Keep corn on the cob away from your dog, urge vets

23 August 2019

We are advising anyone having a barbecue this Bank Holiday Weekend to keep corn cobs and discarded kebab skewers away from inquisitive pets to avoid serious and potentially fatal injuries. The advice comes after our survey revealed that a quarter of companion animal vets had treated pets for injuries caused by barbecues last summer.

The most common barbecue injuries vets saw last year were a result of pets eating corn cobs (seen by 56% of companion animal vets), followed closely by damage to the mouth or internal injuries from kebab skewers and cooked bones. Vets also reported treating dogs for burns received from eating hot food off the grill or touching the barbecue or hot coals.

In one case, a dog required surgery to remove obstruction caused by cooked corn on the cob and the metal skewers used to hold it. Another vet reported seeing two wooden skewer ingestion cases last summer, one of them a result of barbecue remains left behind in a public park.

“Owners still think corn on the cob is ‘natural’ so it can't cause issues, but I have seen worse gut reactions to corn on the cobs than to pointy toys, cocktail picks or remote controls,” one vet said.

Several vets responding to our Autumn 2018 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey also reported seeing cases of gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis caused by pets being fed one greasy sausage too many. In one extreme case, a puppy died from inhalation pneumonia after it tried to swallow a burger but ended up inhaling it instead.

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“Dogs are well known scavengers and will eat anything they think is a tasty morsel. Corn itself is not poisonous to dogs, but a cob can cause an obstruction which can have devastating effects on the digestive system, such as intestinal rupture.

“Symptoms of gastrointestinal blockage include vomiting, inappetence, lethargy and pain. If an owner has any concerns that their dog has eaten something it should not have done, we'd advise contacting a local vet immediately.

“We’d also urge anyone having a barbecue this summer to keep other greasy meats, kebab skewers and bones well out of reach of inquisitive pets, as these can cause serious injury or illness that often require medical treatment or even surgery.

“If you’re having a barbecue in a public space like a park, please clean up any leftover food and skewers to make sure other dogs don’t accidentally swallow them.”

Sophie's lucky escape

Sophie, a 9-year-old English Setter who lives with her owner near Reading, was brought in to Larkmead Veterinary Group’s Didcot practice over this summer’s May Bank Holiday weekend, vomiting. Her owner mentioned seeing her scavenge a kebab during a barbecue but thought she had only eaten the meat off the stick. However, the dog was known for a love for scavenging, having recently eaten (and safely passed out) a toy rabbit and some Sellotape. An X-ray and laboratory tests didn’t show anything abnormal, so Sophie was treated for suspected gastroenteritis and discharged after two days of inpatient care cleared her symptoms.

Sophie then presented towards the end of June with a lump on her left rib. A small sample was sent for laboratory analysis, with results suggesting a possibility of neoplastic cancer. A scan to find a primary tumour showed up nothing, so vets decided to take a biopsy of the mass. When surgeons opened the lump, they found a 16-centimetre kebab skewer protruding through it, which they gently removed through the abdominal wall.

Sophie’s recovery post-surgery was “very quick”, the vet said, adding, “She felt more like herself within a few days post-op.”

Related BVA policy

BVA Media Office