I always feel like Memorial Day is the official start of summer and barbecue season.  Although in our house we barbecue all year round.  Still, there’s nothing like steak and burgers on the grill, the sun sinking low on the horizon, a gentle breeze, some soothing tunes and a refreshing drink or two.  Can you smell the aroma?

So can your favorite four legged friend and she’s about to grab the steak off the grill!

As with all events that involve every member of the family there are some aspects about the beautiful picture I painted above that could cause the evening to have a very different ending. As you think about that perfect barbecue you might also notice a grease bucket under the grill, perhaps a rack of ribs on a plate covered by aluminum foil, and some corn on the cob.  For me, each of those items have names and faces of patients attached to them because of visits to our ER.  What?  You may think that’s crazy, but give me a little latitude and I’ll describe for you the reasons.

First, aluminum foil, which was covering those delectably marinated ribs was simple irresistible to “Lucky” and had to be stolen off the counter or out of the trash.  The outcome is somewhat dependent on the size of the animal and the amount of aluminum foil actually ingested.  Most likely the foil will pass in the next couple days and other than strange looking piles in the backyard, nothing will come of the eating indiscretion.  However, you should watch your pet (dog or cat, both have been known to be equally silly) for vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, or nothing coming out at all.  These could be signs that the aluminum foil has caused an obstruction somewhere along the digestive path and needs to be surgically removed.

The same is true of corn cobs.  We have a sweet dog in the hospital tonight for inhaling a corn cob in the few seconds left unattended.  Fortunately the surgeon successfully removed the cob and some other items and he’s recovering well.

Remember that rack of ribs?  Where did they go?  “Lucky” did you get into the ribs?  “Lucky”!!!  Has this scene ever happened at your barbecue?

Many dog owners don’t hesitate to give their dog the discarded bones from the rack of ribs.  Unfortunately, cooked, brittle bones are more likely to splinter which may cause fractured teeth and possible perforation of the intestine or throat either on the way down or on the way back up if the dog vomits. Cooked or uncooked, small bones or those broken or gnawed down small enough can be gulped down either choking the dog or blocking its digestive tract.  Some bones don’t need to splinter to have sharp points.  Any bone that the dog can break up is dangerous.  If you dog does get hold of a bone and you’re worried about fragments feed him some bread.  The hope is that the sharp fragments will get embedded in the bread and not cause any danger as it passes through the digestive tract.  Again, watch for vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, lack of appetite, a depressed state, or change in behavior.  If you see any of these signs quickly get your dog to your veterinarian or head for the animal ER.  The fragments could be causing a blockage or might have punctured the intestines.

Last, but certainly not least, the grease trap.  Remember that small can or bucket under your grill to catch the grease from getting all over your patio?  Fortunately many new grills have a built-in system that catches the grease inside the grill, but there are plenty of the cans still around.  Dogs find themselves drooling like crazy and licking their lips when they smell all that grease.  Unfortunately, their pancreas is not as excited.  Pancreatitis or excessive vomiting leading to dehydration are risks of animals ingesting lots of fat.  Pet Education.com has a great article on pancreatitis in dogs.

So….before you put your feet up, make sure the offending items have found a safe home, out of the reach of your curious dog or cat.  Then freshen up your favorite beverage and enjoy the sunset.