Summer Cookout Tips for Your Dog

By Elizabeth Racine, DVM  

Summer is in full swing and that means many of us are enjoying picnics and backyard barbecues. While it's fun to include your dogs in the festivities, it's also important to be careful about the foods they eat during this adventure. By monitoring what your dog eats during the event, you can ensure that your day doesn’t end with a trip to the vet!

Common cookout foods to avoid

Bones

Bones of any kind should not be given to your dog. Bone splinters can injure your dog’s mouth or digestive tract, and chunks of bone that are swallowed can cause an obstruction. If you want a treat to keep your dog occupied during the cookout, it’s best to choose something specifically made for dogs.

Fat or Grease

While it may be tempting to give your dog a tasty treat by pouring the drippings into his bowl, too much fat can lead to gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis. Be careful where you empty the grease, too – dogs have been known to ingest rocks or other foreign objects that were covered in tasty grease from the grill!

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic cause damage to your dog’s red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. Be sure to also avoid condiments such as barbecue sauce or seasonings, as these often contain onions and garlic for flavor.

Grapes

Be careful with that fruit salad!  Grapes are extremely toxic for dogs and can cause acute kidney failure even in small amounts.

Corn on the Cob

Corn is safe for your dog to eat, but not the cob, which can cause an obstruction in his digestive tract.

Chocolate

Keep the s’mores out of reach!  Chocolate is toxic for dogs, and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures. Cocoa powder, baking chocolate, and dark chocolate varieties pose the highest risk.

Xylitol

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used in many sugar-free candies, gums, and sodas. It's also being used increasingly in condiments such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, and even peanut butter.  It's extremely toxic to dogs and even a small amount can be fatal.

Acceptable cookout foods for your dog

Meat

Small amounts of cooked meat are fine for your dog to consume but do so in moderation to avoid upsetting his stomach. Avoid meats flavored with seasonings or condiments, which may contain sweeteners, onions, or garlic as discussed above. Processed meats such as hot dogs can be very high in sodium, so limit these to very small amounts.

Cheese

Cheese is safe for your dog to consume, but limit it to small amounts. Too much may upset the stomach, particularly if your dog is not used to it.

Fruits and Vegetables

Most fruits and vegetables are safe for your dog and make a great low-calorie snack. Try offering slices of sweet potato, carrot sticks, blueberries, or watermelon with the seeds and rind removed.

Dog Food and Treats

The best option for your dog is to bring along some regular dog food to snack on during the cookout.  Treats and chews made specifically for dogs are a great option, too. 

While it’s okay to splurge a little during a celebration, in general, your dog should receive no more than 10% of his daily caloric intake from treats and human foods in order to prevent excess weight gain.  If you are ever concerned that your dog may have eaten something harmful, contact your veterinarian or ASPCA Poison Control right away.  Happy barbecuing!