14 tips for a pet-safe barbecue

We all love barbecues - and they're pretty tempting for our pets, too. But always be aware of the dangers lurking for your furry friends.

Can my dog or cat eat barbecue food? 

1. Meat off the barbecue isn't the best food for them. Undercooked and overly fatty food like chicken, sausages, and burgers can really upset their digestive systems.

 2. If you do decide to slip them a treat, check the ingredients first. A lot of barbecue food contains onion and garlic. Beware! Any member of the allium family is highly toxic to dogs and must be avoided at all times.

 3. When it comes to feeding your cat or dog bones, they are a definite no. They can be very harmful, especially when cooked. You might feel mean, but don't give in to the puppy dog eyes. Hand them a dog-friendly chew bone instead. Cats can digest raw bones, but not cooked ones, so don't give them anything off the barbie either!

 How to stop guests leaving dangerous things around

4. While relaxing and enjoying your BBQ, you might not be keeping a close eye on what your pets are doing. However, your pet, especially if they are food-orientated, will take advantage of plates of leftovers lying around. It can be dangerous for them to get hold of kebab skewers, corn on the cob cores, and meat bones, as they are all choking hazards.

5. Most pets probably won't touch alcohol but don't risk leaving it at an accessible height. Obviously, alcohol is really bad for cats and dogs, but do you know sugar-free drinks are also poisonous? As is chocolate, so watch out for plates of half-eaten desserts left where your pet can reach. If a drinking glass gets smashed, clear it up straight away to avoid any cuts to paws.

6. Explain to your guests the dangers and ask them to be careful. Maybe you can provide extra table space to help keep food and drinks out of reach. Leave a bin nearby, so it's easy for your guests to get rid of their leftovers.

 How to stop guests feeding your pets

7. It's so tempting to feed a dog a treat when they are staring at you lovingly! Avoid any issues by explaining to your guests the reasons why it can be dangerous. Hopefully, they will take this on board and be able to resist sharing their sausages. 

8. If you think your guests may not follow your advice, it might be best to put your pets away while eating. When all the food is cleared up, they can re-join the party. 

What are the dangers of the barbecue itself?

9. The actual barbecue is extremely dangerous. When first lit, the smoke is toxic. Pets and humans alike should avoid breathing it in. Be extra careful if the fumes blow towards birds and small mammals. Smoke and barbecue fumes can kill them.

10. Not only are the fumes toxic, but the actual barbecue will also be full of hot coals, hot food, and hot ashes. These can all cause severe burns. Keep your pet away from the barbecue. Unless you can ensure they keep a distance, it is safest to put them in your house until everything has cooled right down.

Is there anything else to be aware of?

11. The weather! If you are having a barbecue, it's likely to be hot. Your pets, particularly your dog, will want to join in the fun in the garden. They won't necessarily take themselves off to cool down when they start to get overheated. Don’t forget an endless supply of fresh, cold water for them to drink.

12. Be aware that dogs can become dehydrated or get heatstroke quickly. This is very serious as it can be fatal. If your dog looks hot, put them inside for a rest in the cool. You aren't being unkind; you are potentially saving their life.

13. If it's a sunny day and you feel the need for sun cream, don't forget your pet! This mainly applies to dogs and cats with white hair, thin fur or pink ears or noses. Slap some pet-safe sun cream on them, so they don't get burnt.

14. It’s good to give your pets a break from the party if they get too excited or stressed. Having lots of guests can be quite overwhelming for your pets. Even though you have lots to do, as a host, you need to make sure any visiting children aren’t bothering your pets too much. Give your pets a safe place to escape to when they need it.

 Keeping everything safe will make your barbecue much more fun and more relaxing – and by taking the time to think about your pets, they can enjoy it too!

With an Agria Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.