Is BBQ food dangerous for dogs?

dog licking lips

There is a lot to love about the British summer. From unexpected heatwaves, to longer and lighter evenings, it’s a season to embrace the weather and enjoy all its exciting activities. But it can be a dangerous time for our pets who like to enjoy the summer celebrations with us.

BBQ and at-home eating and entertaining is now the UK's number one summer home leisure activity, with three in four households now owning a BBQ grill. In 2017, the UK was once again Europe's leading BBQ nation, hosting over 135 million BBQs.

For Brits, sharing is caring, with research by Fetch revealing that one in three of us feed our pets scraps directly from the dinner table – a habit that’s sure to increase during the BBQ season.

But did you know that one hot dog for a 9kg dog breed, like a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is the caloric equivalent of three hamburgers for a person?

A number of popular BBQ favourites are toxic to pets prone to pinching or lingering around the table in the hope of a tasty treat or your guests' leftovers. It’s wise to train pets from an early age not to bother you at the dinner table by begging for food; but equally, as a nation of animal lovers, we want to make our pets feel included. 

As tempting as it is to include your dog in the festivities, it’s important to always be mindful of potentially hazardous foods; because what we consider a treat doesn’t always apply to our pets. The truth is, we don’t often stop to think of the potential ramifications the portion of food, or ingredients, can have on our dogs’ weight, breathing and overall health before feeding them their next titbit.

dog food

In order to avoid any serious incidents, consider the potential dangers of the BBQ and ensure the following foods are kept out of reach:

  • Kebab sticks

    Most dogs will eat anything in sight in the hope it has the remnants of food on it. Dog owners need to be extra careful of greedy dog breeds, such as Labradors, Dachshunds, Pugs and Beagles. Equally, pets with notoriously large appetites risk doing serious damage to their organs and digestive system by consuming wooden or metal kebab sticks. If you believe your pet has swallowed a wooden or metal skewer, visit your local vets immediately and make them feel as comfortable as possible.
  • Ribs and bones

    Chicken and other small bones pose a choking hazard and may puncture your pet's digestive tract if they are not kept out of reach or disposed of appropriately. Once you have cooked your meat and it is ready to serve, cover the plate with cling film or another plate to stop your pets poking their nose in and stealing the food. If you notice a difference in behaviour after the BBQ such as appetite loss, vomiting, relentlessness or lack of energy then contact your vet straight away.
  • Corn on the cob

    Corn on the cobs are a BBQ favourite but a threat to our pets. If consumed by your dog it can cause them to choke or obstruct their throat or digestive tract due to the shape and volume. If you fear your dog has swallowed a corn on the cob contact your vet or an out of hours clinic for immediate assistance.
  • Onions

    Many people relish the idea of their burgers and hot dogs topped with fried onions to give their food more flavour. However, shallots, onions, garlic and scallions contain a toxic called Allium that can harm your dog’s red blood cells if sufficiently ingested. Damage does not generally become apparent for three to five days after a dog ingests the food. If you suspect your pet has eaten any of the above, symptoms may include weakness, reluctance to move, fatigue and darkly-colored urine. Seek veterinary assistance immediately if you’re concerned.
  • Guacamole

    Avocado may be a popular accompaniment, but it contains a toxic compound called Persin, which can cause stomach distress for cats and dogs if consumed. Naturally high in fat content too, pets who consume guacamole will easily exceed their daily intake, especially accompanied by their usual meal time. Additionally, the pit of the avocado can cause serious problems to your pet if consumed as it poses a serious choking hazard if it becomes lodged.
  • Chocolate desserts

    Most people are aware that chocolate is toxic for dogs and can make them very sick. The darker the chocolate, the more harmful it is to your dog. Sugar-free is no better as it is sweetened with Xylitol. Both chocolate and Xylitol have potentially fatal compounds. Chocolate poisoning can lead to heart arrhythmias, muscle tremors, and seizures. Ingestion of Xylitol can lead to a quick and serious drop in blood sugar levels, resulting in disorientation and seizures within a half hour of ingestion; some dogs may develop liver failure which can be fatal. If you want to make your pets feel included, treat them to something equally as delicious. Pupcakes - cupcakes made especially for dogs – are a great option to explore. You can try a mixture of safe and healthy flavours such as banana pupcakes, sweet potato and apple pupcakes or game biscuit bakes by Canagan. Be sure to make your cat feel included with tuna and shrimp cakes.
  • Raisins and grapes

    Keep your fruit salad out of reach, especially if it contains grapes and raisins which are highly toxic to cats and dogs. Signs they’ve consumed raisins or grapes include vomiting, lethargy or diarrhoea within 12 hours of ingestion. As signs progress, dogs become increasingly lethargic and dehydrated, refuse to eat and may show an increase in urination followed by decreased or no urination in later stages. Death due to kidney failure may occur within three to four days, or long-term kidney disease may persist in dogs who survive the acute intoxication.
  • Plastic

    Dogs can be very sneaky when it comes to chewing on things that shouldn’t be chewed. Plastic is everywhere, but dogs can’t digest it. Depending on the size and type of plastic object that your dog eats, the situation may or may not be urgent. You may be able to induce your dog to regurgitate a small and soft plastic object (with your vet’s recommendation first). Or you may need to get your dog or cat to the vet as soon as possible for removal of a larger or sharper object.
  • Uncooked meat

    Raw and undercooked meat can contain various bacteria and pathogens, such as salmonella and listeria, that pose risks to dogs and the people around them. This type of diet can increase your dog’s risk of nutritional deficiencies and illnesses. Because domesticated dogs live much longer than wolves and other wild dogs, they need complete and balanced nutrition to help them live long and healthy lives. When putting raw meat on the BBQ, ensure that your dog or cat isn’t in close proximity to steal anything from your tongs, skewers or fork.
  • Alcohol

    BBQs are the perfect occasion for a summer beverage. Whether it is an ice-cold cider or an Aperol Spritz, alcohol can hit your pet's bloodstream a lot quicker than a human’s making it very dangerous if they manage to get their paws on some. Alcohol can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar and temperature, leading to seizures and respiratory failure.

Small dog breeds such as Jack Russells, Pugs and Daschunds have an approximate daily calorie requirement of 392 calories, whilst medium to large breeds such as Labradors, Border Collies and Boxers have a daily calorie intake of 1151 calories2.

If you take a look at the below BBQ favourites and their calorie contents you will be able to judge how quickly scraps can accumulate and exceed your pet's daily requirement.

Calories in your favourite BBQ food

Pulled pork shoulder – 490 calories
Beef burger – 276 calories
American hot dogs – 189 calories
White jumbo hot dog rolls – 181 calories
Minted lamb rump steaks – 178 calories
Cajun British chicken breast fillets – 167 calories
Dorito crisps – 150 calories
Burger buns – 147 calories
Bacon (per 2 rashers) - 140 calories
British pork and pepper kebabs – 130 calories
Butcher's choice Cumberland pork sausages – 128 calories
Cheese (30g serving) - 125 calories
Sweet chilli beef kebabs – 113 calories
British lamb and mint kebabs – 111 calories
Breadsticks – 26 calories

BBQs are a staple of the British summer so, if you’re worried about your pet missing out, stock up on dog and cat treats before a BBQ so that they are kept occupied and out of harm's way. Never leave the BBQ or food unsupervised so that you can all enjoy an al-fresco feast without any emergencies.

Sources
1. https://digitalnewsroom.media/fetch/petdinners/
2. https://www.vetsure.com/pet-information/latest-pet-news/human-food-for-dogs-infographic/
3. https://www.sainsburys.co.uk/

*The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified pet health provider with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s health*