10 Barbecue Foods Dangerous for Pets

Dog standing on its hind feet looking at a grill

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While grilling and eating outside brings on a wonderfully casual air to dining, it’s good to remember not to be casual about what food you're leaving around for your pet to get into. Barbecue foods can provide your pet with a host of troubles. From ribs and onions to chips and corn, these barbecue-friendly foods can be unfriendly to dogs and cats.

1. Ribs and Other Bones

Of course you want to throw the dog a bone – seems natural to me. But as it turns out, according to PetMD, bones can be very dangerous for pets. “They might choke on them, or suffer a grave injury if the bone should splinter and become lodged in, or even puncture the digestive tract.” Yikes. But dogs will likely try and sneak a bone at all costs, so have a covered, dog-proof receptacle nearby to stow the bones once you’re done.

2. Chicken Wings

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) warned pet owners against feeding their dogs or cats chicken on the bone due to the bones’ risk of splintering and causing intestinal obstruction or worse.

3. Hot Dogs

Just like for humans, gorging on hot dogs is unhealthy for dogs ... but not fatal in the short term. Dogs aren’t generally used to that amount of preservatives and salt; and franks can cause diarrhea and digestive problems (and obesity) for some pups. Also, if you feel compelled to feed your dog a dog, cut it up, advises PetMD, and feed it to them in bite-size pieces. Not sure if this is for portion control or to reduce the risk of choking, but sounds sage either way.

4. Corn on the Cob

Not toxic because of it’s chemical composition, but for mechanical reasons: its shape alone can cause choking and obstruction.

5. Onions

Big plate of sliced onions awaiting burgers? Keep them away from the dogs. All close members of the onion family (shallots, onions, garlic, scallions, and the like) contain compounds that can harm your pooch’s red blood cells if sufficiently ingested, according to the ASPCA. They would have to consume a lot for it to be a problem, but no need to take the risk. Damage does not generally become apparent for three to five days after a dog ingests the items; symptoms may include: weakness; reluctance to move; easy fatigue; and darkly-colored urine. See a vet immediately.

6. Guacamole

Avocado contains a toxic compound called persin, which is especially dangerous to birds, rabbits, and a few large animals like horses – for them, avocados can cause respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the heart, and even death. It’s not as bad for cats and dogs, but can cause stomach distress; as well, add in the garlic and onion and we’re getting pretty toxic.

7. Chips and Pretzels

Chips, pretzels? Chips, pretzels. It’s the salt. Too much sodium isn’t good for us, neither is it good for our pets. Too much of it can create thirst and excessive urination, which is one thing, but can also lead to sodium ion poisoning. Not good: it can end up in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, fever, seizures, and can be fatal.

8. Fruit Salad or a Bowl of Grapes

If your fruit salad has grapes in it or if you have a bowl of grapes out, watch them like a hawk. (The same goes for raisins, although they’re not generally considered a barbecue food, but nonetheless.) Nobody is quite sure why, but grapes and raisins have been connected to the development of kidney failure in dogs. Some dogs can eat them and be fine, others eat just a few and it’s life threatening. Some dogs can eat them and be fine, then eat them again and become very sick. It’s just not worth taking the risk. The ASPCA explains that dogs experiencing grape or raisin toxicosis usually develop: vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea within 12 hours of ingestion. As signs progress, dogs become increasingly lethargic and dehydrated, refuse to eat and may show an increase in urination followed by decreased or no urination in later stages. Death due to kidney failure may occur within three to four days, or long-term kidney disease may persist in dogs who survive the acute intoxication. Yikes. No grapes or raisins for pup.

9. Chocolate Desserts

This one most of us know; but your non-dog-savvy guests may not: Chocolate can be toxic to dogs. And even more so if it is sugar-free and sweetened with Xylitol. (This is not what they were referring to when they named a dessert “Death by Chocolate.”) Both chocolate and Xylitol have potentially fatal compounds. Chocolate poisoning can lead to heart arrhythmias, muscle tremors, and seizures. Ingestion of Xylitol can lead to a quick and serious drop in blood sugar levels, resulting in disorientation and seizures within a half hour of ingestion; some dogs may develop liver failure which can be fatal.

10. Alcoholic Beverages

Both dogs and cats are uniquely sensitive to alcoholic beverages, but may not shy away from lapping up an abandoned drink. Even just a few ounces of beer or wine can be poisonous to a dog or cat, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Dump orphaned drinks quickly!