As Memorial Day draws near many of us are thinking about all of the great summer grill outs that we will be hosting. While barbecues are great fun for both people and their pets, it’s important to make sure that you follow a few guidelines when hosting or attending such an event to make sure everyone, both two and four legged guests, can celebrate safely.
1. Keep the people food to the people
Make sure you keep your food and drink out of reach of your pets. Inform your guests about any “don’t feed the dog” rules as well. Your pup may think that whatever is coming off the grill smells amazing, but human food poses many dangers to pets. Besides the chance of burns if you pet manages to nab something straight off the grill, the following is a list of common hazards for pets:
- Kebab sticks (both metal and wooden) can be swallowed and/or puncture a pet’s mouth
- Ribs/bones are also choking hazards. If swallowed they can cause puncture or perforation of internal organs
- Corn cobs can cause obstruction or digestion problems if swallowed
- Foods high in fat can cause inflammation of the pancreas, which can be serious and occasionally fatal
- Onions and avocados are great on burgers but are toxic to dogs when ingested and snacks like grapes, raisins, and chocolate are dangerous as well
Consider feeding your dog their meal or a snack before your grill out to make sure they are less tempted by hunger. Or offer your pet their own version of a barbecue snack while you enjoy your food.
2. Pick up trash
Some of our pets may moonlight as raccoons, sneakily accessing our trash cans and bags of rubbish. Be sure that any trash, especially trash with food leftovers that may smell appealing, is secured where your pet cannot access it and keep it covered. Aluminum foil, skewers, bones, grease, plastic wrap, and lighter fluid all pose dangers to our pets that are easily avoidable if care is taken.
For those of you who may live in more rural areas, be sure to protect your trash from wildlife as well both to avoid luring in critters and to protect them from the same dangers.
3. Establish boundaries
These boundaries go both ways. You should be sure to establish places where it is unsafe for your pet to be and take steps to keep them out of those areas as well as make sure that your pet has a quiet place to retreat away from your guests if needed.
Consider fencing off or blocking access to the grill or barbecue area. Those smells are tempting for pets, but the heat from the fire and the grease are both dangerous. Make sure your pet doesn’t have access to either. It’s also important to make sure your yard/home are secure. It only takes one guest not paying attention, or you entering your home/yard with your hands full, to allow your pet to escape. Notify your guests that you have pets and explain where they can and cannot be. Put your pet on a lead or in an enclosed space if you’re worried about an escape.
While some pets may enjoy having friends and family of all ages visit, other pets prefer not to have to engage with strangers or children. Be sure there is a place where your pet can go to retreat from the gathering and have some quiet time. Let your guests, especially those with children, know that your pet may need some space and to not interfere if they do retreat to their “safe spot.” Give your pet a puzzle toy or a kong stuffed with a treat to distract them during their breaks.
4. Keep your dog cool
Make sure your pet has access to shade. On very hot days it may be best to keep your pup inside, or only allow them out for short periods of time. Know the signs of heat stroke in pets and keep an eye on your pup. If you have access to a hose, kiddie pool, or sprinkler, consider giving your pup some time to play in the water to cool off.
Hydration is important for both you and your pet. Make sure your pet has access to fresh water and keep their bowl full throughout the day. Toss a few ice cubes into their bowl for a fun treat to both entertain them and keep their water cool.
5. Scan the area
Know what plants are poisonous for pets and remove them from your yard ahead of time. When you’re distracted with the grill or your guests you want to know that there’s nothing your pet could eat that would be problematic. If you and your pup are guests of someone else, be sure to do a quick scan of their yard as well. Consider keeping your pup leashed to you to prevent them from interacting with any plants that may be suspect.
If you are going to be setting off fireworks make sure your pet is secured ahead of time. Fireworks are often extremely stressful for pets and they would much prefer being inside or somewhere that is secured. Once you’ve finished your pyrotechnic display, scan the ground for bits of the fireworks that fall so that your pet does not ingest them later.