For most dogs, human food is the ultimate forbidden fruit, which makes backyard barbecues tricky for their owners. You probably already know to keep them away from the fruit salad (grapes) and the burger toppings (raw onions). But there are other hazards you may not encounter outside of a barbecue, and you should know what they are.
Bones, skewers, and other choking hazards
The biggest danger to dogs at a cookout isn’t poisoning — it’s choking. According to the ASPCA, bones from ribs and chicken wings, corn cobs, and discarded wooden skewers are all exactly the right size and shape to cause serious problems. They’re also the kind of things people leave out without a second thought. To curious pups, abandoned plates piled with bones, sticks, and corn look like an all-you-can-eat buffet, so keep yours away from food waste.
Too much salt and fat
Dogs can’t tolerate as much salt and fat as humans can, which puts most of the cookout menu off-limits:
- Chips, pretzels, and other salty snacks have way too much sodium.
- Greasy grill grates, plates, and utensil (which dogs simply love to lick clean) are loaded with fat.
- Hot dogs are too salty, too fatty, and a potential choking hazard.
Quantity is the real threat here. A few chips or one single bite of a hot dog won’t make your dog sick right away, but if they’re cute and shameless, they can easily beg their way into consuming dangerous amounts of salt and fat from well-meaning partygoers.
The BBQ itself
Greasy grates and utensils aren’t the only part of the grill that’s dangerous for dogs. There’s the obvious burn risk, and charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid are also super toxic if ingested. (They may not be quite as tempting as actual food — or a puddle of congealed grease — but dogs have eaten weirder stuff before.) Plus, if a dog gets a little too interested in the grill, they could accidentally knock it over, sending hot coals right onto the grass.
Caffeine and alcohol
This one is obvious, but it bears repeating: Everyone’s favourite legal drugs are very bad for dogs, in pretty much any quantity. Both caffeine and alcohol can cause everything from vomiting to seizures, depending on the dog and how much they drink. Don’t let your dog cruise the table for empty beer or soda cans, and definitely don’t give them a sip of yours — there’s nothing funny about a sick dog.
Ultimately, the only way to keep your dog safe at a barbecue is to watch them like a hawk. Even well-trained dogs can lose their minds when delicious snacks are involved; don’t assume that your perfect angel will remain so when confronted with a smorgasbord of tempting smells. Bring some kibble and treats, keep them in your sight at all times, and be prepared to leave early if it’s all too much.