Heading to a campground in the great outdoors with your dog this summer?
Or maybe just to the back yard for a summer BBQ? There are surprisingly many dangers lurking around the grill—and if you're organizing a cookout with Fido in tow, here are some things you should watch out for.
BBQs are often full of fatty foods—and while your dog might feel like he's in heaven, these foods can actually cause a lot of damage. An excess of fat in the diet can cause gastritis, enteritis, pancreatitis and other serious inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract.
Although how dangerous fatty foods are depends on the dog and the amount consumed, any fat drippings could be a problem, according to Judy Morgan, DVM, an integrative veterinarian that combines holistic medicine with traditional Western techniques and specializes in food therapy. "Stealing a stick of butter, eating the skin and fat trimmings from BBQ chicken, ribs, BBQ sauces, steak trimmings (fat, bones, grease), even hot dogs, sausages, and hamburgers can be too high in fat for many dogs," says Morgan.
Citronella Candles and Insect Coils
Many insect repellents contain DEET, a highly toxic chemical. "Many of these insect toxins are toxic to our dogs too and can not only make them sick, but they also irritate eyes, paws and exposed skin," says Kristina Rinaldi, executive director of Detroit Dog Rescue. If you're going to use citronella candles or insect repellents in your yard, make sure they're out of reach.
Foods that are a Choking Hazard
Two very common outdoor foods can be a major hazard for dogs: corn on the cob and bones. "If the dogs only ate the corn it would be no big deal, but the cobs are the perfect size to make a cork in the intestines, causing obstruction, which kills many dogs each year," says Morgan. "Cooked bones are sharp and will splinter, and they can perforate gums and intestines." In addition, bones also tend to have a lot of fat attached to them, which increases the risk of vomiting and diarrhea, according to Morgan.
A common but often ignored danger is toothpicks that might be used on fruit platters, drinks or skewers. "When ingested, these can perforate the bowel or migrate through the body and land anywhere—lungs, kidneys, heart," says Morgan.
Other dangers? Any sugar-free drinks that might contain xylitol (toxic for pets) and macadamia nuts, black walnuts, and grapes and raisins, all of which can be poisonous to dogs. "Shellfish shells (crab, lobster) can also cause a perforated bowel, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation or obstruction," says Morgan. "And fruit pits from peaches and apricots are also the perfect size to cause bowel obstruction; they also cause toxicity due to amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when ingested."
Coals and Ashes
Hot coals or ashes present a burn hazard if eaten or touched by dogs. In addition, Morgan warns that petroleum, lighter fluids, borax, sodium nitrate, and sulfur oxides found in coals or ashes can cause severe illness. "The petroleum used to make the charcoal burn may cause kidney failure," Morgan says. "And obstruction may occur if large pieces are eaten—a very real possibility as they may taste great if fat has dripped on them."
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and avid adventurer. She's gone hiking in Siberia, snorkeling in Thailand, and canoeing in the Mekong River. She also loves caves and has been known to get lost in one or five around the world. Diana's work has been published in the Discovery Channel website, Yahoo!, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can read more of her work on her website at www.dianabocco.com