Dogs Love Corn on the Cob, but Should They Chew Them?

Cobs Carry High Obstruction Risk

Dog climbing on picnic table with potato chips and corn on the cob
Tod Warnock/Photodisc/Getty Images

Most pet owners are aware of the dangers of feeding their furry family members a diet of table scraps that are high in fat. It can lead to pancreatitis and other health issues, especially for pets who do not eat table scraps on a regular basis. While feeding pets corn on the cob might seem like a healthy low-fat alternative, it is not recommended for dogs.

Dogs and Corn on the Cob

Many dogs love to chew on corn on the cob. They like the taste of salt, butter, and bits of corn. The cobs are also fun to chew. Some dogs chew up the cobs, while others don't, treating them more as a chew toy than a snack. However, corn cobs pose a real and serious danger.

The problem is that dogs can eat either the entire cob or large pieces of it. This can cause intestinal obstruction, a serious and potentially fatal medical condition. The severity does depend on the size of the dog as well as the size of the cob they eat. Experienced pet people know that dogs can eat and pass some amazing things, but corn cobs are not that easy. While larger breeds may be able to pass a cob through their digestive system, it is nearly impossible for medium and small breeds.

Additionally, some dogs are sensitive to corn. Though corn allergies are rare, they can suffer intestinal effects from their sensitivity in addition to the physical obstruction.

Keeping Cobs Away From Dogs

It is smart to keep all corn cobs away from your dog. Make sure they're out of reach on the table and safely secured in the trash as soon as possible. Dogs can be creative when they want something in the trash, so make sure that the garbage is emptied or otherwise protected from your pet.

If your dog does sneak a corn cob, take it from him right away. As soon as you notice it, use your training techniques to get the dog to drop the cob.

Even the best-trained dog may not want to give it up, though, and some can get very protective over their catch. Big and small dogs—including those voracious terriers—may snap if you try to take their stolen treat. Take the steps necessary to prevent them from chewing up the cob in a safe manner. That may mean luring them away with a dog treat or their favorite ball, anything that's more tempting than the corn cob.

Signs of Obstruction

If you suspect your dog has eaten a cob or any other food or foreign material it shouldn't have, call your vet right away. This is can be an emergency situation, so the sooner you act, the better.

If you aren't sure whether your dog has eaten a corn cob, watch out for these symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Dry heaves
  • Diarrhea or straining
  • Lack of appetite
  • Painful abdomen
  • Lethargy

If you see any of these symptoms, contact your vet. They will be able to advise you on the best course of action, be it to watch and wait or to schedule an immediate examination.

Can Dogs Eat Corn, Though?

Unlike some other foods, corn itself is not toxic to dogs as long as they do not have an allergy to it. It is the cob that is the primary danger. However, that doesn't mean that it's OK to regularly feed your dog corn.

Corn that is not slathered in salt and butter is nutritious, filled with carbs for energy, healthy fats, and protein. It is often added to many commercial and homemade dog foods. Yet, it's best for their system if dogs eat only a minimum amount of corn. This coincides with the debate over the amount of corn and other grain fillers in popular dog foods.

Sharing Corn With Your Dog

It's hard to look down at those sad eyes while you're enjoying a juicy bite of corn on the cob. Dogs smell it and they know they want it, so they will beg for scraps. While table scraps should generally be avoided, if you're going to do it (on occasion, of course), be smart.

Keep in mind that dogs learn quickly, so they will discover that corn cobs are the source of some delicious food. While some people hold onto a corn cob and let their dog munch on the leftover kernels, this encourages bad behavior. Besides, a crafty pup can quickly steal the cob away from you.

Instead of eating off the cob, cut the kernels off with a knife and place them in your dog's food dish. This teaches them that they cannot eat straight off the table, but only where they're supposed to. Remember to keep the portion small as well so you don't disrupt his diet and potentially disturb his digestive system.