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23 Jul 2021

7 summer barbecue foods you should never feed to your dog

If you're planning a tasty barbecue while the sun's out, make sure your dog isn't chomping on leftovers that could put them at risk

With the summer sun finally arriving, there's no better time for a barbecue. But if you're a dog owner, it's important to keep certain foods away from your pooch.

It's worth being aware of what to keep out of reach, so you can avoid a worrying (and potentially costly) trip to the vet.

We've teamed up with Blue Cross, an animal-based charity that has been helping sick, injured and homeless pets for more than 120 years, to bring you tips on the barbecue foods that could be dangerous for your dog.

Plus, so you can keep tails wagging, we've got some suggestions on what you can feed your pet while you tuck into your own meal.

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Seven barbecue foods to keep away from your dog

1. Raw meat (especially if there are bones inside)

Make sure you keep raw meat away from your dog, as this can carry salmonella or campylobacter. Salmonella often leads to gastrointestinal illness, which results in symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea.

For keen cooks making kebabs, keep an eye on the skewers as wood can splinter and cut the inside of a dog's mouth.

Blue Cross says: 'Feeding your dog cooked meat with no bones is fine, but avoid food with heavy seasoning or sauces. Stick to small amounts only, as your dog may not be used to a large amount of a new food.

'Chicken bones (cooked and uncooked) can cause a choking hazard to your pet as they can easily splinter. They can even prove fatal as they can perforate the gut, so stick to feeding your dog cooked chicken meat.'

2. Corn on the cob

A dog can't digest corn on the cob, so this should be avoided entirely. In fact, in a worst-case scenario, the cob can cause a bowel obstruction, which would require surgery to resolve.

Because of the shape and volume of the corn cob, a dog may start to choke if it's gnawing away.

However, sweetcorn removed from the cob is fine for your dog - it contains protein and natural antioxidants. Try sprinkling it on top of your dog's dinner bowl for some variety.

Blue Cross says: 'Corn on the cob is a particularly common foreign body obstruction in the intestines. If your dog has sneakily eaten a corn cob, it may become unusually tired and refuse to eat its regular food. We suggest contacting your vet right away.'

3. Spicy peppers

If you're getting the puppy dog eyes as you eat your hot pepper, resist the urge to treat the dog and keep the food to yourself.

Spicy varieties of pepper can cause stomach upsets for dogs as they contain capsaicin, which is a chemical compound that acts as an irritant.

But it's not all bad news for that puppy running laps around the barbecue. Red bell peppers are very healthy for dogs thanks to an abundance of vitamin A, C and E - try adding a couple of small pieces to your dog's food bowl.

Blue Cross says: 'Raw or cooked bell peppers are fine for your dog to eat, but they should be plain and you should remove the stem and seeds. Never feed your dog spicy varieties of pepper.'

4. Ice cream

A delicious scoop (or three) of ice cream can be a great way to finish off your summer barbecue, but we suggest you keep dessert away from the dogs.

Although dog-friendly ice cream does exist, many ice creams contain sweeteners such as xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. It's also important to remember that some pooches are lactose intolerant and therefore should never have ice cream.

Chocolate ice cream is a definite no-no. As chocolate is toxic to dogs, ingesting it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity and even heart failure. If you're serving up ice cream at your barbecue, make sure you remind your guests to guard their bowls.

Blue Cross says: 'Ice cream is best avoided. Instead, make ice cubes or ice lollies stuffed with dog food or a treat inside. You can also try freezing a stuffed Kong (a squeezy dog toy).'

5. Onions

When you take a big bite of your burger, make sure you scoop up any slices of onion that might fall on the grass. Onions are toxic to dogs because they contain a compound called n-propyl disulfide, which can lead to a breakdown of a dog's red blood cells.

If your reaction times aren't quite quick enough and your dog scoffs a tiny piece of onion, it shouldn't cause any major problems. But the more onion your dog eats, the higher the chance of sickness, especially if you own a small breed. In extreme cases, onion poisoning can prove fatal for dogs.

Blue Cross says: 'Onions, garlic and chives (whether dry, raw or cooked) are toxic for dogs, and need to be avoided.'

6. Avocado

Although the ripe fruit of an avocado isn't harmful to dogs, the skin and leaves can be. This is because there's a higher concentration of persin, a fungicidal toxin that can cause stomach issues.

The flesh of an avocado is high in fat content and, as it's calorie-dense, can lead to weight gain. You should also keep the stone at the center of the fruit away from the dog as this presents a choking hazard.

There are plenty of dog-friendly fruits that serve as a safer alternative to avocado, so we suggest you stick to those. These includes apples, strawberries and bananas.

7. Grapes

Grapes are highly toxic to dogs and shouldn't be given as a treat. In some cases, they can cause severe kidney damage. Peeled or seedless grapes should also be avoided entirely.

Interestingly, the cause of toxicity in dogs after they eat a grape isn't known. What we do know is that while all dogs will have a negative reaction, some may suffer more severe reactions than others.

Blue Cross says: 'When a dog has eaten grapes or raisins, you will usually see the following symptoms: vomiting/diarrhea within two to three hours, tiredness and weakness, loss of appetite and seizures.

'If your dog develops any of these symptoms after ingesting grapes or raisins, contact your vet immediately.'

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More barbecue items to keep away from dogs

People cooking food at a barbecue with beers
  • Alcohol Ethanol (found in beer and wine) can cause alcohol intoxication in dogs, which causes vomiting, disorientation and a high body temperature.
  • Plastic packaging When you're opening packs of food at your barbecue, make sure you discard the packaging right away. Sharp pieces of plastic can cut your dog's mouth and cause bigger problems if ingested.
  • Ketchup This contains sugars, salts and a concoction of flavorings, so it's best to not take any chances. Ketchup can also contain onion in some cases, which is very dangerous for dogs.
  • Orange peel Chucking an orange slice in your dog's direction shouldn't cause any harm, but keep the peel away from the dog as they are tough to digest.
  • Raisins Highly toxic for dogs, so keep tabs on salad dishes that may have some squirrelled away. Call the vet immediately and provide an accurate description of how much was eaten.

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What to do if your dog eats something bad

Hairy dog on a carpet

If you think your dog has swallowed something that could cause them harm, contact your vet for further advice as it's always better to be safe than sorry.

You might think that waiting a little bit to see if a problem develops is fine, but don't take the risk. Ultimately, acting fast and contacting a professional if you're unsure could save your dog's life.

Blue Cross has produced its own expert guidance on foods that are dangerous for dogs, which also includes information on poisonous plants.

What can dogs eat at a barbecue?

Just because your dog can't share your whole burger doesn't mean they have to go hungry. Luckily, there are plenty of paw-fectly safe barbecue foods that you can choose from.

Blue Cross told us that bread is unlikely to harm your dog in small quantities. They can also tuck into some baby potatoes, as long as those have been cooked plain without oil or seasoning.

Because dogs are omnivores like us, they can enjoy both meat and vegetables. Apples, oranges, bananas and strawberries are fine for your dog to eat. In fact, apples can keep your dog's teeth clean and provide vitamin A and C - just make sure you remove the core and the seeds.

Blue Cross says:'Kongs stuffed with xylitol-free peanut butter or a peanut butter-covered chew will help to keep your dog busy. You can also make them ice treats with dog food or treats inside to keep them cool and happy.'

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Discover which dog food offers impressive value for money with our guide to the best and worst brands.