Written by Emily Bayne
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 05/11/2021, edited: 09/05/2023
Cookouts are one of the best parts of summer — but these fun get-togethers can quickly turn dangerous when pets are involved. Flames, fire starters, and bones can all pose a threat to our furry foodies.
The good news is you don’t have to exclude Fido and Fifi from the festivities. These 7 expert pet safety tips will ensure your fur-babies have a safe (and tasty!) time at the summer cookout.
A tired pet is (usually) a well-behaved pet, so provide lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation for your canines and kitties.
When preparing for the big day, consider your pet's triggers. Do they tend to jump up on people? Are they afraid of noise or busy environments? Do they vocalize excessively? You know your pet best, so try to choose games, activities, and training sessions that will prevent or redirect any bad behavior.
Feeding your pets their dinner beforehand should also help prevent party faux "paws" like begging at the table. Consider giving them an extra special treat, like a sliver of cooked, unseasoned meat or a bite of a fresh, pet-friendly fruit or vegetable. (More on pet-safe cookout treats later!)
Need some inspo for activities? Check out our related guides to discover some fun ways to keep your pets occupied this summer:
Dogs and cats alike are curious by nature, but this innate curiosity can spell big trouble when it comes to grilling supplies.
Pets tempted by the smell of meat may injure themselves on dangerous items like skewers and wire grill brushes. Always dispose of skewers in a trash can with a lid or lock. (We'll cover more tips on securing your trash later in this article.)
Petroleum-based lighter fluid contains hydrocarbons, which are highly poisonous to pets. Lighter fluid can cause chemical burns if your pet gets it on their paws or skin. Inhalation of petroleum-based products can cause chemical pneumonitis, a potentially deadly condition if left untreated.
Always store grilling supplies up high or in a locking tote to keep inquisitive doggos out.
Related: Top 10 Toxic Substances to Dogs
While it's fun to include your pets in the "feastivities", it's also important to be mindful of the foods they eat.
Here's a rundown of the pawpular cookout foods your pets can (and can't) have, including expert advice from Dr. Elizabeth Racine DVM, practicing veterinarian and founder of The Veterinary Writer.
Before you dig into our list of pet-safe cookout foods, here's a word of advice from Dr. Racine:
"While it’s okay to splurge a little during a celebration, in general, your pets should receive no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake from treats and human foods in order to prevent excess weight gain."
Tasty BBQ staples like grilled hot dogs and hamburgers are sure to have your doggo drooling. But Dr. Racine stresses the importance of moderation when feeding these meaty treats:
"Processed meats such as hot dogs can be very high in sodium, so limit these to very small amounts to avoid upsetting your pet's stomach."
Avoid giving your dog meat with seasonings or sauce — many spices and condiments are toxic to dogs.
Any veggies you feed your dogs and cats should either be raw or cooked with no added seasoning or sauce. Same goes for fruits — serve them fresh or frozen with no added sugar or sweeteners. (While dairy products like cheese and plain yogurt are usually well tolerated by dogs, cats are lactose intolerant.)
Here's a quick look at popular cookout veggies that are safe for dogs and cats:
Always research human foods to confirm they're safe before giving them to your pet. When reading articles online, check to see if they've been reviewed or approved by a veterinary professional.
on for a list of cookout foods to avoid giving your pets — toxicity
ranges from mild symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea to severe problems
like obstructions and acute kidney failure.
"Onions and garlic cause damage to your dog’s red blood cells, which can lead to anemia," explains Dr. Racine. "Be sure to also avoid condiments such as barbecue sauce or seasonings, as these often contain onions and garlic for flavor."
Raw bones are a tasty, nutritious snack for dogs; however, cooked bones can pose a serious risk. The cooking process makes bones brittle and can cause them to splinter in the stomach.
That's why you should never give your dog cooked bones of any kind, says Dr. Racine. "Bone splinters can injure your dog’s mouth or digestive tract, and chunks of bone that are swallowed can cause an obstruction."
Think twice before giving your pup a nibble of your fruit salad, says Dr. Racine. "Grapes are extremely toxic for dogs and can
cause acute kidney failure even in small amounts."
raw diets rising in pawpularity, pet parents might think it's safe to
feed dogs and cats raw meat straight from the pack. But doing so can
cause health problems for you and your pets.
Raw meat carries a
risk of bacterial infection and foodborne illness for dogs and cats as
well as humans. Stay on the safe side this summer and fully cook all
meat before giving it to your pet. Remember, skip the seasonings and
Even small amounts of alcohol are toxic to dogs and cats. This also includes alcohol used in cooking, like the rum glaze on a ham. Never let your pets have any products containing alcohol.
If you really want your pets to join in the festivities, try out some "beer" or "wine" made for dogs and cats. (Yes, it's really a thing!) These non-alcoholic beverages are often made with water, meat broth, herbs, and added vitamins and minerals.
Always follow the feeding guidelines on
the packaging. (And don't furget to share snaps of your summer pawty
animals with us @wag on Instagram!)
corn off the cob is safe for your dog to eat, feeding it on the cob can
cause an obstruction in your pet's digestive tract.
Grills are the most apparent danger when it comes to barbecuing around dogs. After all, grills release lots of delicious smells, and dogs' noses are way more sensitive than ours. Excited pups may accidentally knock over grills, causing burns or even starting fires.
Always keep your pets away from the grill, even after it’s out. Grills can emit heat hours after extinguishing them and may burn dogs and cats that get too close. Train your dog that the grilling area is off-limits before barbecuing season begins.
It's also a good idea to keep your dining areas free and clear of pets. Not only can disaster happen in a flash, but poorly behaved pets can be a nuisance for your guests. For everyone's safety and comfort, keep your kitties indoors, and consider setting up an outdoor playpen for canine cookout guests complete with toys and a doggy poo.
The aroma from a food-filled trash can might be irresistible to hungry dogs and cats. Since sharp objects and dangerous materials like bamboo skewers and aluminum foil all end up in the trash, it's extra important to secure all garbage.
A tall trash bin with a well-fitting lid should do the trick for most pet parents. But if your pets are especially wily, it may be a good idea to invest in a locking trash can.
Dogs and cats can easily gnaw and claw their way through a plastic trash bag, so never leave full bags of trash in places where your pet can access them.
Though a fun pastime for humans, fireworks are terrifying for many pets. The loud booms and colorful explosions can cause many dogs and cats to flee in search of safety. That's part of the reason why animal shelters see a sharp increase in intake on holidays like Fourth of July and New Year's due to fireworks.
Prevent your skittish fur-baby from taking off or hurting themselves by crating them in a secluded room when things get loud. If your dog has firework anxiety, it might be a good idea to ask your vet about prescription medications to help keep them calm.
Check out our related guides to learn how to keep your pet calm and prevent them from getting lost
Summertime means bugs in many parts of the US. Bugs are undoubtedly an itchy nuisance, but they can also carry diseases and parasites. Mosquitos can transmit heartworms, which are not only costly to treat but can also be deadly. Ticks come with their share of nasty diseases, too, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Monthly parasite preventatives can keep your dog safe from these diseases. And if biting bugs are still causing discomfort, try some dog-safe insect repellent.
Never use products containing DEET on your dog or cat — these are poisonous to pets and may cause toxicosis.
Our roundup of the best mosquito and bug repellents for dogs also includes products that are safe for cats, humans, and other pets. (Be sure to read the description of each product carefully before buying!)
Investing in pet insurance is one of the best ways to keep your pet safe this summer. Use Wag! Compare to find the purrfect plan!
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