In Can Dogs Eat Corn Tom Mattinson investigates the nutritional content and safety of corn for dogs. Find out which types of corn are safe for your pet and which are best avoided.
We all love food, and most of us love to share food with people we care about. We often end up extending this to our pets, especially around the holidays when we have extra food lying around. No matter the food, someone’s probably tried giving it to their dog! Nowadays, most of us know this isn’t always a great idea.
Unfortunately, some of our healthiest staple ingredients can do real harm to our furry friends. This isn’t always made clear to us, so it’s good to research before adding something new to our pooch’s diets. Today, we’re taking a look at corn. Can dogs eat corn?
This food comes in many different forms, some of which may be safe and some of which may not. We’ll also look at the role of corn in dog food and what effects that may have.
Where Does Corn Come From?
We often think of corn as a vegetable, but it is actually a staple cereal crop in many parts of the world. Also known as maize, this cereal grows and ripens best in warmer climates and is tolerant of dry weather. In a favorable climate, corn stems can reach heights of up to ten feet! All the cereals including wheat, rice, and barley, are related to grasses and the part we eat is the seed head.
Cereals have been selectively bred over many years to produce larger and more nutrient dense “seeds.” And corn has the fattest, sweetest, and most distinctive head of any cereal. According to Bayer Global, corn production has soared in recent decades to over a billion tons a year, with 35% of that volume coming from the USA. Corn is a high carbohydrate food and is generally considered to be a poorer source of nutrients than other cereals.
So, can dogs eat corn? Is corn good for dogs? Or, is it something to steer clear of? Let’s answer these questions!
Different Types of Corn
As humans we eat corn in a variety of forms: corn on the cob, canned corn, popcorn, and corn starch (as an ingredient in many foods). We’ve cultivated this food over many years to have a high energy content. Although fairly rich in antioxidants and fiber, it offers little else otherwise. Due to the insoluble fiber content, corn tends to pass through the gut pretty much intact. This can be useful for moving food along in humans, but is not something dogs need.
Can Dogs Eat Corn?
Dogs guts have evolved to subsist on meat alone without the help of dietary fiber. So, in evolutionary terms, dogs and corn don’t have much of a history. The idea of giving dogs fruit and veg is a fairly recent one. As is often the case with a food available in so many forms, whether your dog can eat corn depends on the form it’s served in. In fact, there’s a good chance your dog eats corn in some form already.
However, whether your dog should eat corn at all is a different matter entirely. Corn starch is a common ingredient in lots of dog foods, although the role it plays is not really nutritional. This corn product is mainly used to bind ingredients together in dog food. The starch helps to thicken the food so it’s easier to serve, and feels more substantial. It’s also useful in cheaper dog foods to make more expensive ingredients go further and increase mass.
Corn in dog food shouldn’t have adverse effects as compared with other starchy fillers. In your pup’s dinner, however, corn can become an issue if your dog has an allergy or intolerance.
If you feed your dog quite a lot of table scraps, or like to share your own meals with your dog, you’ll be feeding your dog corn in various forms. So let’s take a look at how those different types of corn might affect them. We’ll start out by looking at one of the most popular forms of corn with people. Corn on the cob is a popular barbecue side dish, but can dogs have corn on the cob?
Can Dogs Eat Corn on the Cob?
Corn on the cob is not safe for dogs. The danger in this case comes not from the corn kernels, but from the cob in the center. When we eat corn on the cob, we simply eat the corn and throw away the rest. Dogs don’t necessarily do that. It is unlikely that a dog chowing down on corn on the cob would think twice about eating the cob.
This large indigestible part of the corn has the potential to cause a serious blockage in your dog’s gut. Bowel obstructions can lead to numerous medical complications, and quite quickly to death. So it is important to talk to a vet immediately if your dog swallows corn on the cob. This isn’t just an issue at home. It’s something we need to be vigilant about outdoors, especially if you walk your dogs near farmland. Dogs sometimes pick up cobs that are left behind after harvesting.
You can bypass this issue by removing the corn from the cob before giving it to the dogs. Also, be sure to keep your dog away from fields of standing or freshly cut corn. If the cob is out of the picture, does corn, say the sweet corn variety, for example, become a viable snack for dogs? Can dogs have corn at all and should we give canned sweet corn to our dogs?
Can Dogs Eat Canned Corn?
If the cob is the dangerous part, can dogs eat corn from a can? The answer is yes, dogs can eat sweet corn. But they really don’t need to. This incredibly starchy food is difficult to digest and often passes straight through the gut completely intact. You may have noticed this in humans too!
Fortunately, sweet corn is completely non-toxic. As long as your pup doesn’t have any allergies or intolerances, it is unlikely to do any harm as an occasional snack. The issue comes if any amount of their food is replaced by sweet corn regularly. Dogs, like their ancestors the wolves, thrive best on food with the highest meat content they can get. Can dogs eat corn is not the only question we need to answer. We need to decide whether feeding corn to our dogs has any benefits. Let’s tackle that next.
Is Corn Good for Dogs?
When dogs eat sweet corn, all they’re going to get is carbohydrates. For an animal evolved to survive almost exclusively on protein and fat, this can lead to a nutritional deficit. Sweet corn is also, as the name suggests, quite high in sugar. This high sugar content can increase the risk of weight gain, dental problems, and subsequent health issues.
In short, corn is not particularly good for dogs. There are certainly worse things your pup could be eating, but corn falls short of providing any real benefits. So can off-the-cob corn cause any harm to dogs?
Is Corn Bad for Dogs?
Feeding your dog an optimal diet is all about maintaining the right balance of nutrients. While non-cob corn isn’t immediately dangerous to dogs if it makes up a large share of their food it has the potential to harm in the long term. High sugar and carbohydrate concentrations are not great components of good dog food. So it’s important to avoid sharing corn with your dogs in large amounts or very frequently.
As for corn starch, the levels used to pad out commercial dog foods generally aren’t enough to do any harm. The processing method used for corn starch also most likely makes it easier for your dog to break down. We’ll take a more in-depth look at corn as an additive in dog foods later.
The biggest health risk is still posed by corn on the cob. If the worst case scenario has happened—your dog ate a corn cob—what do you do?
My Dog Ate a Corn Cob – What Should I Do?
A swallowed corn cob or core should always be treated as an emergency. There is a real risk of it causing a blockage in your dog’s intestines. If this isn’t enough of an issue, the sharp edges of the cob might tear the delicate lining of the dog’s intestine. This is potentially a life threatening medical emergency. The sooner you seek help from your vet, the less of a chance there is of this happening. Don’t delay; make that call right away.
Your vet may want you to bring the dog into his office straight away, so you’ll need to make arrangements to do that if necessary
What to Expect at the Vet
A dog who’s swallowed a corn cob may be vomiting, suffering diarrhea, or overall just sick. Still, your vet will likely want to do a scan or X-ray to confirm the presence of the cob. It also helps them know whether there’s a blockage and how to approach the care. If the block is serious, your pup may need to have surgery to dislodge the cob. The process is essentially the same for any foreign body swallowed. That’s why it’s so important to be careful with dogs and corn cobs.
Let’s now look at the role of corn in manufactured dog chow now. Corn is found in a huge range of dog food. What does corn do in these dog foods, and what effects might it have?
Corn in Dog Food
Corn starch, which is processed corn, works as a kind of thickener to pad out cheaper dog foods. It is high in calories, so it bolsters the energy provided by the food. Still, it lacks the fat and protein that dogs need most. Corn’s use as a filler doesn’t raise many immediate issues in dogs not allergic to it. We do, however, have to wonder if fillers in general detract from the nutritional value of the food we give our dogs. And what the long term effects may be.
Serving sizes on pet foods are based on calories. In dog food where more of the calories are taken up by the fillers, we will invariably be giving our dogs less meat. Less meat means less health bolstering fatty acids, less protein, and less fat.
Although some foods contain supplements to rectify this imbalance, it is still often left unaddressed. In an ideal world, we’d all give our dogs foods with higher meat content. Unfortunately, meat is the expensive ingredient in dog food. Fillers help make dog food more affordable, so dog foods with large amounts of fillers remain popular.
Corn Fillers and Allergies
It is worth bearing in mind that some dogs become allergic to cereal fillers in dog food. And even though your dog may not be allergic to anything right now, allergies can appear later in life. If your dog has recurring skin problems or tummy troubles, a food allergy could be the cause. It’s worth checking with your vet to find out.
Some other signs of an allergic reaction in dogs include:
- Itching, especially itchy paws
- Red eyes
- Hair loss, which is often patchy
- Eye discharge
So, if corn is present in some dog foods, and okay to feed dogs as an occasional treat, can we feed corn to puppies?
Is Corn Okay for Puppies?
It’s a good rule of thumb that anything that could be bad for dogs is, sadly, worse for puppies. We’ve already established that corn should not make up any large part of an adult dog’s diet. It’s therefore definitely best to steer clear of corn until later in your pup’s life. Puppies have very sensitive guts, so difficult-to-digest corn can upset them. When puppies get an upset stomach they can become dehydrated very quickly, so you should avoid anything that can cause this.
As they are growing rapidly, puppy nutrition is much more nuanced than adult dog nutrition. If fed a poorly balanced homemade diet, puppies can suffer serious health issues. Unfortunately, sometimes, the results may be fatal. When your pup is growing is not the best time to experiment with food. If you do end up introducing new elements to their diet, do it gradually and make sure your pup is still getting all the necessary nutrients.
High Protein Alternatives
By now, you’ve hopefully gotten the answer to your question—can dogs eat corn? But since corn is out, you may wonder about alternatives. What are other high protein sources that your dog can benefit from? For protein, these are the top sources:
- Meat, including pork, beef, etc.
- Commercial high protein dog food.
Can Dogs Eat Corn – Summary?
It’s natural to want to share our favorite foods with our dogs—we all do! But there are some foods our pooches are better without. While your dog can eat most forms of corn without danger it’s best to avoid feeding this cereal to your dog on a regular basis.
Cereal crops in their modern form are a human invention. They’re carefully selected to pack as much energy as we can into a smaller area. They work quite well for us, but they’re not really meant for dogs. Although corn contains a little more protein and fat than some other cereal crops, there are better foods for your dog to get these from.
Provided you avoid corn on the cob, it’s okay to give corn to your dog for a very occasional treat, — nothing more. Even in this instance, there are healthier treats that your dog will probably love just as much.
We all want to give our dogs a varied diet. And feeding your dog new things can be exciting and fun! But it is always worth looking into the potential repercussions this could have on your dog’s health. The most important thing is always that our furry friends are healthy and happy. Corn for dogs seems like a fun idea, but as is often the case, it’s really not necessary. A healthy and balanced diet is the best treat you can possibly give your loyal pooch.
References and Further Reading:
- The use of sorghum and corn as alternatives to rice in dog foods L. N. Twomey, D. W. Pethick, J. B. Rowe, Mingan Choct, J. R. Pluske, W. Brown, M. C. Laviste.
- Henry’s emergency, Vets-now. Dangers of corn on the cob to dogs and what to do if your dog eats one.
- Corn, sweet, yellow, raw USDA Food Database.
- Hutchinson DVM et al. Seizures and severe nutrient deficiencies in a puppy fed a homemade diet Journal of American Veterinary Association 2012.
- Effects of dietary carbohydrate fat and protein on growth body composition and blood metabolite levels in the dog. D. R. Romos, P. S. Belo, M. R. Bennick, W. G. Bergen, G. A. Leveille.
- Food hypersensitivity in 20 dogs with skin and gastrointestinal signs S. Paterson.
- Bayer Crop Science
Can Dogs Eat Corn has been extensively revised for 2019.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website