Care Category IconCare

My Dog Just Ate a Corn Cob! What Should I Do?

If your canine companion has been table surfing, and just ate a corn cob, the first thing to do is call your veterinarian. Read on to find out what you can expect.

Joanna Woodnutt

Last Updated: November 23, 2020 | 7 min read

Dog with Corn Cob in Mouth

This article was written by a veterinarian, but it should not substitute as contact with a trained professional. If your dog ate a corn cob, we recommend you contact your veterinarian immediately.

Did your dog just eat a corn cob? Dogs are naturally curious, particularly for food items that smell and taste exciting! As omnivores, they will cheerfully eat many different foods offered to them, or accidentally dropped or left out of sight! One common thing to be stolen from a barbecue or an empty plate is a corn cob.

Whether still with corn or not,  these are usually warm, sweet and might be covered with butter. They present a very appealing target for a dog. Unfortunately, they also have a notorious reputation for causing problems for dogs. This is because they are often swallowed whole and are not easily digested.

Corn cobs should never be fed to dogs deliberately. Although they may seem harmless, they can actually be fatal if swallowed and not properly dealt with. Don’t panic though – there are lots of interventions we can make to ensure the best outcome for your pup.

Can Dogs Eat Corn Cobs?

Dog Eating Corn in Field
Dogs shouldn’t eat corn cobs, but it can happen accidentally on occasion.

The short answer is no, corn cobs should not be fed to canine companion. Sweetcorn alone can be fed to dogs and is a tasty addition to a diet. However, the internal solid corn cobs are very fibrous and cannot be digested. They are also typically swallowed whole, and cannot be digested. This means that they need to come back out whole, either at the mouth or the other end!

Objects like this present a high risk of bowel obstruction. They can very easily become stuck either in the stomach or the intestines. Once this happens, it can make your furry friend extremely ill quite quickly. The progressive consequences can be fatal, just like if your dog eats something that can puncture their intestines.

As it becomes stuck, it can cause a blockage of gut contents. It also irritates and inflames the gut it is stuck inside. It can also cut off the blood supply to that area of the gut. This causes the gut around the blockage to start to die. It then bursts or ruptures. When this happens, it’s rapidly life-threatening for any dog. Gut rupture causes a massive infection of the whole abdominal cavity called peritonitis.

This is a very dangerous condition that can make dogs very ill and is also very hard to treat. They have just the right size, shape, texture, and strength to be a perfect bowel obstruction, hence their reputation amongst veterinarians!

What Happens Next

Initially, many dogs will have no symptoms and seem quite happy. That is unless the corn has caused some throat irritation on the way down. After 6-24 hours, as the corn cob starts to irritate and damage the gut. This is when it may possibly become a blockage.

Your dog will start to seem lethargic, sick, and flat. Dogs may start vomiting or retching and will refuse further food. Their stomach may become hard and painful. Here are your next steps.

Steps You’ll Take

  1. Remove any further pieces from your dog’s reach.
  2. Ensure that your pup cannot eat any more of what has already gone missing.
  3. Try and establish what your dog has eaten, as accurately as you can.
  4. Determine when the object was eaten, if possible.
  5. This will help guide and inform decision making down the line with your vet.
  6. Contact your local veterinary clinic or nearest open surgery as soon as possible.
  7. You should pass them as much information as possible about what was eaten and when.
  8. Be prepared to discuss how your dog is now, including any noticeable symptoms.
  9. Follow your vet’s instructions.
  10. This will usually include coming in for a full examination.
  11. Once complete, there may be additional steps your vet will take to remedy the situation.

Treatment

Red Husky Getting Examined at Vet
Your dog’s treatment will depend on their size and the amount of corn on the cob they consumed.

Your veterinarian will usually discuss the problem and symptoms with you, and then perform a full physical examination looking for any obvious symptoms like tummy pain and nausea.

If your canine companion has only just eaten the corn cob within the previous four hours or so, it may be possible for your veterinarian to administer a strong injection to induce vomiting. This will attempt to bring it back up, that way and prevent it from moving into the bowels where it may cause further problems.

This is not an option in all cases, as there is a risk that it could become stuck in the food pipe and cause choking. In addition, the vomiting may not be enough to cause the cob to leave the stomach.

The risks and benefits will be discussed with you for your specific circumstances by your veterinarian. Whether the risk of inducing vomiting is worth it is a decision that has to be made on a case-by-case basis. Do not use home remedies to make your dog vomit unless otherwise instructed by your hands-on vet. Many home remedies suggested on the internet are dangerous and limit your vet’s options for treatment further down the line.

How Can I Tell if it’s a Bowel Obstruction?

If more than four hours has passed since eating the cob, or your pup is starting to show symptoms of bowel obstruction such as vomiting and abdominal pain, the plan changes slightly. Often, further imaging is recommended to look for the corn cob.

This may include X-rays of the abdomen. Corn cobs, especially smaller ones, can be hard to see directly on X-ray pictures, so veterinarians rely on experience and judgement to interpret the patterns that a blocked gut will produce.

Sometimes multiple X-rays over a period of time are required. This helps your vet to see whether gas is moving through the stomach or whether it appears to be stuck. Ultrasound scans may also be performed.

What Should I Do if the Cob is Stuck?

Husky Getting Checked at Vet
In many cases, your vet may need to operate to save your dog’s life.

Allowing the cob to pass through may be too risky. If the cob is already stuck and causing a blockage with associated symptoms, then the corn cob needs to be removed surgically by your veterinarian in order to save your dog’s life. In occasional cases where the cob is in the stomach, it may be possible to do this using a camera called an endoscope (or ‘gastroscope’).

In most cases, however, abdominal surgery is required to locate the problem and remove it. Surgery also allows your veterinarian to assess the health of your dog’s guts. If any tissue is damaged beyond repair or has burst, this needs removing too so that only the healthy tissue remains inside.

Fortunately, foreign object surgeries are a routine and regular occurrence for most veterinary clinics. All gut surgery always carries risks associated with anesthesia and poor gut healing. Your veterinarian will discuss these with you before any surgery is undertaken. However, the corn cob cannot be left once at this stage and so there is usually have no choice but to have surgery.

The sooner this is undertaken, the faster your dog’s recovery will be. And, the better the outcome is likely to be. Usually, dogs will spend a day or two at the clinic after the operation to receive pain relief before going home. More complicated surgeries will likely require your pup to stay the night, or a bit longer.

Bowel Obstruction Surgery Costs

The cost of any surgery varies between clinics and area-to-area. The unique situation with canine companion, the amount of equipment used and qualifications of the staff undertaking the surgery will change the cost of the surgery. Bowel obstruction surgery is major surgery and you can expect it to cost $1500 or more.

However, you should discuss the cost with your clinic. They will be able to give you an accurate estimate depending on the level of expected surgical difficulty and the normal clinic prices. If you have a budget, please be open and honest with your vet about this. They may be able to cut corners to save money, accept credit, or provide payment plans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions about what might happen if your dog decides to eat a corn cob? Here some other common questions we get, along with what you should expect.

How Long Does a Corn Cob Take To Pass?

In some cases, such as with a small corn cob and a large dog, your veterinarian may advise careful monitoring of the situation without intervention. The hope would be that the foreign object (the cob) passes through the gut naturally and comes out the other end. This decision should only be made with careful veterinary involvement and guidance, as it is not without risk.

Bowel obstructions can happen at any point during the process, so your dog needs to be watched carefully for any symptoms developing. It can take 72 hours for your dog to pass the foreign object. If it becomes stuck and starts to cause symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy and abdominal pain, then further intervention will be needed.

How Long Can Dogs Live With an Obstruction?

Once your dog develops an obstruction, their time is limited. The nasty consequences for your dog’s gut will get worse the longer they are left without veterinary help, and this means that the chances of a positive outcome will become increasingly worse.

In addition, if your pup is left too long, the surgery and associated recovery will be more complicated, and this in turn is likely to be more expensive. A quick surgery and associated faster recovery will be far better for your dog and for you.

If the problem of a swallowed corn on the cob is dealt with quickly and professionally in conjunction with your local veterinary clinic, then the outcome for most dogs is excellent. The risks of poor outcomes including death increase the longer the issue is left unresolved.

Can I Feed My Dog Corn Cobs?

Corn cobs are not safe for dogs and should not be fed to dogs deliberately, regardless of cob size or shape. They are a perfect size and shape to get stuck in the guts and cause severe problems such as bowel obstruction and damage. If your dog does accidently get hold of a cob, the sooner the problem is addressed through your local veterinary clinic, the better the outcome is likely to be for you and your dog.

Final Thoughts

By now, if your dog ate a corn cob, you’ve hopefully already contacted your vet. In most cases where a dog ingests a small amount, it won’t be fatal unless it’s a small dog breed. Ultimately, your vet will know the best course of action for your canine companion, and how to remedy the situation. While eating a corn cob isn’t ideal, it’s not likely to be fatal like grapes, or even if your dog were to consume certain types of nuts.

Leave a Comment