Corn maize in canine diet. Can dogs eat corn? Pet food insights and advice on choosing dog food. Genetic modification, hybrid corn, pros and cons of using corn in dog diet (C) Nutrition for English cocker spaniels, Perfect cocker spaniel blog / Natalia Ashton, canine nutritionist, pet nutrition coach, small animal nutritionist UK

Can my dog eat… corn?

What is yellow, has ears and can be used to make food, coffee, fireworks and fuel? 

Yes, today we are going to talk about corn and the role it plays in dog diet. I know corn often gets bad press and has been dismissed by many pup parents because the grain is often presented as “the worst” ingredient in dog food. But is it really?

Let’s discuss a few curious facts today.

Corn isn’t just a “filler”. Corn is a nutrient-rich grain that adds proteins important for body’s growth and maintenance (the grain is 6.8-12% protein), carbohydrates for energy, fibre for healthy digestion and potentially reduced risk of GI cancers, antioxidants such as carotenoids to protect and strengthen the immune system and, importantly, linoleic acid that is essential for dogs. 

Based on the amino acid content, corn has a biological value of 74, almost the same as beef and chicken (both are 75). When combined with other sources of amino acids, corn can help create food with the gold standard value of 100.

Corn maize in canine diet. Can dogs eat corn? Pet food insights and advice on choosing dog food. Genetic modification, hybrid corn, pros and cons of using corn in dog diet (C) Nutrition for English cocker spaniels, Perfect cocker spaniel blog / Natalia Ashton, canine nutritionist, pet nutrition coach, small animal nutritionist UK

Dogs can digest corn because they evolved and became omnivores that have a genome different to the wolf’s, particularly when it comes to digestion of carbohydrates. When fed a diet containing corn starch, dogs showed 99% digestibility of the starch and 87% of the protein (the highest digestibility compared to diets containing other grains). The diet containing corn flour showed 98% of carb digestibility. 

Corn is not going to cause an allergic reaction in every dog. I have talked about allergies in Perfect cocker spaniel in detail and dedicated a chapter to it in Beyond the Doughnut too. 

If I am to put it all in a (long) sentence – grains are least likely to cause allergies in dogs and corn is considered an “uncommon food source of allergens”, the type of corn used in food production plays a role (in a study dogs with potential allergy to corn were less likely to react to cornstarch than kernels and flour), there is always a small chance of a dog reacting to ANY food ingredient simply because dogs are unique and there are several diet, lifestyle, health and genetic factors that can contribute to the reaction, just because a dog had a reaction to some food where corn is an ingredient, it does not mean the dog reacted to corn, the only way to know for sure is through extensive and labour-intensive veterinary exam, months-long elimination trials under veterinary and nutritional supervision and a review and potentially complete overhaul of the environment the dog in question lives in. 

Corn maize in canine diet. Can dogs eat corn? Pet food insights and advice on choosing dog food. Genetic modification, hybrid corn, pros and cons of using corn in dog diet (C) Nutrition for English cocker spaniels, Perfect cocker spaniel blog / Natalia Ashton, canine nutritionist, pet nutrition coach, small animal nutritionist UK

Corn may lower glycemic response in adult dogs meaning that dogs will not have insulin spikes following a meal.

Corn can be a very useful ingredient in a diet formulated for dogs with diagnosed health condition or dogs undergoing tests or treatment. If you vet prescribes a food made with corn, he is doing it to help your dog, not because he’s got an evil canning plan!

But before you rush and grab a bag of dog food made with corn, remember the following…

The corn used in pet food is often a hybrid type that may be higher in proteins and lower in phytates. This, however, means that corn used in dog food, may undergo genetic modification, which can put many people off for a number of reasons. The subject is controversial, especially when it comes to pet food industry because long-term studies of GM corn and its potential role in cancers are lacking. 

If you are concerned, look for UK and EU produced foods and check the label. By law “animal feed materials and compound feeds which contain GM or GM-derived material must be indicated on the label”. And even though many ingredients, including corn, are exported from the countries that allow genetic modification, the UK/EU rules will highlight this for the consumer.

Corn maize in canine diet. Can dogs eat corn? Pet food insights and advice on choosing dog food. Genetic modification, hybrid corn, pros and cons of using corn in dog diet (C) Nutrition for English cocker spaniels, Perfect cocker spaniel blog / Natalia Ashton, canine nutritionist, pet nutrition coach, small animal nutritionist UK

Corn can be a source of aflatoxins and at the moment the official recommendations and safety limits differ greatly when it comes to grains used for human food and those used in animal feed. There have also been a few recalls due to aflatoxin contamination in pet food, however, not of them were necessarily caused by corn. 

It is worth remembering that pet food manufactures do test ingredients and have measured in place to ensure food safety. There have also been considerations for the use of special supplements such as Hydrated sodium calcium aluminosilicate, which is natural clay that coats the food and prevents potential aflatoxin poisoning even if the food is contaminated. 

However, according to the review by Maxwell Leung et al. published in 2006 “government regulations of mycotoxin contamination are often compromised by the analytical detection limits, regional prevalence, as well as trade relationships amongst different countries instead of fulfilling the scientific approach of risk assessment and safety determination”.

If you are concerned, buy the food produced by PFMA-registered members. Personally I would stick with bigger food manufacturers that have resources and facilities for testing ingredients and products and actually inform their customers of food recalls should the worst happen. 

Choose shops that are more likely to store the food with great care.

Check the label on the bag for best before date and keep the food in a cool, dark place, and use the bag the food came in – just remember to seal it well.

And if you choose to make treats with corn for your dog, shop in supermarkets for organic polenta or organic corn flour known as masa harina. 


How dogs smell. Curious facts about dog's nose, how they detect scent, disease, what can affect dog ability to smell. (C) Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog by Natalia Ashton / Canine nutritionist, pet nutrition coach, all about English cocker spaniels, grooming, training, diet, puppy tips. Photo of Cooper, English cocker spaniel with snow on his nose.

Dog’s nose | Curious facts beyond the boop

It’s not just for cute boops… A dog’s nose is probably one of the most fascinating things about them. So much so that I am dedicating another post to the dog’s nose and incredible sense of smell. 

I love watching my boys noses, how they follow an invisible story, the tiny twitches, the hunger of the unknown and exciting information they greedily breathe in. They are both into this ritual, yet I often wonder how Coop and Fred perceive this world based on their experiences of scents.

Coop is certainly a good sniffer, but the boy is mostly interested in pee mail. And flowers. Fred, on the other hand, has the nose of canine dreams! He doesn’t care about the mail, but he always informs me if somebody we know is around the corner, a dog just walked through the village, or there’s a cat, bunny or pheasant nearby (by “nearby” I mean distance on Fred’s sniffing terms – it covers miles…) And both are definitely aware of food smells and do react to any emotional and hormone-related changes in us.

We know that dogs rely on their sense of smell and hearing more than vision. Does it mean that even my chaps, whilst being canines, would actually see the world around us as two completely different environments? The geek in me keeps playing with this idea a lot. 

But is it exactly that makes a dog’s nose so unique?

It has about 250 million receptors responsible for detecting scents. Humans only have 5 million. We are pretty basic.

Dogs can bond with their littermates and humans through scent and detest strangers and non-litter pups because of it. In a study a dog was presented with 5 different scents including his own, a familiar human, a strange human, a familiar dog and a strange dog. Only the scent of the familiar human triggered the response in the brain area responsible for positive emotions, rewards and “romantic interactions”. In other words, the pups knew who is responsible for the biscuits. 

Even more fascinating, dogs can differentiate between two identical twins if the twins were fed different diets or raised in different environments.

If a teaspoon of sugar was dissolved in two Olympic-sized swimming pools, dogs would be able to smell it. 

Dog’s ability to sniff is breed-dependent. In a 1965 experiment by Scott and Fuller, a mouse was left in an acre-sized field. Beagles located it within a minute. A fox terrier took 15. A Scotty literally stood by the mouse and still failed to see it. I suspect if a bloodhound (the clear champion of sniffing) was around he’d be by that mouse in seconds.

Cockers, on the other hand, proved themselves as fabulous drug detectors.

Dogs can track a person days after his or her disappearance as long as there’s about 1/1000 of human scent left on the ground. 

They can also confirm or deny if two odours are from the same source, identify separate ingredients in a bowl of soup, or detect substances used in explosions despite the presence of any debris. 

Dogs can smell cancer, covid, changes in blood sugar or body pre-seizure. 

A blind dog will always follow his nose. It is what can help him adjust to his new life and stay tuned in without panicking.

Dogs smell better in humid conditions, and struggle to smell effectively when they feel really hot.

Dogs who frequently eat coconut oil may have a reduced ability to detect scents

And canines diagnosed with hyperadrenocorticism, hypothyroidism, or diabetes can also struggle to use their nose as nature intended.

Next time you look at your pup’s snout, take a moment to appreciate its wonders that we will never experience or truly comprehend… And follow your dog’s nose…

Photo credit: Cooper photographed by me

Can dogs eat apples? Benefits of apples in dog diet. How to include apples in dog's diet. Nutrition tips from canine nutritionist. Healthy treats for dogs and puppies

Can my dog eat… apples?

You know what I find really interesting about the “apple to my eye” phrase? Not its actual meaning of devotion towards somebody especial, but the facts that this beautiful fruit can actually support eye health. Yet the crown of “vision food” is always given to carrots. 

We will get to this a few sentences later. But for now I have a question of the day for you…


The simple, crispy and beautiful fruits are coming in season right now, and I really wanted to bring your attention to them as a reminder that dogs can definitely eat apples – and it will be beneficial for them.

Apples contain vitamin A that takes care of healthy eyes as well as helps to maintain beautiful coat and skin. 

They are a source of vitamin C to support immunity and reduce the risk of allergies. Vitamin C is also important for collagen production and taking part in maintaining tissues and joints.

Apples also provide B vitamins important for energy, resilience to stress, proper metabolism and even skin and coat health, plus vitamin K essential for formation of blood clots, enzyme production and transport of calcium to the bones.

The fruit is a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and boron. Think strong bones, muscle and nerve cells functions, and DNA synthesis.

Fibre is another reason to include a little apple in the dog’s diet. Apples contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. They not only clear out the toxins from the digestive tract and help it work like clockwork (insoluble fibre), but also feed friendly gut bacteria (soluble fibre such as pectin). 

Research showed that high antioxidant levels in apples prevented growth of cancer cells and reduced cholesterol in both human and animal studies.

REMEMBER before feeding apples to your spaniel that…

… 1-2 thin (2-3mm in thickness) slices are all your dog needs – always start with a bite of two as an introduction

… too much fruit can cause bloating, gas and diarrhoea (so stick with the rule above)

… you can use raw apple slices, grated apple (about 1-2 tsp) or 100% apple pure (1-2 tsp per day for a cocker) 

… apple puree & grated apple are great on lickimats

… always core the apples to remove the middle bit, stalk and seeds

… never let the dog eat spoiled apple or the ones found on the ground (unless they are perfectly nice and have been washed before feeding to the pups)

I am so in love with this fruit, I already talked about it in Beyond the Doughnut where I shared nutrition trivia and recipes. And my upcoming cookbook will have even more ideas. Because apples really are worth it. 

Photo credit: apples by Mircea Ploscar via Pixabay