How to Host a Dog-friendly BBQ: Foods to Cook and Keeping Safe

As soon as the sun peeks out from behind the clouds in the UK, the BBQ is never far behind! A day of barbecuing tasty foods with our friends and family in the sunshine is a staple of British summer time, but how can we make sure it’s just as enjoyable for our furry friends?

There are lots of potential hazards at a BBQ, with some of our favourite BBQ foods proving toxic to dogs, as well as hot grills, sharp skewers, and smoke all posing potential risks. In this blog we’ll go through which popular BBQ foods are safe for dogs to eat in moderation, and which you should keep well away from your pup at all times. Plus, we’ll offer some top tips for how to keep your dog safe from the other potential dangers at a BBQ.

BBQ Foods that are Dangerous for Dogs

As tasty as they are for us, some of the most popular BBQ foods can be toxic or pose a serious choking hazard to our dogs. Dangerous BBQ foods for dogs include:

Guacamole

This popular side dip is a delicious addition to any BBQ, but it can cause tummy upset in our dogs. The main ingredient is of course avocado, which contains a toxin called persin. It’s usually considered to be only mildly toxic to dogs, but the stone in the middle of an avocado is a serious choking hazard.

Salad

Whether you’re whipping up a potato salad, pasta salad or any other kind of salad at your BBQ, it’s likely you’ll want to pop some onion in there. All members of the onion family, including garlic and chives, can cause stomach upset in dogs, so if these foods feature in your salads, on your skewers, or anywhere else, keep them away from your dog.

Sauces and rubs

Rich sauces and spicy rubs tend to be too much for our dogs’ digestive systems to cope with, so you should avoid giving them any meat or veggies coated in sauces or seasoning. Sauces, rubs and dressings may well contain onion or garlic too.

Lots of sauces, such as BBQ sauce and ketchup, also contain lots of sugar. While sugar isn’t toxic to dogs, it provides no nutritional benefits and can lead to health problems and dental issues so is best avoided. Some sauces may contain xylitol instead of sugar, which is very toxic to dogs.

BBQ ribs

As much as your dog might drool over them, BBQ ribs are not a dog-friendly BBQ food. Not only are they usually smothered in a rich sauce that could upset your dog’s tummy, but the rib bones themselves pose a real danger to your dog. Despite the popular saying, you should never give a dog a bone. Chicken bones are particularly dangerous as they splinter easily, but all bones can be dangerous to dogs. Pieces of bone can get stuck in or cut your dog’s throat, and they are also a choking hazard. They could also damage your dog’s teeth.

Corn on the Cob

While the corn kernels themselves are a healthy snack for dogs in moderation (as long as there’s no butter on them), the cob poses a serious choking hazard. It can also cause blockages in the intestine.

Kebabs

Skewered kebabs are a staple at any BBQ, but the sharp wooden or metal stick we cook them on are very dangerous for dogs. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for dogs to swallow kebab skewers which often get stuck in the mouth, throat or stomach. Sometimes kebab skewers can even make their way to the intestine which can make the dog very unwell. In severe cases, dogs may need surgery to remove them.

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What Can I BBQ for My Dog?

Now that we’ve got the dangerous stuff out of the way, let’s look at some of the dog friendly BBQ foods your dog can enjoy with you! In general, dogs can eat:

Sweetcorn (without the cob or butter)

Vegetable skewers – Be sure to remove the skewer itself before giving it to your dog! Dog-safe veggies to BBQ include peppers, courgette, and sweet potato. Tomatoes are also safe, except for the leaves, stem or unripe tomatoes. Remember not to include any onion on your skewers.

Lean meats – Meat itself is a great source of protein and nutrients for dogs, but just make sure any pulled pork, BBQ rib meat or chicken skewers are free from any seasoning or sauces. Plain, cooked BBQ meat on the other hand will be a welcome treat!

Plain burger or sausage – Very small amounts are ok in moderation, provided there’s no sauces or extra seasoning. Having said this, sausages and burgers are very high in fat and salt, so should only be given as an occasional special treat.

BBQ-inspired dog treats – Even better, why not give your pup their very own version of sausages and burgers? Lily’s Kitchen Pork and Apple Sausages and Beef Mini Burgers are sure to go down a treat!

Dog-friendly ice cream – While everyone else is enjoying their sweet treat for afters, it’s only fair that our dogs get something too! Why not try making our easy dog-friendly ice cream recipe?

Keeping Safe at BBQs with Dogs

As well as the toxic foods around, BBQs can also pose a few other dangers to our pups. Here are our top tips for keeping your dog safe at a BBQ.

Keep Rubbish Out of Reach

The tantalising smell of BBQ foods may be too tempting to ignore for your dog, so make sure all rubbish and leftovers are kept well out of reach! If your pup is a bin-raider, ensure the lid is securely on or that it’s out of your dog’s reach.

Make sure bones in particular are safely disposed of as soon as possible – never leave them lying around for your pooch to pinch!

Make Sure All Guests Know Not to Feed Titbits

Friends and family, particularly children, may unknowingly give your dog some food they shouldn’t have, so make sure everyone understands why they mustn’t. Even if your guests give your pup some BBQ food that is dog-friendly, it can be hard to keep track of how much your dog has had. Too much sausage or burger for example is not a good idea! So it’s best if you are in control of your dog’s BBQ snacks.

Supervise Children

For the safety of the children themselves as well as your dog, keeping an eye on little ones at a BBQ will help to avoid any accidents with hot grills, matches, lighter fluid and other dangerous BBQ equipment.

Provide Your Dog with Their Own Space

Even the most sociable of dogs need somewhere they can go for some time out. During a busy BBQ with lots of people and noise, make sure your dog has a quiet space indoors just for them where they can go if they need some space. Let your guests know not to go in there. Pop some treat mats or interactive toys in there too to keep them occupied while you’re busy entertaining guests.

Make Sure the Garden is Secure

If you’ve got people coming and going throughout the day, make sure the front door or any garden gates are kept secure. If this isn’t practical, you might need to consider popping your dog on a lead, or keeping them inside for some of the time. If a guest accidentally leaves a back gate open, it can be only too easy for your dog to escape and potentially get lost or hurt.

Also check that any fences in your garden are robust – just in case your pup tries to make a bid for freedom through a loose panel when you’re not looking!

Be Careful with Insect Sprays

When the sun comes out, so do the bugs and mosquitos, so you or your guests might wish to spray insect repellent. Just make sure your dog is nowhere nearby when you do this so it doesn’t go in their eyes, face or mouth in particular, as this could lead to poisoning. Never let your dog lick your skin after applying a bug repellent either.

Keep Your Dog Away from the Grill

Hot food, coals, ashes and grills could all cause severe burns if your pup gets too close. If the temptation of cooking meat is too much for your dog to resist, you might need to put them on a lead while the BBQ is in use, or cordon off the whole BBQ area. Keep the lid down when it’s not in use, and keep all the BBQ equipment (including matches, lighter fluid, charcoal and fire starters) well out of reach.

Be Mindful of Smoke

Inhaling too much smoke from the BBQ is not good for your dog, and it can irritate your pet’s lungs. Make sure your dog is far enough away from the BBQ to avoid inhaling lots of smoke, and make sure they’re not positioned so that smoke is blowing directly towards them.

Watch Out for Signs of Heatstroke

When your dog is outside, make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water and shade. Heatstroke in dogs can be fatal, so it’s very important to monitor your dog in hot weather so that you’re able to spot the signs quickly.

Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, low energy, drooling, foaming at the mouth, vomiting or diarrhoea, stumbling or dizziness, confusion, seizures and collapse. Read our blog on heatstroke in dogs for more on how to spot the signs and what to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from it.

Apply Dog-friendly Suncream

If you’re applying suncream yourself, chances are your dog will need some too! Particularly if your dog is white or has thin fur, or a pink nose or ears, you’ll need to protect them from the sun. There are dog-friendly sunblock wipes, mists and creams available.

Wrapping Up

BBQs can be great fun for everyone, dogs included! But it’s important to bear in mind that dog’s have different digestive systems to us, and can’t safely eat all the same foods. Make sure you treat your pup to some of the dog-friendly BBQ foods that we discussed in this article, and keep the ones they can’t have well out of reach. As long as you’re mindful of the other BBQ dangers discussed in this article, you’ll be able to host a fun BBQ for everyone, and make some wonderful summer memories.

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker