Ten ways to keep your dog safe at a summer BBQ

Ten ways to keep your dog safe at a summer BBQ

This July, National BBQ Week is back (4th-10th) and it’s that time of year when supermarket shelves are stocked to the brim with barbecue meats, refreshing drinks and outdoor toys. Whilst this provides fun for family and friends, dog owners must keep an eye on their beloved pooch as barbecues pose a list of potential threats to pets. 

Following a staggering 70% increase in searches for the term ‘summer safety tips for dogs’ in the past four months¹, we’ve delved into the biggest dangers to dogs at summer garden parties and highlighted ways to include your pup in family fun: 

1. Lighter fluids 

To get a barbecue up and running, the chefs of the house need to stock up on lighter fluid to ensure the coals light without a hitch. However, lighter fluid can be detrimental to animals. If a dog ingests or inhales this fluid, it could cause indigestion and burning of the mouth, throat, oesophagus and stomach. This burning sensation can cause vomiting in animals, and worst case, aspiration pneumonia and neurological issues. 

If your dog has ingested lighter fluid, we recommend taking your pet to your local emergency veterinarian as soon as possible. 

2. BBQ seasoning, rubs, and condiments 

What's a barbecue without a bit of flavour? Unfortunately, dogs can’t experience this same delight, as many of the ingredients in barbecue seasoning, rubs, and condiments can be, at best, irritating and, at worst, toxic to pets. Ingredients such as onion and mustard are commonly found in rubs and seasoning, which can be dangerous to dogs. Condiments such as barbecue sauce can induce stomach issues for dogs due to the acidity and amount of sugar or sweeteners. 

Top tip: Never leave your dog unattended, even for a few seconds. I can’t count how often people have said to me ‘I only turned my back for a second!’. That’s all it takes for something to go wrong.

And be sure to put any leftovers away safely as soon as possible. Dogs very often raid the bin after the barbecue, when everyone thinks the danger is over. Ideally, take any bones and corn cobs straight to your outside bin, rather than putting them into your kitchen bin or left on plates dotted around the garden furniture.

3. BBQ food and meats 

Unfortunately for pets prone to pinching leftovers, many popular barbecue favourites are toxic to animals. It’s important to be mindful of which barbecue foods are the most hazardous, including cooked ribs and bones, onions, avocado and corn on the cob. 

Katja Londa, advisory veterinarian at Dragonfly Products and owner of Pets Relaxed, comments on the dangers of corn on the cob: “The worst barbecue-related issues I’ve seen, hands down, is corn on the cob stuck in a dog's intestines. This happens a lot and is very serious. The hard core of the cob gets firmly wedged in the intestines, and not only causes a blockage, but due to the pressure on the intestinal wall, it can stop the blood supply to this area. 

“I’ve removed several corn cobs where I also had to remove a part of the intestine. Luckily my patients all did well, but this could have easily led to severe infections including death. Corn on the cob is closely followed by shards of bone stuck in the intestines. This also happens a lot and causes similar problems.”

If your dog consumes corn on the cob or sharp, cooked, meat bones, visit your local vet for immediate assistance.

 4. BBQ utensils 

From long forks to meat thermometers, barbecue utensils are often sharp and could cause harm to your pet if they get hold of them. Dogs could be particularly interested in such utensils if they have a remnant of meat flavouring. We recommend purchasing a barbecue utensil holder to ensure they are stored safely and out of reach of pets. 

5. Meat skewers 

Like barbecue utensils, meat skewers could be detrimental to pets, especially if they attempt to swallow the skewer. A wooden or metal stick like this could cause severe damage to a dog's throat, organs and digestive system. Pet owners with greedy pups, watch out and visit your local vets immediately if you think your dog has consumed a meat skewer. 

Veterinarian Katja Londa adds: “The most dramatic-looking injury I have seen was a dog who had swallowed an entire metal skewer. By some miracle, the skewer didn’t damage any organs and could be removed without further damage!”

6. Make water available throughout the day 

Just like people, dogs must be kept hydrated throughout the day, especially if it's warm outside. Water helps regulate a dog’s body temperature, helps with digestion, and helps manage their waste. Dogs are at greater risk of dehydration than humans because they release little heat from their bodies, and their sweat glands are not adequate for cooling them down quickly. Ensure sufficient water bowls are in the garden during the barbecue. 

7. Create a shaded area 

Dogs sometimes find it challenging to cope with hot weather and are more at risk of heat stroke than humans. As a dog's internal temperature rises, it could lead to organ failure. Unfortunately, 1 in 7 dogs taken to the vets with heatstroke die². To help prevent heatstroke, create a shaded outdoor area with a cooling mat for your dog during the barbecue. 

Some dogs with a higher chance of developing heatstroke include those who are overweight, have flat faces, are more energetic, are older, have thicker fur, and already have health issues. Breeds include Chow Chows, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, Springer Spaniels and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels². 

8. Inside breaks and sunscreen 

Most pets have hair that protects them from sun damage, but dogs are still susceptible to sunburn, especially on exposed areas like their noses, ears, lips, eyelids, and stomach. If you find the sun particularly strong while barbecuing with family and friends, pop the pooch inside and give them a much-needed break from the sun's rays. If your pet is enjoying the summer get-together too much, our experts suggest using dog-friendly sunscreen on sensitive areas (ears, nose and any bald spots) - yes, even dogs need to protect their skin!  

9. Watch out for dog allergies and hayfever 

It’s not just humans liable to hayfever, but dogs can be too. If you are barbecuing in a garden with long grass and grass seed, you might find your dogs start to itch. Itching mixed with feeling too warm can make for an uncomfortable experience for dogs. Pet owners should be responsible for looking out for seasonal allergy symptoms. If you are planning on having a barbecue in the height of summer, double-check the pollen count to ensure it's not too high.  

10. Provide your dog with a (safe) BBQ banquet  

To involve your pet in the fun, provide them with their own barbecue banquet that includes dog-friendly food. Plain meats such as chicken breast and burger meat are suitable for dogs, as long as they are cooked separately from seasoned meats, alongside vegetables such as corn off the cob (with no butter), cucumber, and peppers. If you are a raw feeder, you could shape your dog’s raw food into ‘burgers’ and ‘sausages’.

Fresh strawberries, blueberries, and dog-friendly ice cream also work as a refreshing treat for your pup.  

According to our Facebook audience, some of the worst things dogs have eaten at barbecues include ice lolly sticks, corn on the cob from the kitchen bin, and the full contents of a leftover bin, costing over £4,000 in vet bills. 

Taking extra care of your dog this summer

Summer is the best time of year, for humans and pets alike. But it's crucial that dog owners take extra care of their animals during these months. From extreme heat to allergies and food mishaps to dehydration, there are so many factors that could contribute to a poorly dog in the summer. 

We recommend being extra vigilant about how your dog acts during the summer months. Ask yourself questions like, are they eating enough? Are they drinking enough? Are they itching too much? Why do they seem tired? Considering these things when you feel like something is off with your pup will ensure you get them the correct care they need. Whether this is a trip to the vets to double-check they’re okay or whether you simply pop to your local canine expert to get tips on what could be getting your pup down. 

Ultimately, dogs should be able to join in on all the summer fun, but it's down to dog parents to do this in a safe and pet-friendly environment. 

With Woofs and Wags,

Laura, Dolly & Reggie


  1. Search volume insight for the term ‘summer safety tips for dogs’ correct as of June 2022 

  2. https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health-and-dog-care/health/health-and-care/a-z-of-health-and-care-issues/how-can-i-keep-my-dog-cool

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