As summer disappears and autumn takes its place, you might be tempted to take advantage of the last few hot and sunny days that we will have. Many people continue to bring out the grill at fantastic family and BBQ events well into September. This means it is never too late to review how to keep every member of your family safe, particularly your beloved pets. Here are 7 crucial tips to follow whenever you take out the grill, rain or shine!

1. Watch Out For Choking Hazards

All animals can choke, and it is every owner’s nightmare that it could happen to their best friends. There is all manner of objects that can obstruct your pets’ windpipes. These might be objects they should never have tried to eat, such as a toy, or they might be large pieces of food. You need to be aware of both if you want to keep your pet safe.

If you have games at your event, remember that parts of the games and toys could be choking hazards. It might be a good idea to create a specific games area to keep your pet safe. Similarly, you need to make sure that any food that your pet is given is of appropriate size. Cut up any hot dogs, and control the size of any bites of food that they might have. If in doubt, cut whatever it is smaller.

If you remember nothing else, the most crucial choking hazard to remember is bones. This is true for all animals, but particularly dogs because they famously love bones. There is a reason the phrase ‘like a dog with a bone’ means being wholeheartedly focused on something and not giving it up. This means that many owners think about giving their dog a bone at a barbecue is a great idea, but it is actually a huge choking hazard. Cooked bones are weak, and they shatter and splinter very easily. This makes them a serious, common, and often fatal, choking hazard.

barbecue with pets

2. Keep an Eye on the Grill

The grill itself is also a huge danger to your pets. The horrific consequences of your pet getting near the grill are obvious. It is essentially a fire and a hot piece of metal, both of which could cause horrific burns. Just like you would never let any children near the grill, you shouldn’t let your pets near it either.

A good rule to follow is the 3-feet rule. Keep children and pets 3 feet away from the grill. In order to avoid confusion, you might want to extend that to other guests as well. You don’t want a crowd to form near the grill as it can encourage pets to go there in search of attention and food.

You might be tempted to relax once all the food is cooked, but remember that the grill can stay hot for a very long time. It will still be a danger to your pet after you have turned off the flame, the lingering smell of the food you have just cooked might even attract your pets to the cooling grill. It might be a good idea to have a very separate area for eating and relaxing when the food is all cooked. This will make it easier to spot if your pet is wandering towards the grill when they shouldn’t.

bbq with dog

3. Keep an Eye on Your Tools

The grill isn’t the only danger. Think of the knives, the tools, the fuel used to light the fire, the matches, the skewers, and everything else you are using. They are dangerous too. Your pet could choke on any small parts, they can cut themselves on anything sharp, ingest fuel, or spill it, risking further fires.

Keep your tools within the 3 feet ‘no go’ zone. It might be a good idea to invest in a chest or container that can keep anything you are currently not using completely out of reach of pets. Make sure your container has the capacity to hold everything that could pose a danger.

It is also a good idea not to have a lot of different people in charge of grilling. Some people ask their guests to bring their own food and give everyone a turn on the grill. While this might help with dietary issues, it can create chaos and a lot of mislaid tools, which can be annoying as well as dangerous. Have one or two ‘grillers’ who make all the food in shifts, and make sure no tools disappear.

dog on the picnic

4. Make Sure Your Guests Are Well Trained

You shouldn’t bring a pet to a grill who doesn’t have basic training and understanding of commands. This might just be responding to a whistle or their name, but it can be vital if something does go wrong. For example, if you notice your cat move towards the grill, it is useful if they recognise ‘no’ or you are able to call them away using their name.

Similarly, you need to make sure your guests know how to behave with your pets. You can help keep animals safe by ensuring your guests know about the 3-feet rule, choking hazards and their command words. If you aren’t the only person checking to make sure your pet is safe, your pets are less likely to get themselves into dangerous situations

Making sure your guests know what they are doing is also important for your pet’s health. Your friends and family might be tempted to feed your pet some of the delicious food that is coming from the grill, but if all of them do it, they will be consuming a lot of fatty foods in a short period of time. This can quickly make them feel very ill, so make sure you know exactly what your pet has eaten, and how much.

family barbecuing with their dog

5. Give Them A Break

Everyone knows that being sociable can sometimes get exhausting. This is also true for animals. Dogs can get overexcited, and cats can become stressed. All animals have their limits. I’m sure you know your pet very well as they are an irreplaceable part of your family, so watch out for any signs that they are unhappy. They might be making a lot of noise, keeping to themselves, hiding or their eyes might be very wide.

Even if your pet isn’t exhibiting signs of stress, a good policy at big events is to make sure your pet has a controlled ‘time-out’ halfway through, or whenever they look like they need it. The best way to do this is to bring them inside and put them in a well ventilated, cool room on their own to relax.

If you are grilling in a public space, make sure you are close enough to home that you can nip back to give them their break. You might think you could use your car, but this isn’t ideal as they can often still see a lot of the excitement, cars can be a very hot environment, and there isn’t a lot of space for them to feel relaxed. Home is really the best place for a break.

6. Lids Are Your Friend

We’ve already mentioned that it is a great idea to put your tools in a container or chest, but you can go one step further to ensure the health and safety of your pet. It isn’t only tools that can benefit from being locked away. There is food and even the grill itself to think of.

Many grills come with a lid for a reason. It isn’t just to help with smoking food or to protect your flame from the wind. After you are done cooking, they are fantastically helpful for keeping little fingers, or paws, away from the hot metal. If you are considering investing in a brand new grill and you have pets, factor this into your decision and buy one with a lid.

lid grill in the yard

7. Know What To Feed Your Pet

It is all very well telling you that your guests need to be informed about how to treat your pet, but that can only happen if you yourself are fully aware of their dietary restrictions. This isn’t just what they like and don’t like, but includes all the normal, human foods that are poisonous to them, the plants that could do them harm, and the healthy quantities of the foods that they can have.

It is also vital that you are always aware that food is the ultimate positive reinforcement tool for all animals. Nothing will teach them that they are a good boy more than giving them a delicious piece of hotdog or yummy grilled zucchini. This means you should:

  • Only give them treats if they are behaving well, no matter how special the occasion is.
  • Ensure that the food you give them is far away from the grill, so they don’t associate going to the grill with getting food.
  • Teach them to be calm and well behaved before they receive the food, such as asking a dog to sit so that you aren’t rewarding hyperactivity.

Another often forgotten aspect of giving animals food off the grill is temperature. You are responsible for your pet and you don’t want them burning their mouths. Don’t assume your pet’s mouth is the same as yours. Make sure any food you offer them is cool enough to be held, not just briefly touched.

To help you understand your pet and what food they can eat at a grilling event, such as a barbecue, we’ve compiled a helpful guide below.

allowed dog food

Feeding Dogs

Some good foods for dogs, in moderation, include:

  • A few cut up pieces of hot dogs
  • One or two bites of a plain burger
  • Some grilled veggies, such as zucchini or sweet potato
  • Some fruits, such as blueberries or watermelon. All seeds and rinds must be removed
  • Grilled meat and fish, such as chicken, but only if it is completely off the bone

Some bad foods for dogs include:

  • Sauces
  • Avocado and Guacamole
  • Grapes and Raisins
  • Onions
  • Chocolate
  • Salt
  • Xylitol
  • Garlic
  • Corn on the cob, which is a common choking hazard
  • Any bones
  • Alcohol

If you are outdoors, you should also know what flowers might be dangerous. These include:

  • Laburnum
  • Daffodils
  • Rhododendron
  • Yews

This is not an exhaustive list, so you might want to do further research about what might be poisonous for your dog. Be cautious. If you have any doubts, don’t offer it to your dog. Remember: dogs can still have allergies, so you should check with a vet before introducing your dog to a new type of food.

man feeding his retriever

Feeding Cats

Cat-friendly foods are quite similar to dog-friendly foods. In moderation, you can offer them:

  • One or Two bites of a well-done plain burger
  • Some grilled veggies, such as zucchini
  • Grilled meat, such as chicken, but only if it is completely off the bone
  • Grilled fish if it is completely bone-free
  • Cooked eggs

The bad foods for cats include:

  • Cheese and Milk
  • Caffeine
  • Fat trimmings
  • Raw meat, eggs or fish
  • Avocado and Guacamole
  • Grapes and Raisins
  • Onions and Garlic
  • Chocolate
  • Xylitol
  • Salt
  • Corn on the cob, which is a common choking hazard
  • Any bones
  • Alcohol

Flowers that could be dangerous for your cat include:

  • Lillies
  • Daffodils
  • Rhododendron
  • Yews

girl feeding a cat

As with dogs, there are plenty of other foods that might also be dangerous, so don’t take any chances. You must also be aware that ‘treats’ are still food. Do not overfeed any of your pets. You risk diarrhoea, vomiting, and obesity.

Sources:

  1. The Right Way to Treat Your Pet, WebMD
  2. 10 barbecue foods dangerous for pets, Tree hugger
  3. Grill Safety for Pets, PetMD
Olivia Williams
Olivia is our head of content for MyPetNeedsThat.com, mum of one and a true animal lover. With 12 different types of animal in her family, it's never a dull moment. When she isn't walking the dogs, feeding the cats or playing with her pet Parrot Charlie, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest products for your pets!

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