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Tales from the Pet Clinic

with Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, DACVIM

This blog has been retired. We appreciate all of the insights that Dr. Hohenhaus shared with our readers.


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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Corn Cobs Are Not For Dogs

By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM


A sick young dog

Early last week, Steel, a healthy, well cared for young Labrador, was rushed to The AMC in the wee hours of the morning for intractable vomiting.  The poor dog looked miserable with vomit on his face and paws.  The emergency doctors determined he was dehydrated and started intravenous fluids along with mediations to help control nausea.  They also performed a critical test when they took an abdominal x-ray.

X-rays hold the key

The abdominal x-ray showed that several of Steel’s intestinal loops were over distended with gas and fluid.  The distension exceeded that of normal intestinal gas and suggested something was blocking the progression of food through the intestinal tract. As he scanned the x-ray further, the radiologist saw a one and three-quarter inch long tubular object containing little bits of gas evenly distributed throughout.  To the radiologist, this structure looked like a corn cob, but Steel’s family had not served any corn on the cob lately.

Surgery answers the question

Shortly after the x-rays were taken, Steel was anesthetized and wheeled into the operating room where the emergency surgeon readily identified the obstruction in the intestine.  Because the intestine had been damaged by the obstruction, a small portion of the intestine was removed (resection) and the ends sutured back together (anastomosis). In surgical terms these procedures are often called an R&A.  Once the damaged intestine was removed, it was opened revealing – you guessed it –a corn cob! Where the corn cob came from, Steel is not telling.

Dog X-Ray

Steel’s abdominal x-ray shows gas filled intestinal loops and the offending corn cob, which I have outlined in red.

I am certain Steel’s family wishes they knew where the corn cob came from to prevent another serious illness for their dog.  Make your best effort to protect your dog against eating something dangerous by:

  • Covering and locking all trash cans
  • Keeping human food out of your dog’s reach
  • Storing human AND pet mediations up high and in closed cabinets
  • Keeping your dog busy and out of trouble by providing an enriched environment with window seats, interactive feeding toys and plenty of exercise
  • Watching your dog during walks to prevent him from eating garbage or foreign objects


For other interesting stories about the strange eating habits of dogs, read about Lola and Rachet.

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: Ann Hohenhaus, DVM at 9:46 am

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