If your dog swallowed a corn cob, you are right to be concerned. Corn cobs can cause issues as they travel through the dog's gastrointestinal tract. The main issue is when dogs swallow large chunks of corn cobs or even swallow the corn cobs whole, which may lead to dangerous blockages. Blockages often require surgery and these surgeries can be costly and sometimes even lead to complications. As the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" and this applies well to preventing dogs from swallowing corn cobs.
Help, My Dog Swallowed a Corn Cob!
Corn cobs are particularly problematic due to their size and their hard texture which is not digested. The corn cob can lodge somewhere along the dog's digestive tract causing a potential blockage.
Many veterinarians are forced to remove corn cobs stuck from the stomach and the intestines of dogs. Unfortunately, corn cobs are overrepresented as causes for foreign body blockages in dogs.
Usually, normal transit times for anything inside the stomach moving towards the intestine is anywhere between 1 and 4 hours.
A Corn Cob Lodged in Dog's Stomach
If the corn cob is stuck in the stomach, it won't be digested and risks sitting in the stomach and taking up space. In such cases, an endoscopic procedure may be required.
Endoscopy is a procedure where a small tube with a camera is passed down the dog's esophagus and into his stomach. Once identified, the corn cob can be grasped with forceps and removed through the dog's mouth. Although endoscopy still requires anesthesia and is typically performed at specialty centers, the good news is that it is much less invasive than surgery.
A Corn Cob Lodged in Dog's Intestine
When not lodged in the stomach, the corn cob may pass into the intestines where it may continue to pass through or risk getting stuck somewhere. While a dog's intestines have the ability to "stretch" to allow items to pass through, we must remember that the intestines are used to dealing with the passage of liquid ingesta, and therefore, anything large and solid risks getting stuck somewhere. Corn cobs are likely to mostly get stuck in the dog's small intestine.
Signs of Blockages in Dogs
Usually, a blockage takes about 1 to 4 days to occur. Affected dogs typically develop the following symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal cramping, walking hunched over due to pain, pain upon abdominal palpation and inability to produce stool.
Did the Dog Chew the Corn Cob?
Of course, these issues can be close to nonexistent if the dog rather than swallowing the corn cob managed to chew it to a good extent. So an important question is: did the dog really swallow the corn cob or did he manage to chew some? This can mean the difference between a dog not needing any veterinary care at all from one in dire need of care because of a life threatening obstruction.
Dog Ate Corn Cob, Induce Vomiting or Not?
In general, when dogs ingest items that can be potentially toxic or that can cause troubles passing through, vets may recommend inducing vomiting. Now, not always this is possible.
For instance, certain substances may cause more trouble being brought up than anything. Bleach is a good example, if a dog ingests bleach which is caustic, inducing vomiting may cause the dog's esophagus to be exposed again to its harmful effects.
Inducing Vomiting Can be Risky Business
When it comes to corn cobs, inducing vomiting may be risky business, especially if the dog managed to swallow it whole. In such a case, vomiting the corn cob could potentially cause an obstruction in the dog's throat which would be an emergency situation.
However, on the other hand, some veterinarians feel that it may be worthy to take the risk and adhere to the belief that "if it went down, it can come back up." Such veterinarians recommend inducing vomiting if the corn cob was ingested less than two hours ago. If more than two hours have passed, it it likely that the corn cob has already exited the stomach. Consult with your vet or a 24-hour vet emergency center for specific advice.
Consult with a Vet
Dog owners should consult with their vet or an emergency center for guidance on what to do if their dog swallowed a corn cb, especially when there was not much chewing involved. Whether to induce vomiting or not may vary based on the size of the dog (it is easier for large dogs to pass due to the larger diameter of their intestines), how long ago the corn cob was ingested and how far the owners are located should an emergency situation arise.
Dog owners may be instructed to use hydrogen peroxide (dose based on dog's weight) for up to two times. If the second time around though doesn't work, then the next step is to see the vet for other options (a stronger emetic such as the drug apomorphine or other procedures).
Some Other Options
What if dog owners do not want to take the risk or too much time has passed? In such cases, there are a few more options.
Having the dog see the vet and getting x-rays or an ultrasound done to see where the corn cob is located and to better estimate the size of the cob can be insightful.
Such info can help determine whether manually retrieving the corn cob through an endoscope is appropriate. If still in the stomach, then trying to remove the corn cob with an endoscope is worthy of trying.
A Wait and See Approach
Alternatively, dog owners can take a wait and see approach and hope for the best. Feeding the dog several slices of bread or canned pumpkin (not the pie filling, just plain pumpkin) may help pass the corn cob through (which, again, is more likely in large dogs rather than smaller dogs).
The purpose of feeding such foods is that they contain extra fiber, which helps draw water into the large intestine and get the feces moving faster down ready to be expelled. However, this won't help obviously if the corn cobs are stuck in the stomach or small intestine.
Inspecting the dog's stool can help grasp an idea of whether the corn cob or pieces of corn cob have passed or not. In general, ingested items should pass in 48 hours.
Surgery to Remove Corn Cob From Dog
The surgery to remove a corn cob from a dog entails making an incision through the abdomen and then into the bowel. The surgical procedure that involves cutting open the intestine is known as enterotomy.
When all goes well, the intestine is opened and the corn cob is removed and then the incision is closed. However, there may sometimes be complications.
Some Surgical Complications
For instance, if the corn cob places pressure on a specific spot in the intestine, it may lead to what is known as "pressure necrosis." The pressure causes lack of blood flow to the area leading to the intestinal wall becoming necrotic (tissue dying), which leads to intestinal perforation.
Intestinal perforation is a serious issue because leaks from a punctured intestinal wall lead to a potentially life threatening infection in the abdominal cavity, known as peritonitis. Generally, when there is necrotic tissue it is removed during surgery. Sometimes an entire portion of the bowel due to pressure necrosis needs to removed (intestinal resection).
An intestinal resection is more risky compared to just opening the incision and removing the object because there is a chance of it opening allowing intestinal contents to spill out into the abdomen causing a life threatening acute peritonitis. However, the good news is that if this is dealt with immediately and aggressively, there are better chances for recovery.
As seen, a dog swallowing a corn cob can be some serious business. If your dog swallowed a corn cob, consult with your vet for the best course of action based on individual factors.