your dog’s stomach untreated it could make them very sick. Always call your local veterinarian if you suspect Fido has eaten a corn-on-the-cob.
Is corn in dog foods bad?
No, all ingredients included in commercial dog foods will have had FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval, which ensures they are safe and appropriate for inclusion. Cereals can be seen as ‘fillers’ by some people, thought to be used to bulk out the diet with ‘cheap’ carbohydrates, but this is not the case.
While you should pick a diet that contains high volumes of animal protein, corn can still provide valuable nutrients such as linoleic acid, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Dogs can eat corn if it is prepared and served safely. You must keep corn cobs out of reach from dogs as if ingested they can make your pet very poorly. Take care when at BBQs, picnics, or other family events as a discarded cob could be gobbled up by accident! Store corn cobs out of reach in cupboards or high on shelves at home to prevent accidents from happening.
Whenever you feed anything new to your pet, you should try a small amount initially. Even thereafter, only ever feed in moderation, as eating high volumes could cause tummy troubles. Better still, try and stick to his normal commercial diet, as you may even find there is corn in there already!
Above all, if you suspect your pup has eaten something he shouldn’t have done or is poorly in any way, then you must call your veterinarian for advice. Getting your pet seen promptly will lead to a far better outcome than a watch-and-wait approach.