fetch! blog

corn cob ingestion in pets

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Dr. Nina Mantione
Posted by Dr. Nina Mantione on Sep 07 2013
Dog chewing on corn cob | Why corn cobs are dangerous for dogs

This has been a harrowing week in my household thanks to a small lapse and a trash bag full of post Labor Day corn cobs. Tuesday morning, the trash bag was on the floor of my garage for less than an hour when my dog, Junebug, found it and lured, undoubtedly, by the aroma of post picnic discards decided to investigate.

I caught her red-pawed and chased her away, but not before she had consumed more than her fair share of corn cobs. I knew the moment that I discovered what she had eaten, that we were in for the long haul.

Why corn cobs are dangerous for pets

Corn cobs are the perfect size and shape to lodge in the intestine and cause all sorts of unwanted trouble.

June started vomiting Tuesday night and continued to do so off and on until Thursday morning when she finally threw up a handful of cobs. June typically accompanies me in my clinic on Thursdays so on Thursday morning we X-rayed her belly as soon as I came in the door. I could see that, despite the fact that I had not fed her for 24 hours and she had just unloaded a decent amount of indigestible debris, she, ominously, still had a fairly full stomach.

I should explain that at this point we (me and the other veterinarians I work with) debated on our course of action, finding it much more difficult to remain objective when the patient is a family member. Eventually we decided that close observation was the best option, since June was not truly obstructed (yet, anyways) and was stable, happy and ravenously hungry. That evening she brought up many more handfuls of corn cob pieces, something that gave me a sigh of relief, however; her vomiting continued throughout the night.

Friday morning found me at my office again, taking more X-rays, which showed a lovely empty stomach and no signs of obstruction, but because of her ongoing vomiting, we decided to perform a barium series. A barium series is a procedure which involves feeding the dog barium, which shows up very bright white on X-rays and then taking multiple X-rays throughout the day to observe the movement of barium through the GI tract. In this way we can determine whether or not everything is working properly, without obstruction.

June’s barium study was encouraging, because it showed that her stomach was able to empty normally, but discouraging, because we could see that the barium had to navigate past something in her small intestine on its way to the colon. Now the burning question was – exploratory surgery or more watch and wait. With June stable and bouncy, and lucky enough to have a hyper vigilant (minus the lapse of the unattended trash bag) veterinarian as an owner, we decided to continue to wait.

So now it is Sunday morning and June hasn’t vomited in about 36 hours. She has eaten a handful of rice and a tiny amount of kibble as I slowly reintroduce food – she looks at me as if she’d like to lodge an official complaint about the stingy portion size, but I have assured her it is for her own good.

It has been a very long week, thanks to a momentarily overlooked bag of garbage, but hopefully we are free and clear, out of the woods, breathing a sigh of relief and any other cliché that indicates that we have avoided an invasive and costly surgical procedure. At least I’m keeping my fingers crossed!