Every summer, the Vet teams across our 48 PDSA Pet Hospitals see many pets that have got into a spot of accidental bother at the family barbecue. From heatstroke and sunburn to bin raids and broken glass, there are many hazards for pet owners to bear in mind when enjoying an outdoor feast.
If you’re planning a sizzling barbecue this summer, follow these simple tips to make sure it’s fun and safe for everyone - including our four-legged friends!
Secure the garden
With all the distractions during the fun-filled day, you might not be able to watch your pet as closely, especially if you’re busy preparing the food or you’re enjoying a pleasant catch-up with friends. Before the barbecue begins, take the time to ensure your garden is secure and safe for pets by making sure all fences are robust and there aren’t any dangerous plants that curious pets may investigate when your back is turned.
Doing these checks ahead of time means you can relax and know your pet is safe in the garden and having as much fun as you.
For more information, read our guide on creating a pet-friendly garden
Create a quiet space to de-stress
No two pets are the same - one dog may love the attention from people they haven’t met before, while another may find it a little overwhelming. No matter their personality type, give your pet the option to relax by setting up a quiet room inside the house or in your garden where they can retreat. It’s important your guests know that this is somewhere they shouldn’t go - this way your dog can go somewhere they won’t be disturbed if they feel a little tense (or tired!).
Usually, dogs are eager to please and might not want to take a rest, even if they’re getting worked up or too hot. Look for the warning signs that they’re getting over-excited or finding the situation stressful and guide them to the quiet area.
Pets who live in the garden, like some rabbits and guinea pigs, might feel frightened by the noise coming from a big group of people. To make your furry friends feel more relaxed, cover part of their home so they can hide away or, even better, move their enclosure away from your guests and to a quieter part of the garden.
Be aware of the flamin' hot equipment
All pets must be kept a safe distance away from the barbecue at all times as hot food, coals and ashes can all cause serious burns. Traditional barbecues need lighting long before it’s time to cook, so you should cordon off the area completely to stop your petting getting near it. Although you’ll be monitoring the barbecue closely, you may be distracted by other jobs and visitors, this way you can make sure it’s well out of reach of curious paws or noses.
If you’re using lighter fluid or firelighters to light your barbecue, store them well out of the way of pets. Once the cooking is complete, make sure the barbecue cools down properly.
Never leave pets on their own or unsupervised near any hot food or equipment.
The smoke from the grill can be very irritating for pets’ lungs, especially as many have sensitive airways. For their safety, make sure your pets are far away from the barbecue and not downwind of any fumes. This is especially important for small pets and birds; you may need to temporarily move their enclosure so they are totally away from the smoke.
Skip the scraps
Is your dog a master of puppy dog eyes when you’re eating? Don't give in!
Barbecue scraps can upset your pet's stomach and undercooked or fatty foods can make them very poorly. Don't forget that bones can also be really harmful to your dog too (especially when cooked) as they can become lodged in their stomach or intestines and cause a potentially fatal blockage.
Whilst everybody else is enjoying the delicious BBQ feast, keep your dog occupied by giving them a healthy chew to chomp on or a fun toy to play with instead. To keep them completely out of harm’s way while you eat, feed them their normal food in a separate room in case any tempting treats are dropped. You should think about other potential poisons too and keep any alcoholic drinks, sugar-free treats and chocolate desserts out of your pet’s sight.
Clean up leftovers
If you don’t keep a close eye on them, our pets can easily get hold of something they shouldn’t. One big problem at barbecues is the risk of pets eating things they’re not supposed to (e.g. kebab skewers or the leftover core from a corn on the cob) which can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening problems, such as gut blockages.
To prevent any digestive disasters, make sure any leftovers and rubbish are immediately thrown away in a lidded bin that your pet can’t raid. All those flavoursome food smells will be very tempting for some pets, so you must check that your bin is secure and completely out of their reach ahead of time.
Keep your pet cool
On those hot summer days, our furry friends can quickly overheat in the sun. To prevent the dangers of heatstroke, make sure they’re able to go in the shade or indoors whenever they need to cool down. At all times, your pet will need access to plenty of fresh, clean, cool water to drink. Paddling pools are a great way to help your pet stay cool when they’re outside in the garden.
If you know a heatwave is coming, consider having your barbecue later in the evening so your pet won’t experience too much excitement during the hottest hours of the day. Temperatures can reach uncomfortable levels from early in the morning, getting hotter as the day goes on and often remaining high well into the evenings, so make sure you plan your barbeque around this. Even on the days when the temperature might not feel so high, humidity can still be a problem for pets; they may be better kept inside with fresh air blowing and plenty of cool water to drink.
Be sensible in the sun
Sun safety is just as important for our pets as it is for us. If you’re slathering on the sun cream, it’s likely your pet will need some too - especially if they have thin fur, white fur, or pink skin exposed such as the tips of their ears or on the end of their nose. To prevent the onset of painful sunburn, apply two layers of pet-safe sunblock to your furry friend at least 15 minutes before they go outside.
Treat them too!
Our pets might not be able to safely enjoy snacks off the barbecue, so why not prepare a tasty treat of their own to enjoy? This could be a thirst-quenching pet-safe snack or a puzzle feeder filled with kibble to keep them entertained. If you’re cost-saving, you could plan ahead and bake some dog-safe cakes (try moulding them into different shapes and sizes to make them even more interesting!).