VET SPEAK: Precautions which help keep pets safe at barbecue times
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Chloe was a beautiful four-year-old Cocker Spaniel brought into the surgery as an urgent appointment, drooling and looking miserable and extremely uncomfortable. She had been up all night being very sick indeed and had not eaten or drunk anything.
She was very lethargic, her abdomen was painful to touch and she was becoming worryingly dehydrated. X-rays revealed that she had all the evidence of an intestinal obstruction. On questioning her owners, it transpired she had been scrounging for food around the barbecue the day before, and had been seen eating a discarded corn on the cob core. The cob had certainly caused an obstruction, and she would require surgery to remove it from her bowel.
Every summer, we see dogs who have got into a spot of bother at the family barbecue.
Everyone loves eating outdoors in the long-awaited warm summer months. However, if you do not keep a close eye on them, pets can easily get hold of and eat something they should not.
A feast of scraps from the barbecue can be extremely dangerous for your pet, and not just for their waistlines. Scraps can upset their stomach and undercooked or fatty foods can make them sick and cause severe diarrhoea. A sudden excess of fat in their diet can cause gastroenteritis, and pancreatitis. Butter, fat drippings, the skin and fat trimmings from barbecued meats, sauces, sausages and hamburgers can all be far too high in fat content for most dogs.
Bones can also be especially harmful, especially when cooked. They can be dangerously sharp and will splinter – and if eaten these can damage and perforate gums and intestines. Instead give them a healthy, pet-safe, dental chew to gnaw on, or a fun new toy to play with instead. It will keep them occupied while you enjoy your food in peace.
Another big problem at barbecues is pets eating things like toothpicks or meat skewers. These are often eaten as they still taste of meat. When ingested, these sharp objects can perforate the bowel and then migrate through the intestines causing further injury.
Think about other potential hazards too. Keep all alcoholic drinks and any chocolate sweets and desserts out of reach and keep them away from any sugar-free drinks that might contain xylitol sweetener, which is toxic for dogs.
Always make sure any leftover meats, bones, skewers and other rubbish are thrown away into a safe, lidded bin that your pet cannot then raid – all those food smells will be extremely tempting!
If it is proving difficult to keep your pets at bay while you are trying to eat, feed them their normal food in a separate, quiet room in the house while you are eating your meal. This will keep them out of harm’s way.
All these dangers may sound scary, but sadly, they are very real.
A little care and preparation beforehand and a watchful eye will hopefully ensure a happy safe summer for your pets.
Thankfully, our wee Chloe made a full recovery after her operation and was soon back to eating again and being her mischievous, bouncy self.
All her family members were very vigilant around the barbecue thereafter though, and they all kept a very close eye on her and kept any corn on the cobs well out of reach!
• Alison Laurie-Chalmers is a senior consultant with Crown Vets in Inverness.