My Dog Ate a Corn Cob and Seems Fine – What Should I Do?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Corn cobs are dangerous for dogs because they can cause choking or obstructions.
  • If your dog eats any corn cob, you should contact your vet even if you don’t see any concerning signs.
  • There are three reasons that corn cobs are dangerous: they’re not digestible, they’re highly absorbent, and they’re extremely abrasive.

You just enjoyed a cookout. When you clean up the plates, you notice your dog chewing on a corn cob. What should you do?

Clean up all the remaining corn cob and call your vet immediately.

In this article, we’ll look at why corn cobs are dangerous for dogs and what you should do if your dog eats some corn cob. We’ll discuss why you should always call your veterinarian and follow his instructions. 

In case you don’t know your pup ate some corn cob, we’ll go over the signs of corn cob blockage and what happens to your dog when they eat some of this fibrous material. We’ll also prepare you for the vet visit by explaining what the doctor will do to treat your dog.

So let’s get started

How Much Corn Cob Does It Take to Harm Dogs?

Corn cobs are large and fibrous. They also absorb lots of liquid and can be abrasive to the intestinal lining. While dogs can safely ingest corn kernels, they can’t digest the tough core. So, if your dog goes table surfing and grabs a corn cob from your plate, you need to take action. 

Dogs often go for corn cobs because they taste buttery and sweet. When all they do is lick the surface or chew on the cob, it’s not as serious. But if your pup swallows any amount of corncob, it can cause choking, intestinal blockage, damage to the gut, or dehydration. It’s best to avoid feeding any corn cobs to your pooch.

Any time your dog swallows some corn cob it’s a bad thing. The inner core is tough and fibrous, so the dog’s system can’t digest the material. As a result, any amount of corn cob can cause choking or a blockage. Other side effects include abrasions to the intestinal lining and dehydration.

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate a Corn Cob?

If your dog ate a corn cob, here’s what you should do:

Remove Cob(s)

First, you should remove any remaining cob(s) from your dog. Try to figure out how much of the fibrous material he was able to swallow.

Call your Vet

Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible and let him know that your dog ate some corn cob. Let the doctor know when your dog ate the cob and how much you think he ingested. Be ready to report how your dog is acting. Follow any instructions the vet gives including coming in for an exam. DO NOT try to treat your dog at home without talking to your vet first.

If your dog ate a corn cob, remove any remaining material from him. Check to see how much he ate and call your veterinarian. Report the time, the approximate amount ingested, and any signs you notice in your dog. Follow the doctor’s instructions. 

What You Should Do Immediately If You Suspect Your Dog Has Eaten a Corn  Cob

If you suspect your dog has eaten corn cob, block access to any remaining material. You may need to cover trash cans or wrap the cob in a sealed plastic bag or another container. Check to see how much cob is missing.

Once you remove the cobs from your dog, call your veterinarian immediately. The hard, fibrous core can easily become lodged in the throat or intestines and cause an emergency. Report the time and amount of cob that your dog ingested and follow the doctor’s instructions. He’ll provide you with the next steps based on the information you offer. 

First make sure your dog can’t access any more corn cob then call your veterinarian. Any amount of the fibrous core can cause an emergency. Let the doctor know the time and amount of material your dog ate. He’ll recommend a plan of action based on the information you share with him.

What if My Dog Ate a Lot of Corn Cob But Is Acting Normal?

Even if your dog chews the corn cob into small pieces before he ingests them, you need to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. The chunks may be able to pass safely down the esophagus to the stomach or intestines, but they can still cause serious issues. 

The problem is that the cellulose and lignin in corn cobs are extremely absorbent. As a matter of fact, corn cobs are used to help clean up oil spills and for other industrial uses.  Once inside your dog’s intestines, the chunks of cob will swell and soak up surrounding water causing local dehydration. This predisposes your dog to an intestinal blockage. Corn cobs are also abrasive and can irritate or damage the gut lining. 

If the corn cob pieces make it to the stomach and beyond, you may not see any signs of trouble at first. Depending on the effects of the corn cob, it may take 6-24 hours before you notice any problems. Don’t wait for an emergency to talk to your veterinarian.

If your dog ate a lot of corn cob but seems normal, don’t be fooled. Signs of a blockage or other issues may take 6-24 hours to appear. When pups chew the fibrous core into smaller chunks, they can make it to the stomach before absorbing liquid and becoming an issue.

Signs of Corn Cob Blockage or Irritation

If the corn cob becomes lodged into the throat, you will see signs of choking including:

  • Pawing at the face
  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nervousness or agitation

When smaller chunks of corn cob are ingested, they may pass safely through the esophagus. However, the fibrous material may still lodge in the intestines and cause a blockage. If this
happens, you may observe:

  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Acting uncomfortable
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea followed by constipation
  • Restlessness or panic
  • Lethargy or depression

The signs of corn cob blockage depend on where the corn cob lodges or causes issues. If the chunk gets stuck in the esophagus, your dog will exhibit choking signs. However, when the piece becomes lodged in the intestine, you may note vomiting, loss of appetite, pain and discomfort, and a loss of appetite.

What Happens to Dogs When They Eat Corn Cobs?

When a dog eats corn cobs, the pieces can get stuck in the throat and cause your dog to choke. However, when the fibrous materials make it to the stomach and intestines, there are new hazards. 

The cob material quickly absorbs liquid and swells while in the stomach or intestine. As the corn cob soaks up liquid, it sets your dog up for an intestinal blockage. This is an emergency and usually requires surgical intervention. Untreated, dogs suffering from an intestinal blockage will become very ill and die in a matter of days.

When dogs eat corn cobs, the biggest risk is that the hard fibrous core will become lodged in the throat or intestines. When corn cob gets stuck in the throat, your dog will start choking. If it makes it further down and causes intestinal blockage you’ll have a very sick dog.

Why Corn Cobs Are Harmful to Dogs

There are three reasons that corn cobs are harmful to dogs.

  • Dogs can’t digest corn cobs – Corn cobs are hard, fibrous, and contain indigestible materials. That means the chunks that your pup swallows won’t get any smaller. They can easily get caught in the throat or intestines causing health emergencies.
  • Corn cobs are extremely absorbent – The cellulose and lignin in corn cobs can absorb a lot of liquid. When they enter the intestines, the chunks will soak up the surrounding water. This causes local dehydration and reduces lubrication in the intestines. As a result, the fibrous corn cobs can become lodged and create an intestinal obstruction. 
  • They’re abrasive – The fibrous material in corn cobs is highly abrasive. They’re used in industrial cleaners. Inside the gastrointestinal tract, corn cobs can scrape the stomach or intestinal lining and cause damage. The rough edges may also cause perforations during a blockage.

Corn cobs are harmful to dogs for three reasons. The fibrous material isn’t digestible and can cause blockages. Corn cobs can also absorb lots of fluid and reduce lubrication in the intestines. The fibers are also extremely abrasive and can scrape the stomach or intestinal lining.

How Will My Vet Treat My Dog if He Ate a Corn Cob?

When you call your vet, his instructions will depend on the amount of corn cob that your dog ate and your observations. However, usually, the doctor will tell you to bring your pup in for a check-up.

At the clinic, your veterinarian will ask you for a detailed history of what happened. Then he’ll conduct a thorough physical exam. If the doctor’s findings include dehydration, he’ll administer fluids to help stabilize her condition.

Because a corn cob is a foreign body, your veterinarian will probably want to take an x-ray and possibly run an ultrasound. This will help to determine the size and location of the corn cob(s). Depending on the findings, the doctor may recommend letting the material pass naturally through the intestines. 

However, if there are signs of an obstruction, the material will have to be removed. Most of the time, intestinal obstructions require surgical removal. If the blockage is close to the stomach or lower in the intestinal tract, your doctor may be able to use a flexible scope.

Treatment will depend on the size and location of the corn cobs in your dog’s digestive system. If the pieces are small enough, the doctor may recommend letting them pass through naturally. In the case of a blockage, the material will have to be removed by surgery or a less invasive procedure.

How Long Will it Take for My Dog to Recover From Eating a Corn Cob?

The recovery period depends on how the corn cob affected your pooch. If your dog eats a corn cob, and the doctor recommends letting it pass through naturally, it may take up to 72 hours for the material to exit the digestive tract. On the other hand, dogs that suffer an intestinal obstruction and require surgery will need several weeks for a full recovery. 

The recovery period for dogs that eat a corn cob varies depending on how the material affected your pooch. Dogs that are able to pass the materials naturally should recover within 72 hours. When your pup needs surgery, the recovery period will be several weeks.

The Final Woof

It can take less than one corn cob to cause problems in your dog. When a pup ingests pieces of corncob, they can lodge in the throat or intestines. In one case, your pooch might choke. 

The other instance causes a life-threatening emergency.

Corn cobs cannot be digested by dogs, so their fibrous material can easily get stuck in the digestive tract. The fibrous material can also absorb lots of liquid and impact the lubrication in the intestine. If you know or suspect your dog has eaten some corn cob, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible and follow his instructions.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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