Thanks to its health benefits and the range of forms we can purchase it in, most of us will have some sweetcorn in our house. For any owners looking to add some bulk to a dog’s dinner or offer a healthy snack, they have probably considered adding fresh or frozen vegetables like corn and carrots to provide some extra filling for their pup. But as with any new food, you need to ensure that it is safe for your dog to eat and provided in appropriate portion sizes.
But can dogs eat sweetcorn? Is it healthy for them, or are there risks owners should be aware of when feeding corn to their dog?
Yes, dogs can eat sweetcorn. The kernels of sweetcorn are paw-fectly safe for dogs to eat as long as they have no allergies, and can actually provide them with some health benefits. Just remember to feed them the kernels only and never let them eat the cob.
Sweetcorn doesn’t always break down completely in a dog’s stomach, so don’t be too alarmed if you see some kernels left in their stool.
Corn, much like any other cereal, isn’t an essential part of a dog’s diet so they won’t be missing out if you don’t feed them any. But many dogs enjoy the taste of sweetcorn and it makes a nice snack for a hungry pup. Cornstarch meanwhile is a staple in dry kibble as it helps to bind the ingredients together and offers a cheap way of bulking food out. However, cereals provide little nutritional value for canines. While sweetcorn can make a tasty occasional treat, it certainly shouldn’t make up a significant proportion of their diet.
Some dogs are known to have sensitivities to corn or other cereals, so do not feed any sweetcorn to your dog if you think they might be allergic.
It is “safe” for dogs to eat both canned and frozen sweetcorn.
However, canned sweetcorn is often high in salt. This can put your dog at risk of dehydration and sodium poisoning if they eat a lot of it. Canned sweetcorn also has lower nutritional value, so it’s best not to feed it to your dog regularly. If you do feed your dog canned sweetcorn, make sure it is drained thoroughly and only feed them a very small amount.
Meanwhile, frozen sweetcorn is a better option for an affordable and easy form of sweetcorn to prepare for you and the dog. Simply boil it until cooked, and then you and your dog can both enjoy it.
If you do feed your dog any sweetcorn, only give them a small amount as it can be very filling and put them off their dinner. Never add any butter or seasoning to sweetcorn if you’re planning to feed it to your dog.
As baby sweetcorn is immature, it has not developed a tough cob and can be eaten whole. There is not much advice on whether dogs can eat baby sweetcorn or not. But as the cob is not tough and indigestible, it should be safe for dogs to eat. But better to err on the side of caution, not feed it to your dog and discuss any new foods with your vet.
Popcorn is actually made from maize, not sweetcorn, but the two plants are from the same family. Dogs can eat popcorn but you must be mindful of the additional ingredients and the volume that they eat. Like sweetcorn, popcorn is a very filling food with lots of carbs but little nutrition so don’t feed a lot to your dog.
If you and your dog want to enjoy a tasty snack together, you should try making your own popcorn at home. Just remember not to feed your dog any flavoured popcorn.
Who doesn’t love some barbecued sweetcorn on a summer’s day? As with sweetcorn cooked in other ways, like boiling, the main problem with barbecued corn is the cob. If you wanted to feed your dog any, you would have to scrape the kernels off.
Additionally, the corn from your BBQ is usually covered in butter and seasonings which are bad for dogs. It’s advisable not to feed your dog barbecued sweetcorn and instead give them plain sweetcorn that has been prepared by boiling, steaming, baking, or even microwaving.
The crispy bits on barbecued corn are signs that the food has undergone the Maillard reaction. And although this isn’t an immediate problem for dogs, ingesting lots of food that has undergone this reaction can cause a buildup of carcinogens over time. That’s another reason why keeping your dog’s food natural and simply prepared is im-paw-tent for their long-term health.
Sweetcorn does have some nutritional value and when fed in moderation it can be good for dogs. The kernels are packed full of carbohydrates, protein, fibre, and some vitamins.
Because of the carbs in corn, it is important to feed your dog sweetcorn in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. Protein is im-paw-tent for muscle growth while fibre can help aid digestion and improve the firmness of your dog’s stool.
Corn also contains other minerals such as lutein and zeaxanthin which are helpful for eye health. Sweetcorn has some vitamin C but it depletes during cooking. However, cooking sweetcorn actually increases the antioxidant levels. Antioxidants prevent inflammation and protect your pup against the harms of reactive oxygen and free radicals in their blood.
Unless you overfeed your dog, no, sweetcorn shouldn’t make them sick. If your dog does become unwell, they may be allergic and you should contact your vet for advice. You also should never feed them a whole ear of corn because the cob can cause serious illness.
Dogs can be very tempted to bite off part of a cob to chew. However, this seriously hard and rough substance is too tough to break down. Not only can pieces of cob be a choking hazard, but they can damage the insides of your dogs.
Corn cobs can cause a partial or complete obstruction or blockage in your dog’s stomach or intestines. This prevents other food and liquids from moving through your dog’s gut, so they cannot digest their food. If left untreated, obstructions will lead to deterioration of your dog’s organs as blood flow is restricted. In turn, the lack of movement through their digestive tract leads to a buildup of contents and can lead to the absorption of toxins. Obstructions can then cause serious complications such as intestinal rupture.
At a minimum, a bowel obstruction will cause a significant gastrointestinal upset but at its worst, it can prove fatal.
In addition to obstructing the gut, cobs can cause internal injuries to your dog’s digestive system such as cuts along the intestine walls. There have been cases where dogs have eaten corn cobs unsupervised and the internal injuries caused by the cob led to septicemia. Cases like this are rare but very serious, as septicemia can be fatal.
If your dog shows any symptoms of illness or bowel obstruction, you should contact your vet immediately.
Your vet will examine your dog to understand where the blockage is and how to treat it. If the fragment of cob is in their stomach, it might be possible to remove it using an endoscopy. If the blockage is serious with no sign of movement or has already been present for some time, your dog will likely have to undergo surgery to remove it.
If the bowel obstruction is not an immediate danger to your dog’s life and small enough it might move, a vet may decide to allow it to pass naturally. In this case, your dog may be given anti-sickness medication to settle their gut and be kept in for monitoring.
As with most injuries and distress to the digestive system, your dog will likely be made to undergo a period of starvation followed by highly-digestible meals to settle their stomach and allow it to heal. They will also require plenty of rest and fluids as they recover.
Yes, dogs can eat sweetcorn provided that it is cooked plain and they are only given the kernels.
Never give your dog a whole ear of corn as the cob poses a significant choking hazard and can cause internal injury and obstruction.
Sweetcorn does have some nutritional benefits, but it's not the best veggie of the bunch. Instead of sweetcorn, feed your dog a complete and balanced meal such as Pure, that is packed with totally natural ingredients such as meat, fruit and veggies, alongside extra vitamins and minerals to provide total nourishment. The veggies in Pure are all picked because of their high nutritional content, helping to keep dogs happy and healthy.
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.