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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Safety

Backyard ritual can sicken - even kill - your pet

Most pet parents have participated in this warm-weather backyard activity many times, and it is normally a lot of fun. Family and friends frequently participate, and they enjoy it, too. And sometimes, even your dog or cat joins the activities.

But this common activity that is so enjoyable to you can be quite dangerous - or even fatal - to your pet, animal welfare experts warn, and pet parents are being advised to take steps to keep their dogs and cats safe.

This seasonal backyard ritual is the family barbecue.

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Most people associate summer with good times and good weather, but for pets, summertime can present some dangers that are no laughing matter,” Dr. Katherine Miller, director of applied science and research for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, states in a media release. “Summer activities, like barbecues, ... carry risks, but there are simple ways to protect your pet and have a fun summer.”

The ASPCA recommends keeping pets indoors during backyard parties, because many people foods and beverages are toxic to pets. Pets also may become frightened by raucous guests.
 
Even the most timid dog can leap a six-foot fence if he’s spooked by loud noises,” Dr. Pamela Reid, vice president of the ASPCA Animal Behavior Center, states in a media release. She suggests giving a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter to a dog showing signs of distress from boisterous revelers. “The persistent licking should calm his nerves,” Dr. Reid states.
 
Dogs are especially vulnerable to getting into trouble at backyard barbecues, according to a media release from PDSA, a public charity in Britain that provides free veterinary services to sick and injured animals owned by needy people. A curious dog can easily swallow food left around as well as cutlery.

Veterinarians at Leicester PDSA PetAid hospital had to perform lifesaving surgery two times recently to remove items swallowed by dogs at family barbecues. A Staffordshire bull terrier swallowed a wooden skewer, which lodged in its intestines, and a Collie pup ingested a corn-on-the-cob core as well as the three-inch metal skewers holding it.

Here are some tips offered by the ASPCA and PDSA to keep pets safe during backyard barbecues: 
  • Stick with your pet’s normal diet — any change, even for a day, can result in an upset stomach. Certain foods like onions, avocado, chocolate, grapes and raisins are especially toxic to pets.
  • Do not give your pet barbecue scraps, which can cause stomach upset. Undercooked, unfamiliar or fatty foods can cause vomiting and diarrhea. 
  • Dispose of leftover food and rubbish in a lidded container. 
  • Place all wine, beer and spirits out of reach since alcohol is potentially poisonous to pets. 
  • Keep lighter out of reach. Lighter fluid contains hydrocarbons (derived from crude oil), which can be fatal if ingested. Also keep pets away from matches and citronella candles, which if eaten can irritate the stomach, lungs and central nervous system. 
  • Keep pets away from the barbecue, flames and hot embers to avoid burns. 
  • Put special pet sun creams on your dog or cat to avoid sunburn and heatstroke. Special pet sun creams can be used on pets with white fur or damaged skin. Do not use any insect repellent or sunscreen not intended for pets. Ingestion can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. 
  • Make sure pets have access to shade and plenty of fresh water. 
  • Use plastic cups instead of glass. Bottles and glass can be easily knocked over and smashed, creating a hazard for a pet. 
Related reports:
  • Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool or lake. Some dogs are not good swimmers and can drown. Also, pool water contains chlorine and other toxic chemicals that can cause stomach upset if a pet drinks it.

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