Be On the Lookout at Your Cookout

June 9, 2022


Get out your aprons and fire up those grills, folks, it’s cookout weather! There’s nothing better than chowing down outside with loved ones during the summer, but it’s important to be mindful of our furry friends. Check out our ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) guidelines below to enjoy any upcoming outdoor festivities with your pets and avoid potential toxic exposures.

1. Limit table scraps and sharing food with pets: Common cookout food and snacks that are toxic to pets include: onion and garlic products, grapes and raisins, chocolate baked goods and candy. Fatty foods such as hot dogs, burgers, nuts and cheese can also cause concerns, such as pancreatitis, when ingested. This serious condition can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite and abdominal pain. If you do plan on sharing a few bites of your food with your pet, be sure it’s only in small quantities and that none of the ingredients are on our toxic foods list. You should also keep an eye on the trash when having a gathering, as a trash can full of food waste can be very appealing to a curious nose.

Bonus tip: For the ultimate cookout, opt for foods that have earned meaningful animal welfare certifications or choose delicious plant-based products. Check out our Shop With Your Heart Grocery List to find plant-based and welfare-certified brands available online and in supermarkets across the country!

2. Prevent access to charcoal for grills: When ingested, charcoal briquettes can cause gastrointestinal upset and irritation and potentially a foreign body obstruction within the stomach or small intestine. Ingestion of uncooled briquettes can also lead to internal burns.

3. Store lighter fluids in a safe location: Lighter fluids used for fires and grills contain hydrocarbons that are irritating when ingested and can cause severe injury to the lungs if inhaled. Some pets may find these bottles and chew on them, leading to exposure to the liquid inside.

4. Clean your grill when your pets are not around: Grease and food debris from the grill can cause pancreatitis and gastrointestinal signs when ingested by pets. Many grill cleaners contain harsh chemicals that are meant to break down food particles and stuck-on debris from the grill. These grill cleaning products, if ingested, can cause significant injury, irritation and burning to the mouth and stomach. Please remove and safely dispose of any waste or debris so your pet does not have access when you aren’t looking.

5. Keep alcoholic beverages out of reach: Pets can find alcoholic beverages as appealing as humans do, especially if fruity or cream based. Any amount of alcohol ingested can cause gastrointestinal upset and aspiration risks. In large enough quantities, alcohol can cause decreased body temperatures and depression of the cardiac and respiratory systems. Low blood sugar and change in body pH are also possible with alcohol toxicity.

Keep these five safety tips in mind to have a fun and pet-safe cookout this summer! 

If you believe that your pet may have been exposed to or ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426- 4435 immediately.