Barbecue hazards for pets: Pete the Vet on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

Click on the link at the foot of this page to hear the podcast.

Barbecue hazards for pets

With the bank holiday weekend ahead combined with recent sunny weather, barbecues will be happening in back gardens and on patios across Ireland over the next few days. There are some specific pet-related hazards that people should be aware of, so that they avoid problems

  • Cooked bones.
    When humans have eaten the meat from pork or lamb chops, the remaining bone is highly attractive to dogs and cats. If they get a chance to steal them, they’ll seize the opportunity. Cooking makes bones more brittle and fragile, so that when pets chew them, they are far more likely to be able to crunch them into smaller, sharper fragments that can be easily swallowed. Sometimes pets do get away with doing this: the stomach is able to digest bones, to some extent. But often, the sharp pieces of bone become lodged in the digestive tract. I’ve seen them stuck in the throat, gullet, the stomach and the intestines. When this happens, the affected animal falls seriously ill, often with repeated vomiting. The only answer is to get the pet to the vet, where life-saving (and expensive) surgery may be needed to save the animal’s life. Sometimes the broken pieces of bone manage to negotiate their way down the digestive tract only to create a different type of problem at the other end: the fragments stick together like a form of concrete, causing dramatic constipation. I’ve had to treat many dogs with repeated enemas to remove the solidified brick-like mass of stuck-together sharp pieces of bone. It’s uncomfortable for the dog, and believe me, it isn’t a vet’s favourite job either.
  • Corn-on-the-cobs.
    Humans tend to coat these with salt and butter, chew off the tastiest bits, then discard them. Dogs find half-eaten corn-on-the-cobs highly attractive, and if they get a chance, they’ll steal them, slinking off somewhere quiet to chew them. The problem is that the inner core of a corn-on-the-cob is a solid, indigestible cylinder of fibrous tissue. It’s often small enough to swallow, but too big to pass through the intestines. At our clinic, we see at least three cases every year of a dog that needs to have surgery to remove an intestinal obstruction caused by a corn-on-the-cob. Nationally, that means that there must be hundreds of dogs every summer suffering the consequences of casually discarded corn-on-the-cobs. The surgery to remove them is expensive, and although it is usually successful, there is a mortality rate. It would be far better if people treated corn-on-the-cobs as potential hazards, keeping them out of reach of dogs at all times.
  • Too many treats and stolen food. 
    Pets are often given a bowlful of the type of food that they would never normally be given. This could include a combination of scraps of meat (chops, burgers and sausages) together with assorted vegetables, spices and sauces). A dog’s digestive tract is often not able to cope with this sudden change in diet. The result can be a nasty dose of gastroenteritis, which again means a trip to the vet.The rule of thumb is that no pet should be given more than 10% of their daily food ration as treats and scraps.


Spayaware is the annual drive to highlight the importance of spaying and neutering, and it runs from next Sunday for a week.
I helped to launch it at a photoshoot today with Rosanna Davison

There are two main reasons for spaying and neutering pets

  1. for the health and behaviour benefits
  2. to control the population of unwanted dogs – over 11000 unwanted dogs go into dog pounds every year

The health benefits are very significant: if female dogs are spayed when young, the risk of mammary (breast) cancer is reduced to almost zero, and pyometra (infected womb) can obviously never happen. In Norway, where it is illegal to spay females routinely (it’s seen as a mutilation), vets are kept very busy with older female dogs treating mammary cancer and operating on dogs with infected wombs. Irish vets only rarely see these conditions because it is now so common to spay females while young

For male dogs, the choice is more individual – some male dogs absolutely need to be castrated (humping everyone in sight, cocking their legs on furniture, being very “male”) For other males, there’s no such behaviour and it’s less urgent that it should be done

The advice these days is “talk to your vet about spaying and neutering” – the right choice and the right time depends on the individual dog

To find out more, visit

Questions from listeners about pets

  • My dog dribbles profusely when traveling in car, why would this be? Sheila
  • I have a 16kg dog who has cancer and probably has a few months I was wondering what is the most economical way to look after his burial or cremation.
  • My dog had no voice after being in kennels. Not sick just hoarse from barking. She seemed to get on fine and had a great time with all the dogs. Lots of outdoor play and a really nice kennel. It took a month for voice to come back, I am worried if I put her in again and her bark goes it might be lost forever. From Tibetan terrier Aru’s mammy
  • I have a female neutered cat and two younger male kittens which at times bother the older cat. Should I get the kittens neutered even though I plan not to let them outdoors,will it affect their playful temperament and will it stop them bothering Mrs. Kitty?Thank you John in Offaly.

To listen to the answers, play the podcast from the link below.

You can also watch the Facebook Live video Q&A that Pete recorded after the show: see here.

Listen to the podcast:

Start Podcast

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

Privacy | Terms and Conditions