How to Keep Your Dog Safe at Your Next BBQ or Cookout—Including the Foods They Should Never Eat
There are few things more tantalizing than the smell of a summer barbecue or cookout. This is especially true for your four-legged friends, who are sure to catch a whiff of every grilling and barbecue recipe on your menu. That being said, if there are going to be pups on your guest list, you'll need to keep a few things in mind before sharing your food. After all, some BBQ and cookout dishes are dangerous for dogs, while others are safe in moderation.
What Can Dogs Eat at a BBQ?
When it comes to dog-friendly BBQ foods, simple ingredients are best. "Lean meats and chicken without the skin (and BBQ sauce) are OK for your dog in limited amounts," explains Tom Edling, DVM, MSpVM, MPH, chief veterinary officer for American Humane, a non-profit organization based dedicated to the safety and welfare of animals. The same goes for most grilled vegetables—like broccoli and carrots—as long as they're cooked in balsamic vinegar or another low-fat condiment, he adds. Sehaj Grewal, DVM, veterinarian at The Melrose Vet in Los Angeles, echoes this notion, advising pet parents to ensure such foods are not saturated in oils and heavy seasoning.
In the fruit department, options like blueberries, seedless watermelon, and bananas are safe for dogs, says Allison Wegmann, DVM, veterinarian at Metairie Small Animal Hospital in the New Orleans metropolitan area. Again, make sure these fruits are offered on their own and aren't dressed up with other ingredients (or picked out of a fruit salad!) to be safe.
BBQ Foods Your Dog Should Ever Eat
Sure, dogs love to chew bones—but not all bones are equal. Specifically, the bones found in classic BBQ meat dishes can be especially dangerous for your pup. This includes eats like ribs and pork chops, which contain bones that tend to break off in irregular chunks, potentially causing esophageal or intestinal problems, says Dr. Wegmann.
"Fatty meats and chicken skin should never be fed to dogs, as the high fat content of these foods [are] significantly higher than your dog's normal diet," says Dr. Edling. Such foods are leading causes of "vomiting and diarrhea [in dogs] and in some cases, pancreatitis, which can be quite serious and generally leads to hospitalization," according to Dr. Wegmann.
As for corn on the cob, a popular cookout food? Dr. Wegmann says it's a big no-no, as it almost always causes intestinal obstructions in dogs. The same can be said for anything on skewers, notes Dr. Grewal, so you'll want to keep those kebabs away from your furry friends. Finally, foods like grapes, raisins, and salty snacks like potato chips are toxic for dogs, so be extra careful if these ingredients are part of your barbecue spread.
Other Ways to Keep Dogs Safe at a Cookout
Between chowing down on delicious food and socializing with guests, it can be easy to get distracted at a cookout. But if your four-legged friend is joining the party, it's crucial to take extra steps to keep them safe. Start by keeping your pet away from the grill and grilling tools, says Dr. Grewal. This will minimize the risk of accidents such as burns. Also, monitor your garbage and discard leftovers and scraps as soon as possible. As Dr. Wegmann points out, "Dogs are known to get into trash and consume used napkins and paper plates with leftover food, which can also lead to gastrointestinal obstruction."
Consider chatting with your guests about food and dog safety, especially if they have limited experience with pets. "Be sure to let everyone know that feeding table scraps to the dogs is not a good idea," says Dr. Edling. This is especially important if alcohol is being served, as everyone should know that dogs shouldn't consume alcoholic drinks.
You can also keep a small bowl of your dog's usual food on hand, so people can feed your pup and include them in the festivities, suggests Dr. Edling. "Measure the total amount of food fed daily and subtract the amount in the party food bowl, so your pup [isn't] overfed that day," he says. Another option, Dr. Edling says, is to have small pieces of dog-safe vegetables, like carrots, on hand for guests to feed your dog.
And if you do decide to treat your dog to food off the grill? Make sure to wipe or wash your equipment to remove any spicy or sweet sauces. This includes BBQ sauce, which could cause a stomachache in dogs. Otherwise, consider cooking your dog's food first before preparing dishes for your human guests.