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How to keep your pet safe at a BBQ

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© tiverylucky - Shutterstock

Barbecues are a wonderful opportunity to get together with friends and family to enjoy food and nice weather. But if you own a dog, beware! Barbecues can be very dangerous for them.

By Justine Seraphin

Published on the 04/07/2021, 17:00

Summer is here and so is the nice weather. You’ve probably already set up your barbecue in the garden and are ready to light the grill in anticipation of a few guests. But there is one guest in particular that you need to watch out for: Your dog!

Yes, BBQ’s are full of hidden dangers for your pet, and many owners have ended up in emergency animal hospitals due to a little carelessness at a barbecue. So if you're taking your dog to a barbecue, or having one at your home, then keep the following advice in mind.

Is BBQ OK for dogs?

In one word, no. Barbecues aren’t the safest or healthiest places to be for dogs. However, there’s no reason why your dog can’t attend a barbecue and stay safe. You just have to be careful about a few things.

1. Burns

Don’t think your dog wouldn’t dare! As scavengers, dogs are always on the lookout for food and will snatch it up wherever they find it, even if it’s on a burning grill! Dogs regularly burn their paws, snouts, and tongues trying to reach the nice-smelling food on the barbecue, and what’s more, this can lead to a fire risk if they tip a hot charcoal barbecue over. You should always have someone manning the grill and ensuring that the dog doesn’t get too close. 

2. Intoxication

If you’re using lighter fluid or firelighters to start up your barbecue make sure you keep these well away from your dog. Once you’re finished using the bottle or bag, close it and put it away in a safe and out-of-reach place. These can be extremely toxic to your dog if ingested, and sadly, the smell and taste is often alluring to them.

3. Injuries, indigestions and blockages

While you shouldn’t be feeding your dog food from the barbecue, you should also make sure you discard any rubbish appropriately. Don’t leave pieces of plastic or aluminium lying around - these can cause both blockages and serious indigestions if your dog decides to snack on them. What’s more, ingested kebab sticks can puncture internal organs, making emergency surgery necessary. Don’t leave any rubbish unattended and make sure you discard it in a closed and inaccessible container.

4. Heatstroke

Typically, barbecues will take place on hot, sunny days. Your dog will undoubtedly want to stay close to you (and to the food), so may be exposed to hot weather for a prolonged amount of time. Yet, most dogs are not well equipped for hot weather, so make sure you prepare ahead of time to avoid heatstroke occuring. Have plenty of fresh water available for them, a resting area in the shade, and watch out for any signs of overheating.

5. Stress and anxiety

Usually, barbecues are had with a group of people, either in your home or at someone else’s. In either case, your dog’s habits are going to change for a day and this could be rather tiring and stressful. Make sure your dog has a quiet, safe place to retreat to, far away from the hustle and bustle of the barbecue crowd. Ensure children know to leave your dog alone if he is resting or eating in particular.

Can dogs eat barbecue food?

No, barbecue food isn’t safe for dogs to eat. Meats will usually be covered in spices, sauces, and lots of salt, which can all be harmful to your dog, particularly if ingested in large quantities. Bones and kebab sticks are sharp and can cause serious damage to your dog’s mouth, throat, and internal organs if ingested, and corn on the cob can cause blockages in the intestines. All in all, make sure your guests know not to feed your dog barbecue food, but feel free to feed them dog-friendly treats instead.

What can dogs eat at a BBQ?

While feeding your dog a small piece of unsalted, unmarinated and deboned meat won’t do them any harm, it’s best to stick to dog treats instead. You can make homemade frozen treats which are healthy, tasty, and will also help to keep your dog cool on a hot day! That way your dog can enjoy a special treat while you and your guests do too! Some fruits and veggies are safe for your dog to eat in small quantities as well. These include carrots, radish, strawberries, and watermelon, for example.

Can dogs eat BBQ ribs?

While dogs might love chewing on bones, this is absolutely not recommended. Cooked bones in particular can easily splinter and cause serious internal damage to your dog’s organs. If you’re enjoying some barbecue ribs, do not share them with your dog. Instead, why not fill a Kong with some dog-friendly peanut butter and give this to your dog. It’ll be a delicious treat and will keep your dog occupied and distracted while you eat.

Can dogs eat BBQ chicken?

Chicken contains lots of little bones which can cause chokage, and lots of damage to your dog’s mouth, throat and internal organs if ingested. A small piece of unsalted chicken breast would be fine to feed your dog, as long as you haven’t covered it in sauce.

My dog ate a barbecue stick: What should I do?

If, despite your precautions, your dog has ingested a kebab stick along with some barbecue meat, you should contact your veterinarian for advice. Watch out for any signs of vomiting, diarrhoea, or lethargy. Be aware that even if the stick has passed through the throat, it is still in danger of puncturing your dog’s internal organs. Your vet could x-ray your pet to find out whether surgery is necessary. 

Keep this advice in mind and you'll be able to enjoy a nice British barbecue with your beloved pet by your side!

Frequently asked questions

Will barbecue sauce hurt my dog?

Can dogs eat pulled pork with BBQ sauce?

Can dogs have chips?