can dogs eat a corn cob

Oh No, My Dog Ate a Corn Cob!

Dr. Liz Moses

Oct 24, 2023

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Everyone loves a BBQ, especially your dog—after all, it’s a prime opportunity to swipe some table food and run like the wind! As yummy as that sounds for the dog, there’s a real danger on a lot of plates that can cause big problems: corn on the cob.

Dogs love a grab-and-go and a corn cob, especially a buttery one, is an easy one to sink their teeth into. So, can dogs eat corn on the cob? Yes and no. You see, the kernels are not the problem. Like people, they won’t digest the corn kernels too well, but they will pass easily through their system.

The culprit is the cob. A corn cob most often can pass through a dog’s esophagus, though choking can occur at this stage, especially in smaller breeds. But the most frequent cases of corn cob ingestion we see in the ER is when the corn cob gets further down the pipe, so to speak. It cannot be digested and has to pass through the rest of their system and that’s when the trouble starts. Usually, a dog cannot pass a corn cob on their own.

What Do I Do if My Dog Eats a Corn Cob?

The quick answer is that you need to take your dog to VEG or the nearest emergency vet. It may sound like a funny uh-oh moment, but it needs to be taken as a serious emergency as the obstruction could end up being fatal. Some signs you might notice:

What Will Happen To My Dog in the ER?

The corn cob most likely will become lodged in the dog’s intestines, which means surgery, so time is of the essence. At VEG, we’ll triage your pet immediately upon arrival. If it’s a recent ingestion, we may induce vomiting, if your dog isn’t already throwing up on their own. We’ll usually perform x-rays to see exactly where the cob is stuck. If it’s in the stomach, we may be able to scope it out by performing an endoscopy. But sometimes the scope cannot handle the weight of the cob. In that case, we may perform a surgical procedure called gastrotomy, where the stomach is opened to remove the corn cob.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Eating a Corn Cob

If the corn cob has traveled to the dog’s intestines, you’re looking at a surgery called enterotomy to remove it. All of these procedures come with risks so the best thing to do is try to avoid this emergency. Here are a few tips:

  • Monitor your dog’s whereabouts during a picnic or barbeque
  • Secure the garbage in a manner that curious noses and paws can’t get in
  • Ask people to remove the cute, little corn handles when they’re done. (Yes, dogs have been known to swallow them along with the cob, causing further complications.)
  • Clear plates soon after guests are finished eating
  • Remind guests to be mindful of your dog who will no doubt be looking for table food

Contact Your Local VEG for All Pet Emergencies

Ingesting corn is just one hazard we see in our ER. See our picnic tips for additional safety advice. Contact VEG if your pet needs emergency or urgent care. We have locations all over the country with emergency vets who are available 24/7 to help you and your pet. When you come to VEG, our emergency-trained team will triage your pet within seconds.