Corn is in just about everything we eat — and drink. As one of the most versatile and affordable foods to produce, corn has found its way into our sweeteners, sodas, meats, sauces, and even dog food.
So, can dogs eat corn? Typically, yes, but it all depends on the kind of corn. For example, corn cobs are no-no’s for dogs as they can lead to choking or intestinal obstruction (more on that later). Plain, cooked, whole corn kernels are safe for your dog in moderation, as are corn products in many types of dog food and kibble.
However, there is some crucial information you need to know before giving Max or Bella a handful of corn. To help you make an informed decision, we’ll review the different varieties of corn you might consider for your dog as well as any potential dangers.
By the time you’re done reading this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of the overall pros and cons of feeding your pooch corn and corn products.
Is Corn Good or Bad for Dogs? Take Note of Food Labels
Closely reading the ingredient list on a pet food label is what every pet parent must do. When going through the list of ingredients in your dog’s kibble, you might come across items like corn bran, corn flour, corn germ meal, corn syrup, and corn gluten meal, among other corn derivatives.
These are known as filler ingredients. Fillers are often necessary as binding agents and are often used to provide a balance of minerals, vitamins, carbs, fats, fiber, and protein. However, since corn is so affordable, some dog food brands excessively use fillers to replace higher-quality ingredients for the sake of saving money.
While this keeps dog kibble relatively inexpensive to produce and affordable for customers to buy, it can come with some risks. According to veterinary experts at PetMD, it’s essential to differentiate between good fillers and harmful fillers.
They assert that healthy amounts of corn and rice can be good for dogs, but derivatives like corn syrup and MSG (monosodium glutamate) are never a good idea. Instead, the vet experts suggest looking for food labels with “fillers low on the list, so that you know your dog is not getting an unhealthy amount of fillers.”
Whether it’s dog food or human food, ingredient lists follow a specific order that starts with the highest amount of ingredients and ends with the lowest amount. For example, if “chicken meal” is listed before “ground brown rice” on a bag of commercial dog food, this means that there is more chicken meal than ground brown rice in the formula. If several corn derivatives are listed closer to the top of the ingredient list, it may not be a high-quality, complete, and balanced dog food.
Combing through the various dog food brands and ingredient lists can be daunting at first. If you’re unsure about which dog food to choose, talk to your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist about your dog’s specific dietary needs, especially if Fido has any food sensitivities or allergies.
Keep in mind that food sensitivities often show up on the skin. If you notice your dog has hives, ear infections, is scratching all the time, or rubbing their face on a regular basis, it might be time to evaluate their diet with a veterinary professional.
Fact vs. Fiction: The Nutritional Value of Corn for Dogs
Aside from being used as a filler, corn does have some nutritional benefits. It’s a good starchy source of energy, fiber, carbohydrates, and linoleic acid. It also provides omega-6 essential fatty acids, which is essential for all animals. Omegas are vital for dog health as they keep skin from drying and getting itchy.
Cailin R. Heinze of Tufts University’s Clinical Nutrition Service states that animals who don’t get enough linoleic acid can develop a number of health problems like poor skin and coat, abnormal growth, and weakened immune systems. While corn is a good source of linoleic acid, it’s not the only source of healthy omegas, vitamins, and minerals.
Dog Food Advisor debunks the myth propagated by commercial dog food brands that corn is rich in vitamins and minerals, saying: “Aside from its energy content, corn’s nutritional completeness is certainly not exceptional.”
Although corn contains healthy nutrients like linoleic acid, these compounds are not unique to corn. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in corn are available in much healthier foods and veggies — and in greater quantities — that are safe for dogs to eat, including green beans, peanut butter, chicken, and pork.
So, if you’re looking for a veggie that’s packed with essential nutrients that your dog can safely snack on, corn probably shouldn’t be your first choice. It won’t do any harm (unless it’s a corn cob), but it also won’t give your dog sufficient amounts of vitamins or minerals, especially if you’re targeting specific issues like skin and coat health.
If you’re looking to add more omegas or specific vitamins into your dog’s diet, opt for a healthy dog chew specially formulated with everything they need instead.
Can Dogs Have Corn? How to Know Which Types of Corn Are Safe
Not only is corn utilized in almost all consumable products, but it comes in many forms from polenta to corn on the cob and popcorn. Let’s review the types of corn that are safe for dogs to eat, and the types of corn that you should keep away from your furry friend.
As mentioned, it’s never a good idea to give corn on the cob to dogs. Corn cobs are dangerous since a dog’s stomach cannot digest them and they can lead to severe intestinal blockage. Small dog breeds, in particular, could potentially choke on the spot if they tried to eat a large corn cob.
So, remember: When you’re cleaning up after a fun barbecue or picnic, make sure to discard corn cobs in a secure trash can out of your dog’s reach.
Vets Now lists symptoms of corn cob ingestion as:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal sensitivity
If your dog shows any of these signs and you suspect they might have swallowed corn on the cob, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Before the corn is removed, the vet will do a full examination and likely take X-rays or a stomach ultrasound.
What about sweet corn kernels? Unlike corn still attached to the cob, sweet corn is OK for dogs to consume in small amounts — as long as the kernels are separated from the cob, of course.
You might also be wondering if your dog can eat popcorn. Popcorn is safe in small amounts as long as it’s unseasoned and does not have any salt or butter. You’ll also want to make sure that the corn is thoroughly popped and doesn’t have any remaining hard kernels that could get stuck in your pooch’s teeth or get caught in their throat.
The main thing to remember is that all snacks and dog treats should be given in moderation, not as a daily go-to meal replacement.
Can Dogs Eat Corn? The Verdict is In
Yes, dogs can eat corn. However, every treat you share with your dog should be given in small quantities to avoid upsetting their digestive system. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that feeding corn to dogs is OK as long as it is cob-less and free of any seasonings.
Interested in how you can supplement your dog’s diet with tasty nutritional chews that support everything from skin health to digestion? Visit PetHonety.com for a variety of dog chews that can support your pet’s overall health and well-being.