For the love of you pet: Have a pet friendly barbecue

By John Beck
Aug. 23, 2012 at 3:23 a.m.

With the hot South Texas heat starting to cool off a tad, the barbecue pits start warming up. Barbecuing poses many threats to our beloved dogs. Items we throw off the table and don't think twice about can really give our pets an upset stomach or worse.

I've had many emergency calls in the middle of the night with pets coughing, vomiting, and even having diarrhea and allergic reactions. All of these problems can easily be solved with a few insightful tips.

Who can have a barbecue without pork chops, ribs and T-bone steaks? The juicy cuts are so tasty and once we've taken all the meat off without thinking, we throw the leftover bones on the ground to give our pets a little taste of the good stuff. The concern isn't necessarily the first bite; it's every bite after that. When the dog initially breaks the bone into smaller, bite size pieces is when the problems begin to arise.

Some pieces have extremely sharp edges that can easily get stuck in between teeth, or caught in their gums. These problems are manageable and a treatment that is less invasive, but as soon as the bone fragments get past the oral areas, the severity of the problems increase significantly. The jagged splints that are swallowed can get caught in the animal's pharynx, so each time they try and move their tongue or head, it moves the bone which causes irritation or a cutting motion in the sensitive tissue that lie in the back of the throat.

Sometimes, the only way to remove this obstruction is by going in and cutting the bone in half and removing both portions. Some of the most invasive procedures for obstruction removal are the instances where the bone gets stuck in the animal's esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter.

This requires use of endoscopy instruments to locate and remove the bone while making sure there is no other damage to the surrounding area. To prevent all this trouble, simply dispose of the bones in your wastebasket.

Onions are another major concern that I worry about when I get called in for emergencies that involve barbecues. Onions both cooked and raw, contain a substance called thiosulphate that dogs and cats lack the specialized enzymes to digest. Thiosulphate interrupts the red blood cells function by oxidizing the cells, and weakening the cellular membrane, causing the cells to rupture, reducing the life of the cell. If a large number of red blood cells are damaged, the animals' oxygen carrying capacity decreases immensely leading to anemia and even possibly heart failure.

These are just a few minor steps that you can make this fall to help keep your beloved pets safe from an emergency visit to your local veterinarian.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at



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