Our pets, who are inquisitive by nature and who generally can’t resist the lure of tasty smelling food, act first and think later, and that means there’s a good chance they’ll get themselves into strife during summer. One of the biggest risks to them is hot barbecues and at this time of the year Australians are firing them up, at home, on picnics and when camping.


The most obvious hazard to your pets is of course the heat from the fire and the risk of getting burned. It doesn’t matter whether it’s charcoal, gas, electric, or wood burning, all barbecues pose a risk. The smoke and radiant heat from a barbecue won’t necessarily deter your pet from approaching one and as well as the barbecue itself, the grills and heating media, such as coals and rocks, retain heat and can cause nasty burns.


Cats can jump onto grills to take food, and dogs can lean into the bowls or ash catchers of pit barbecues and singe their fur, burn their paws, or fall into them. Another risk is pushing a barbecue over and having it or its contents fall on them. This more common with the portable styles, some of which are notoriously unstable.


The safest approach is to ensure that your barbecue is never left unattended and that you can see your pet at all times while the barbecue is hot. Ensure your barbecue is on level and stable ground and be careful with pit barbecues to make sure that they’re inaccessible. Try to avoid leaving utensils on the barbecue and be careful with overhanging handles.  Once you’re finished cooking, cool the coals and embers as soon as possible.


If your pet sustains a burn, cool the burned area as soon as possible with cold water. Cold running water from a tap is best and it’s important to do this quickly in order to minimize the damage. Following this use a cold compress such as a tea towel filled with ice or a bag of frozen vegetables, and leave it in place for approximately 20 minutes. Try to find something that will wrap around the contours of the burned area. For burns in the mouth, try to lie the animal on its side in order to pour the water through their mouths so that it makes contact with the wound but doesn’t run down their throat. A superficial burn may not need anymore treatment but check with us first; Call our 24/7 emergency team promptly on 8289 3722 for advice.


With more serious burns the skin could be partially or completely burned away. In these cases there is an increased risk of shock and after cooling and dressing the wound seek veterinary care urgently. Apply a clean and dry dressing to the burned area and if you don’t have access to a proper sterile dressing, choose a fabric that is less likely to stick to the wound. Wrap the dressing lightly using a bandage, or improvise with some torn material such as a sheet, and then take the animal to a vet immediately.


In addition to the barbecue itself there are other things to be aware of that can cause problems for pets. Bones and raw meat can prove serious hazards to our furry friends. Bones can be good for your dog to gnaw on but they easily shatter, particularly cooked bones. The splinters can cause serious internal damage by becoming lodged in their digestive tract or puncturing their internal organs. Don’t give dogs any type of bones as bones that have been cut are more likely to splinter and small bones can be swallowed whole.


Skewers can be particularly dangerous for the same reason as bone splinters, and they as well as corn cob prongs can be gobbled down whole by hungry dogs. Corn cobs that have absorbed the flavours of meat or that have been covered with butter can be particularly tempting to pooches. Cobs and segments can cause obstructions in the intestines and bowels therefore dogs should never be allowed to eat them.


It can be hard to resist the stare of your dog or cat while you try to enjoy your meal without interruption. Resist the temptation to give them something off your plate however, as many barbecued foods are simply not suitable for them, particularly anything burnt or covered in sauce or marinade. Also, whenever you feed them this way it reinforces the behaviour.


Foods that are high in fat can cause pancreatitis which is an inflammation of the pancreas and is a very serious disease than can often prove fatal. A hot sausage straight off the grill can burn a dog’s mouth and the fat content could cause pancreatitis. The signs of pancreatitis include vomiting and/or diarrhea, loss of appetite, stomach pain, dehydration and a lack of energy. It can come on suddenly and then pass again or it could remain for longer periods. It is more prevalent in dogs, and if you suspect your pet has any of the signs of pancreatitis seek urgent veterinary assistance.


If you don’t want your pets feeling left out at barbecue time, bring some of their treats along. It’s the smell of the food that entices them and dogs are probably just as happy with whatever they’re given even if it’s not what they can smell. Cats on the other hand, can be a little choosier therefore you may need to have a few safe options in order for them to give you some peace.


Other things to watch for when your pets are joining you at the barbecue are plastic wrap, foil, and string used to bind roasts. Also be careful of grease and drippings from meat that may have spilled onto timber decking, which can have splinters, and gravel or dirt that could be consumed with the spills. Dispose of waste as soon as possible in a bin with a lid. Wrapping it well can help to disguise the smell and reduce the temptation to your pet.


One more risk with outdoor entertaining which is a little more obscure and doesn’t link directly to barbecues, is important to bear in mind nonetheless; The constant opening and closing of doors and fly screens, whether they’re hinged or sliders, can prove a hazard to animals’ tails. Watch for dogs who can be fast moving opportunists who quickly try to make a run for an open door, or the slower moving cats who you may not notice so easily at your feet. A tail caught in a door can lead to a particularly nasty break.

Naturally we all want to involve our pets in our social activities but they need boundaries for their own protection. If you’re having guests, make sure that they’re aware of the rules for your pets too. Dogs can be more excitable with a number of extra people around therefore keep an eye on them to make sure they’re okay. If your pets are more reserved, or if they tire from the activity, be sure they have a safe, quiet, and cool place to which they can retreat. They should always have access to cool and clean drinking water as well. Being aware of barbecue risks and keeping an eye on your pets, means that they can safely join in the fun as well, and avoid a trip to the vet!