Last year you had to forego your annual summer cookout celebration, so this year you plan to have the party to end all parties. Before you fire up the barbie, our team at Loving Family Animal Hospital wants to answer some common questions about keeping your pet safe during the festivities. 

Question: Should I have my pet microchipped before the cookout?

Answer: Yes! Microchipping is the best way to ensure you are reunited with your pet if they go missing, and this procedure can easily be performed at your pet’s next wellness exam. A 2009 study involving 7,700 pets showed that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners only 21.9 percent of the time, while microchipped dogs were returned 52.2 percent of the time. Cats without microchips were returned to their owners only 1.8 percent of the time, while microchipped cats were returned 38.5 percent of the time. The noise and commotion can be overwhelming for your sensitive pet, and they may find an escape route while your attention is elsewhere. You should also ensure your pet is wearing a collar and accurate identification tags.

Q: Should I give in to my pet’s begging and feed them party food during the cookout?

A: No! Your pet may turn sad eyes your way, but feeding your pet party food is a bad plan, for the following reasons.

  • Gastrointestinal issues Your pet’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract is sensitive, and a sudden change in diet can cause them to suffer from a GI upset involving vomiting and diarrhea. Fatty foods served at cookouts are more likely to cause these issues, and can also lead to a condition called pancreatitis, which can cause significant problems for your pet. 
  • Fire hazard — Feeding your pet from the grill can also cause them to get too close to the lit grill. If they accidentally knock the structure over, they could cause a fire. 
  • Possible obstruction #1 — If your pet eats a cooked bone, the brittle material could fracture, causing your pet to choke or injure their esophagus. 
  • Possible obstruction #2 — Your pet may accidentally ingest a foreign body while scavenging for food. These objects could injure your pet’s esophagus or GI tract, and may require emergency surgery to remove. Keep all food and garbage in sealed containers.
  • Toxicity — Certain common foods, such as avocados, garlic, onions, alcohol, and chocolate, can be toxic to your pet. If your pet eats a toxic food, contact our team at Loving Family Animal Hospital or Animal Poison Control

To appease your pet so they do not feel like they are excluded from the festivities, provide pet friendly treats during the party. You will indulge your pet’s taste buds without affecting their stomach.

Q: Is my pet affected if I use pesticides to keep pests away during the cookout?

A: Yes! Several pesticide ingredients can lead to severe reactions, such as vomiting, seizures, coma, and long-term cognitive issues. The most dangerous ingredients include amitraz, malathion, chlorpyrifos, and terbufos. When used as directed, safer alternatives include acetamiprid, imidacloprid, lufenuron, and spinosad. Read ingredient lists closely when purchasing pesticides, and always follow labeled directions. 

Some people consider citronella a safe deterrent for mosquitoes, but these products can cause vomiting or diarrhea if ingested by your pet, and skin rashes if your pet contacts them. Use year-round heartworm and flea and tick preventives to protect your pet from pests. Certain plants, such as lavender, marigolds, rosemary, and basil, can be planted to help deter mosquitoes in your yard.

Q: Should I be concerned about my pet overheating at the cookout?

A: Yes! Pets have only a few sweat glands on their feet and around their nose, and they rely mainly on panting and external cooling to lower their body temperature. This makes them more susceptible to overheating. Certain breeds, such as bulldogs, boxers, and Persian cats have facial structures that put them at higher risk. Signs to watch for include, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse.

If your pet is exhibiting signs indicating heat exhaustion, take them to a cool, well-ventilated area and offer them cool water. If you can, rectally take their temperature using a digital thermometer. A temperature higher than 103 degrees is concerning, but temperatures 105 degrees and higher are considered extremely dangerous. Sponge your pet down using cool water, concentrating on their abdomen and neck. Do not use ice or ice water to cool your pet, as this could cause hypothermia, and could also damage their skin. Take your pet to Loving Family Animal Hospital as soon as possible. Leave the windows down and the air conditioner on for the ride to the hospital.

Q: Could fireworks at the cookout cause my pet stress?

A: Yes! Some pets become frightened during fireworks displays, and some suffer from noise phobias related to fireworks. These pets will exhibit signs such as cowering, shivering, hiding, vocalizing, and urinating. Stress at this level is extremely distressing for your pet and can have physiological effects, as well. If your pet exhibits stress or fear during fireworks displays, they will be more comfortable at home in familiar surroundings. 

You can savor your hot dog and ensure your pet enjoys the party as well by following this simple advice. If you would like to discuss microchipping your pet, or your pet has a cookout mishap, do not hesitate to contact the American Animal Hospital Associated (AAHA)-accredited team at Loving Family Animal Hospital.