Q & A: Corn on the cob

Q: My dog loves corn on the cob, but is it acceptable for him to chew the cob?

A: Chewing the actual cob is not a problem, it is when they swallow the whole cob that the problems start! Corn cobs get stuck in dogs’ intestines and cause an obstruction, which is very serious. The dog will need an operation to remove the corn cob from the intestines.

Even if your dog has never swallowed it before, there is always a risk he will swallow it one day. In one veterinary study done of dogs with intestinal obstruction caused by foreign bodies, 24% of the foreign bodies were corn cobs!

If a dog or cat swallows an object (like a corn cob) and it does not pass, it causes obstruction or partial obstruction of the intestines. Surgery will be needed to remove the object. Prompt diagnosis allows for prompt removal of the foreign body before the intestines get badly damaged. After about two hours of intestinal obstruction, there is a net loss of water and electrolytes into the intestinal lumen. This will continue as long as the foreign body remains, and results in the dog showing signs of illness. The longer the object is left, the worse the outcome, as the object will damage the intestines.

In more advanced situations, sections of damaged intestines must be removed and in the worst possible scenario, the intestine breaks open and spills bacteria and digested food throughout the abdomen. This latter possibility is associated with very high mortality and is to be avoided at all costs.

Dr Vanessa Mcclure, veterinarian

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