There are many things that we humans eat daily without thinking twice about it; ingredients that are present in what we have for dinner, in snacks we buy when out and about and more, and it is always tempting to know if it would be okay for us to share what we are eating with our furry friends.
This time we are talking about something many believe to be a vegetable, but which is actually a stable cereal crop – used and consumed all over the world. Corn. Is it okay for our dogs to have corn, and if so, how should we feed it to them? Canned? Fresh? Corn on a cob? Let’s find out.
Corn – What Is It?
The cereal grain corn (also known as maize) was first used in Mexico somewhere around 10 000 years ago; by indigenous people in the south of the country. The stalk of this plant is covered with leaves, and it is what produces ovuliferous inflorescences (ears) and pollen inflorescences that will then yield seeds (often referred to as kernels). Corn production is one of the largest ones in the world, and it is currently a larger industry than both the production of wheat and rice.
There are six different types of corn/maize; sweet corn, pod corn, flint corn, popcorn, flour corn, and dent corn, but not all are commonly used for human consumption. Some are used to make corn ethanol, corn starch, and corn syrup, others go into the production of animal feed and then lastly, we have what ends up on our dinner plates. They all slightly different from one another, but when asking ourselves if dogs can eat corn, the main issue isn’t the type of corn, but in what way we plan to serve the corn to our dogs.
Different Ways to Eat Corn
You may think of corn as only one type of food, but corn comes in a lot of varieties. It all grows the same, but humans have come up with various ways to consume it. You can buy it frozen, canned, still attached to the cob, the popcorn you get at the movie theatre, corn starch and more, so in order to determine whether corn is okay for dogs to eat – we will need to have a look at the different varieties.
Is Corn Safe for Dogs?
The easiest way to put it is that corn is not unsafe for dogs. Most people know that the dog is related to the wolves and that a long time ago – before they were domesticated – they probably ate a mostly meat-based diet. This has changed and their bodies and digestive tracts have evolved, and it is now common to be feeding vegetables and fruit to domestic dogs. In fact, most high-quality dog foods contain a mix of veggies and plants, but how about corn?
Corn might be something your dog is already eating, without you having realized it. Many dog foods contain corn or corn starch, and if you ever feed table scraps to your furry friend – it is very possible that some corn might have slipped in there. The good news is that corn is not dangerous for dogs, and they can eat it provided it is the right type of corn. Corn on the cob is an exception, but more on that below.
Popcorn is a delicious snack that we also need to bring up, mostly because many dogs out there are obsessed with the crunchy and white snack. Is it okay for our dogs to have a popcorn? Yes, it is, but it should preferably be popcorn we have popped ourselves, without too much salt and/or oil.
Movie theatre popcorn is drenched in a buttery substance and has too much salt to be healthy for dogs, so if your pup is a popcorn lover – learn to pop popcorn yourself and use as little oil as possible with no added salt. You should also feed in moderation as too much could cause a stomach ache or other digestive issues.
How About Corn on the Cob?
Corn may be fine for dogs to eat, but if it is still attached to the cob – beware! Corn on the cob can be lethal to a dog, and it is not because of the corn itself, but because of the cob. Corn cobs are not digestible, which is why humans tend to eat the corn off the cob and throw the rest away. Dogs don’t think the same way that we do, and they are very likely to chew up the whole thing, which could cause a life-threatening obstruction in their intestines.
If a cob obstruction occurs, you could be looking at a life or death situation, and one that will develop surprisingly fast. There might be very little time for you to act once your dog has ingested a cob or part of a cob, so take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as you possibly can. In the best of scenarios – your vet might be able to make your dog throw the cob back up, but if more time has passed you will likely be looking at an expensive surgery to solve the blockage.
Corn on cob is not just an issue inside your own home, as the cob itself is a waste product that is often thrown out with the trash, left behind where people have held barbeques, near farmlands and where harvesting has taken place. Some dogs will eat anything, and it is not unlikely that they would chew on a cob even if the corn has already been removed.
The sweet corn you find in cans is harmless to dogs, and it is fine for them to try it if they would want to. However, there is absolutely no need for a dog to eat sweet (canned) corn, as it is very starchy and hard for their bodies to digest. This does not present an issue, but the corn will almost always go in one way and out the other, so to speak, with the dog’s body unable to take up any nutrients from it.
It is up to you whether you choose to give canned corn to your dog, but you can basically say that if a few falls and lands on the floor and if your dog eats them – don’t worry, as it is completely safe. There is no need to run down to the store to buy a can of corn for your dog though, as it won’t provide them with any nutrients.
Corn in Dog Food
If you have ever taken the time to read through the ingredients on a dry- or wet dog food, you might have noticed that some of them contain corn. This is true especially for commercial dog food brands – those you find in the pet aisle at your local grocery store – and they are often listed among the first ingredients.
Despite corn not being harmful to pets – it is not something you want to see listed high among the ingredients of your dog food. Why? The problem with corn is that it is a cheap filler; mostly used by low-quality dog food brands to produce kibble or wet food at a lower price.
Corn, when found in dog food, is classified as a filler to increase the mass of a cheaper product; just like wheat, soy, tapioca and more. They have very little nutritional value for dogs and are mostly there to make the production of the dog food a lot cheaper. When you buy food for your dog, it is true that you often get what you pay for.
You can test this yourself by comparing the ingredients of a grocery store brand with a high-quality kibble like Orijen, Acana or Taste of the Wild, and you are almost guaranteed to find corn in the commercial brands and not in the others. It is a clear sign of a dog food being of less quality.
Corn starch is also commonly found in dog food products, usually further down the ingredient list, and it works to bind other ingredients together. It adds thickness and makes the dog food more substantial; which makes it easier to store, serve and for your dog to eat.
Now that we have established that dogs can eat corn (just not corn on the cob) and that it is unlikely to do them any harm unless they have allergies or food sensitivities, we are still left with the question of whether they should eat corn. It is not something they need in their diet, and nothing indicates that a dog benefits from eating corn; you can feed it to them without putting them at risk, but you shouldn’t replace any of their regular food with it.
There are so many fruits vegetables and other foods that you can feed to your dog instead; ones that are packed with nutrition and just as delicious. Choose carrot sticks, celery, strawberries, blueberries, broccoli or anything else that your dog’s body can digest, or you will be feeding something with zero nutritional value. The corn itself is nutritious, but since the canine body is unable to digest it and make use of the nutrients – feeding it to a dog becomes rather pointless.