Barbecue safety and your pets

There’s nothing quite like a barbecue on a warm summer’s day. We’ve had some fantastic weather for enjoying time outside and our four legged friends love to get involved too, especially when sausages are involved!

Whether it’s a quiet night in the garden or a (socially distanced) family gathering, barbecues are fun for everyone. However, food sizzling on a burning grill, rubbish, leftover food and empty glasses all add up to creating a potentially hazardous environment for your curious pet.

So if you’re a pet owner, you need to take extra measures to make sure your barbecue is as safe as possible so the whole family can safely enjoy the great British weather this summer. 

Don’t give in to puppy dog eyes!

If there’s one thing all dogs love, it’s barbecue food – the smell of smoky sausages and burgers will have our four legged friends at our feet and ready for a serving of their own. Unfortunately, barbecue food can cause upset stomachs and illness, particularly if the meat is fatty or undercooked. 

While it can be difficult to not give in to puppy dog eyes and begging, you’re helping your four legged friend in the long run by not giving into their demands. Never give a dog bones from chicken or any other meat as they can splinter and be fatal to your dog. Instead, have a stash of your pet’s favourite treats on hand or occupy them with playtime with others to eat to avoid a night of upset stomachs and discomfort.

Small dogs looking over wall

Be mindful of harmful products

Charcoal and lighter fluid are a barbecue staple. If they’re in the wrong paws, they can be extremely dangerous! So keep these items secure and away from your pet – a thirsty dog or cat might lap up spilt lighter fluid or carry off some charcoal to play with, so you can never be too careful.

Your barbecue will be extremely hot while you cook your food, and there is a chance of ashes or coals falling to the floor. Keep your pet far away from a lit barbecue to keep them safe from being burnt. 

Beer, wine and any other alcoholic beverages should be kept away from your pet too. Spillages should be cleaned up quickly. Always ensure your dog or cat has access to cold water that is regularly replenished so they can stay hydrated while they’re outside.

Keep rubbish out of reach

A messy barbecue is never ideal, as flies, wasps and smells come part and parcel of empty burger packets, dirty plates and spillages so putting rubbish in a secure bin or bag should be a priority. If you have a curious dog or cat around, it’s essential! 

Some dogs and cats are more prone to rummaging through rubbish than others, but if bin bags or discarded rubbish are easy to access, chances are any hungry pet will try to dig out something to eat. While your dog might be lucky and discover a half eaten burger, there’s an equal chance that they’ll find skewers, corn, unsavoury pieces of meat… the list is endless. 

So don’t risk your pet finding something that could make them ill or hurt them by keeping rubbish far away and in an unreachable place. Ask your guests to put their leftovers in a bag that can be sealed and put in a bin as soon as possible, and look out for things that may have fallen on the floor. 

Dog and cat cuddling on grass

Help your pet stay cool and calm

We’ve mentioned that your pet should have access to cool, fresh water throughout the day. This is particularly important in the summer, especially if they’re out and about in the garden. To prevent heatstroke, your dog or cat should have access to shade and cool shelter too so they can escape the sun. If it’s looking like it’s going to be a really hot day, consider keeping your pet at home to avoid a hot car ride and long afternoon in the heat. 

If you’re having a barbecue at home, simply keep the backdoor open and have water outside and inside the house so your pet can come and go as they please.

Having guests over, especially if there’s going to be music and people that your pet isn’t familiar with, can be stressful too. You should set up a cool, calm room for your dog or cat to retreat to if it gets a bit much. Pop their bed, food, toys and water in a well ventilated and quiet space so they have the option to take themselves away from the action if they feel overwhelmed. Always keep an eye on your pet’s behaviour in these situations so you can offer them comfort if they need it.

If you have a small pet that lives in the garden, keep the gathering away from their hutch and run so they can go about their day peacefully.

Neil’s top tips:

  • Treats and toys can be a great way to distract your dog from a barbecue – you or a member of your family should move to a quiet spot to play with them, or occupy them with healthy treats when food moves from the grill to the table!
  • If you’ve spruced up your garden ready to host a barbecue, you should be mindful of planting anything that can be toxic to cats and dogs. 
  • If it’s an especially hot day, place a cool mat or wet towel in a shaded, well ventilated area so your pet can keep cool and calm in their own quiet space.