If you have space for a grill, you probably also have space for a pet–but the two shouldn’t be in the same space at the same time as pet safety can’t be guaranteed around a grill. Dogs can smell meat from a fair distance away and, like their human owners, they know a good steak when they smell one. Even cats can get in the way of your grilling if they’re an outdoor cat or you’re trying to grill on a screened-in patio. Which is why we are presenting 5 actionable tips to ensure grilling safety for pets.
You may assume that a well-trained pet can be trusted around grills, but that isn’t usually the case. Sometimes, even humans forget that a surface or utensil is hot, and animals have no way of knowing the danger either. A closed grill lid looks safe from a distance, but can actually result in serious burns on animals’ sensitive paw pads.
Plus, plates that held raw meat can be breeding grounds for bacteria, and undercooked meat scraps and bones can be hazardous for dogs, cats, and other animals. Even if you feed your animals occasional table scraps, the nature of grilling means that the grill master must exercise additional caution. Guests and other family members need to be made aware of these as well. Here are our best tips for maintaining Grilling Safety for Pets around your grill.
1. Keep Pets Away
When proper precautions aren’t taken, grilling can even be hazardous for humans. It’s even more important to keep our four-legged friends away from anything that can burn them. Even if your dog is well-trained, make sure he can’t come anywhere near the grill. Dogs may act in unexpected ways when they can smell food nearby, and any unexpected behavior can send burgers tumbling to the ground.
Cats and small dogs, in particular, can get underfoot faster than you realize, resulting in a trip hazard. Cats or dogs that are particularly good at jumping can even end up putting their paws on a hot grill lid–or worse.
Though your dog or cat may hate being kept inside, indoors is the safest place for them while grilling. A screened-in porch or a leash is also an option if your yard is large enough to keep the grill a safe distance away. Make sure your family and guests know that you’re grilling and that the animals need to be kept inside.
2. Don’t Feed Scraps
A barbecue may seem like the perfect time to treat your pets as well as yourself. After all, beef, chicken and pork are in your pets’ food, so it should be safe to give them–right?
While it’s okay to give your pets plain cooked meat as a snack occasionally, grilling is not the time to do so. For starters, it trains your pets to associate the grill with food, which will make it harder to keep them away from it in the future. Meat scraps fresh from the grill may be hotter than you realize, causing burns to your pet’s mouth and tongue.
Remember that many sauces and spices can upset your pet’s stomach–even if they’re “all-natural.” Avocados, onions, garlic and a number of other foods can be toxic to dogs and cats. can be toxic to dogs and cats. Animals can also be sensitive to the amount of fat in the meat. Fatty meats can cause gas and bloat at best, or pancreatitis if consumed in large quantities.
Don’t let your pet lick grill utensils, unwashed plates or cooked bones, either. Parts of a recently-used grill fork or tongs can be hotter than you realize. Plates that held raw meat could easily cause food poisoning. Cooked bones can easily splinter in a dog’s mouth, and while raw bones are theoretically safe, an improperly cleaned bone can also cause food poisoning. If you want to give your pet a treat during your party, stick with store-bought treats or plain food cooked ahead of time.
3. Lock Up Supplies
The grill itself isn’t the only hazard present. Charcoal, lighter fluid and grill forks need to be kept far away from curious animals’ reach. Though charcoal may seem entirely unappetizing to humans, dogs have been known to eat worse things! Lighter fluid can also pose a hazard if it spills or a curious pet bites the bottle. Grill forks can be sharp at the ends and can also harbor bacteria if they aren’t cleaned after use.
Consider keeping these items on a high-up shelf in a shed. Since outdoor cats can climb or jump into surprisingly high spaces, even the garage may not be safe, so a shed with a latching door may be the best place. Avoid keeping lighter fluid in or near the house, as it can be a fire hazard. You can also consider getting a locking wood or metal storage box to keep in your yard.
4. Clean Up Properly
Did you know that animals will sometimes even eat foil and plastic wrap? While they may not eat it straight out of the kitchen drawer, they will assume it’s food if it has a meaty scent on it. Even if the grill is turned off and cooled down, don’t let the animals back into the yard until everything is thoroughly cleaned up and put away. Plates that held raw meat could be breeding bacteria and a stray bone that fell to the ground could pose a choking hazard.
Cleaning up is also essential for keeping pets from eating meat drippings. Excessive grease can be really bad for your pets’ health. Since grease can fall out of the bottom of your grill, consider using a greased pan to catch drippings, or make sure to clean your grill area well afterward. Different types of grills have different clean-up needs and even cool down at various rates, so make sure to double-check everything at the end of the day.
5. Have a Plan B
Even the best-laid plans sometimes fail when it comes to grilling, and that’s especially true when there’s an animal involved. Your pet may escape the confines of the living room and dart outside, or a well-meaning guest may provide a bit of food that causes a serious upset stomach.
Have a deterrent, like a spray bottle or noisemaker, by the grill in case you need to prevent a hungry pet from running at you while you’re cooking. Also, have an emergency vet number on hand in case you need it. If you’re grilling on a holiday weekend, remember that your regular vet may not be available to help.