Our Top Five Tips for Labor Day BBQ Safety

August 30, 2019

a man and a woman at a picnic table with small dog

Summer is coming to a close, but there’s still time for plenty of fun in the sun. You may be gearing up for Labor Day festivities like the ever-popular backyard barbecue, so the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) wants to share its top tips for keeping your pets safe while you enjoy the long weekend.

1. Keep Food and Drinks Out of Paws’ Reach

Food and drinks are key components to any barbecue. But some common foods that humans love are not safe for our furry friends. Onions and garlic can cause pets stomach upset, or even anemia (especially in cats) if a large amount is eaten, and grapes and raisins can cause kidney damage. Additionally, products containing xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in gum and other sugar-free foods, can cause low blood sugar, liver damage and even death in dogs. 

Alcoholic beverages and marijuana can affect pets just like they do people, but much smaller amounts are needed intoxicate them. It can also put them at risk for more serious problems if they begin vomiting and potentially aspirate. Be sure to keep party snacks and drinks up and out of paws’ reach and avoid treating your pet to any people food.

If your pets will be attending a barbecue with you, ask other guests to keep their plates and purses safely out of reach.

2. Pay Attention to Where You Discard Grease 

Dogs are indiscriminate eaters, meaning that if something looks or smells good to them, they will put it in their mouths.  

If you dump the grease from your grill onto gravel or sand, your dog will likely attempt to chow down without a second thought.  

This can cause severe stomach irritation, intestinal blockages, as well as pancreatitis from the grease itself. Grease should be allowed to cool, and then discarded directly into the garbage instead of being dumped onto the ground.

3. Don’t Leave Pets Unattended Near Open Water

Some dogs love to swim and it’s a great low-impact exercise, especially for older dogs with arthritis.  

However, dogs can be at risk of drowning, especially if they are not used to swimming and they fall into a pool. 

In addition, pool chemicals can be hazardous, especially if they are not diluted. Ingesting too much pool water can give your pet an upset stomach, and chlorine and bromine tablets and granules can cause burns in the mouth and throat if dogs chew on them.

Always monitor your pets around a pool, or any body of water. If you spot any pool chemicals lying around, put them safely away. You can also consider a life vest for your pet for extra protection.

4. Discard Food Items Safely

Once everyone has finished eating, make sure that there’s a covered trash bin for them to discard their food and trash. Commonly seen at barbecues, objects like skewers can cause injuries to the stomach and intestines if they are eaten by pets, and similarly, corncobs are a common cause of intestinal blockages in dogs because dogs tend to swallow large pieces instead of chewing them up.  

Remember: if it smells like food, dogs will likely eat it.

5. Lookout for Signs of Heatstroke

Dogs, especially those with short snouts like Bulldogs and Pugs, can easily become overheated and will often continue to play even when they are suffering from heatstroke. Be sure that your pets have plenty of water and access to shade when spending time outdoors.  

If your dog can’t stop panting, seems weak or wobbly, or if they are vomiting, get them into an air-conditioned environment or cover them with a wet towel immediately.  

A trip to the veterinarian is recommended even if the signs improve, because heatstroke can cause unseen problems such as abnormal blood clotting, kidney damage and fluid around the brain. Heatstroke is a serious, life-threatening condition and delay in treatment can be deadly, so being aware and acting fast is critical.

The best way to avoid any Labor Day trips to the emergency vet is prevention. Keep a close eye on your furry friends and be mindful of our safety tips! Don't forget, it's easy to shop with animals in mind this Labor Day with our Shop With Your Heart BBQ shopping list, a selection of welfare-certified meat, eggs and dairy, plus plant-based alternatives.

If you have any reason to suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.