Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

No Corn on the Cob for Pets

A display of common picnic foods like hot dogs, corn on the cob, watermelon, and chips on a picnic table cloth with Fourth of July accessories.

If you know or strongly suspect your pet ingested a foreign body that is causing illness, this is considered an “ORANGE” – or urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet see your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within the next 12 hours. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!

Note that a foreign body ingestion with no signs of illness is considered a “YELLOW” – or semi-urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet evaluated by your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within 24 hours. Call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you, and if your pet begins to show signs of illness, call the team back to inform them of the status change.

  • If you know a foreign body was ingested, but you are not sure which pet ate it, seek veterinary care for both pets.
  • If you know or strongly suspect your pet ate a foreign body, do not wait for symptoms to appear. Contact a veterinary care team right away to see how soon you can bring your pet in.

The grill is on, filling the air with delicious scents as the platters and plates on the patio table get piled high with everyone’s favorite picnic foods. And of course, your dog is running up to everyone, utilizing those puppy eyes to get in on the summer feast! 

Unfortunately, many of our classic summer foods aren’t safe for our pets. Grapes, onions, condiments and sugar-free desserts that contain xylitol, macadamia nuts, and chocolate are all examples of foods that are toxic to our pets. Then there are the foods that aren’t quite toxic, but are hazardous such as meat bones, peach pits, and everyone’s go-to: corn on the cob! 

What…But Corn Isn’t Toxic!? 

You are absolutely correct! Corn is not toxic to our pets – in fact, it’s perfectly safe, and plain corn is often used in DIY dog treat recipes. Keep in mind though that anything with butter and salt isn’t safe for pets, as it can lead to pancreatitis!  

The danger here though isn’t the corn kernels. The real issue is the corn cob itself. During the summer, corn cobs are one of the most common causes of GI obstructions in pets we see in our ER!   

An x-ray showing a corn cob obstruction in a dog.

How is a Cob Dangerous? 

When swallowed by your dog, those large chunks of corn cob can cause a blockage in the stomach or small intestine. This can lead to disrupted blood flow, resulting in systemic inflammation or infection, organ failure, and eventually, death. 

Common Symptoms 

Common symptoms of a blockage include:  

  • Vomiting  
  • Diarrhea  
  • Decreased to no appetite  
  • Excessive drooling
  • Painful abdomen (seen as stretching/play bow/prayer positioning)
  • Abdominal distention
  • Lethargy  

Typically, symptoms occur within 24 hours post-ingestion, but that period can vary based on the severity and location of the blockage. Symptoms may appear even sooner if the blockage is in the stomach rather than the distal small intestine. 

A labrador with a veterinary technician for an exam.

Treatment 

When a pet arrives at our ER after consuming a corn cob, treatment depends on the answer to one question: Is the corn cob still in the stomach, or has it lodged in the intestine?  

If the cob pieces are still in the stomach, our ER team can induce vomiting. However, if the cob pieces have already moved into the small intestine, inducing vomiting could be dangerous and cause damage to the intestinal lining or even perforate the bowel. 

Instead, the pet will need aggressive supportive care with IV fluids and anti-nausea medication to move the cob pieces into the colon to naturally exit the body. X-rays or an ultrasound would be needed to ensure all pieces were defecated. If this is unsuccessful, emergency surgery is needed to remove the cob pieces. 

Note: We do not advise pet parents inducing vomiting at home. Learn why here! 

A small dog sitting on picnic bench trying to get into the picnic food.

Prevention 

The best way to avoid this emergency is to prevent your pet from getting access to corn cobs in the first place! So, please save yourself an expensive vet bill and follow these best practices:

  • Never leave corn cobs unattended on the counter or table. 
  • Remind your family and any guests not to feed your pet food without permission. 
  • During meal prep, mealtime, and clean-up, keep your pet confined to a kennel or a closed-off separate room so they won’t be tempted. 
  • Promptly dispose of any corn cobs. Always place in a secure trash can – for extra security, we recommend having a trash can with a magnetic lid and placing it behind a cabinet or pantry door.  

A row of corn cobs on a serving platter.

We hope this serves as an important summer reminder to keep corn cobs out of your pet’s reach! If your pet does eat any amount of cob pieces, our Oakdale and St. Paul animal ERs are both open 24/7. Please call ahead of your arrival.  

And remember, if you aren’t sure which pet is the culprit – bring them all in and our team will launch a thorough investigation! 

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