Of all the strange things dogs eat, a few strike me as somewhat understandable. And believe it or not, I think that corn cobs actually fall into this category.
After all, there are usually plenty of corn bits left on your standard issue corn cob, they’re usually soaked with salt and butter, and they have a spongey-yet-rigid texture that dogs probably find intriguing.
Unfortunately, corn cobs can be very dangerous for dogs. We’ll explain some of the potential problems that can occur if your dog gets her muzzle on one and what you’ll need to do in response.
At first glance, corn cobs don’t seem particularly dangerous.
Few people would consider eating them (and for the record, you shouldn’t), but they certainly don’t seem like something that could threaten your dog’s life.
It’s true that there’s nothing toxic about corn cobs.
They’re mostly made of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin – the primary substances found in the cell walls of plants. Your dog eats these substances all the time, as they’re some of the constituents of dietary fiber.
But these substances are also (largely) indigestible. This isn’t a problem when they’re eaten in small to moderate amounts – they actually help keep everything moving smoothly through your dog’s intestines. But too much – such as the amount found in a corn cob — can overwhelm your dog’s digestive tract and cause an obstruction.
Corn cobs are also remarkably absorbent. In fact, ground corn cob is so absorbent that it is used in a variety of industrial applications, including the cleanup of oil spills. It’s even used as an environmentally friendly rat poison – it doesn’t poison the rats, it causes them to die of acute dehydration, as it sucks the moisture right out of their digestive tracts.
This can also cause problems for your pooch, and it can make blockages more likely.
Corn cob is also a very abrasive material — some industrial cleansers used to clean the sides of buildings are even made with it.
This all means that corn cobs can block your dog’s intestines, dehydrate her, and scrape up her insides in the process.
As you can see, corn cobs can be very dangerous for your pup. So, if you determine that your dog has helped herself to one (or even a portion of one), you need to contact your vet immediately.
Your vet will likely instruct you to bring your pup into the office. He or she will perform a physical examination, ask about your dog’s behavior and any symptoms she’s exhibited since eating the corn cob, and probably order X rays.
Treatment will depend on the location of the cob and the amount contained in her gut.
In some cases, your vet may instruct you to try to let the chewed-up cob pass through your dog’s intestines naturally. But if an obstruction is present, it’ll usually be necessary to go in and pull it out.
This will often require surgery, but it may sometimes be possible to remove it with special instruments inserted into your dog’s mouth or rectum.
In some cases, your vet may not feel it is necessary that you bring your dog in. He or she may simply tell you to watch your dog for signs of obstruction.
Some of the most common signs of intestinal obstruction include:
If you note any of these problems, put the pup in the car and head to the vet.
If for some reason you can’t get in touch with your regular vet, a service like JustAnswer can put you in direct contact with a vet via a live online chat. You can even share images or video of your dog to help the online veterinarian better diagnose your dog.
Dogs eat corn cobs in one of two basic scenarios:
You probably realize by now that it is clearly a very bad idea to give your dog a corn cob, so we’ll focus on the second scenario for a minute.
It is always irritating when your dog gets into the trash, but it can also be dangerous – especially if you have corn cobs lurking around in there. Accordingly, you’ll want to make sure that you dispose of corn cobs (or any other potentially dangerous items you put in your trash can) in a safe manner.
If your dog isn’t usually interested in investigating the trash can, you can probably avoid most accidents by simply putting the corn cobs in a plastic bag before you put them in the trash. This will help contain most of their smell, which will reduce your dog’s curiosity.
On the other hand, if you have a confirmed garbage can bandit, you’ll likely want to use a dog-proof trash can with a locking lid to completely prevent your dog from accessing the cobs.
For that matter, the best solution is to simply toss the cobs in the trash can and go ahead and take the bag out to the dumpster or the curb right away.
There are a number of surprisingly dangerous things that dogs sometimes eat, and corn cobs definitely belong on that list.
I’ve never had an issue with any of my dogs eating corn cobs, but I have seen it cause fatal impactions in a number of lizards and other exotic pets, as ground corn cob is often marketed as an animal bedding (although it isn’t terribly common anymore because of the danger it presents).
So be sure to take corn cob ingestion seriously and contact your vet if you suspect your pup has eaten some – her life may depend on it.
Has your dog ever gone after a corn cob? What ended up happening? Share your story in the comments!
Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.