Some social restrictions were eased in March 2021 in line with the ‘rule of six’, leading many to flock to their local parks or gardens to enjoy a picnic hamper or BBQ with friends or extended family. Much to the excitement of many, pub gardens and restaurants have also reopened (on Monday 12th April) for outdoor drinks and dining. However, various pub, picnic, party, and BBQ food, as well as the associated litter, can be dangerous for animals if left behind.
To get some expert advice into the issue, we questioned Dr Joe Inglis, veterinary surgeon, pet nutrition expert, and founder of VetChef about which food ingredients and packaging types can be dangerous to animals. Read on to find out more…
Packaging and Food Items Dangerous to Local Wildlife
Food packaging, such as crisp packets, can be dangerous for local wildlife (such as birds, squirrels, and other small mammals, as well as marine animals like fish, ducks, and swans) if left behind after a picnic. Dr Inglis explained that “crisp packets can be eaten by animals or marine wildlife and cause dangerous intestinal blockages. Always clear up litter, including crisp packets”.
Like crisp packets, plastic carrier bags can also pose a threat to local wildlife. Dr Inglis explained that “animals can climb inside plastic bags and suffocate or attempt to eat them and choke. Try to avoid single-use plastic bags, and safely dispose of any you do use – tying a knot in the top of plastic bags before recycling as this can help prevent deaths”.
Empty food and drink cans, such as beer cans, can also cause issues. Dr Inglis explained that “empty food cans attract wildlife and the sharp metal edges can cause serious injuries. Always dispose of metal cans responsibly in the recycling”.
If you are heading off for a picnic in the park you might plan to take a bottle of wine (or two) with you – however, the glass bottle could lead to serious injuries for wildlife. Dr Inglis explained that “broken glass can lead to serious injuries for wildlife – and people. Always dispose of glass responsibly in the recycling”.
Now that we can spend more time with friends and family, many will be enjoying parties and other celebrations with their loved ones. However, be sure to consider animal life during any celebrations which warrant balloons. Dr Inglis explained that “discarded balloons can be eaten by wildlife and cause health issues as a result. Help protect animals by cutting up balloons before putting them safely into your bin”.
While feeding the ducks has become a family-friendly activity for many during lockdown, bread (a food commonly thrown for these creatures) can actually be dangerous for ducks. Dr Inglis explained that “while bread isn’t explicitly harmful for ducks, too much can leave them feeling full without giving them all of the important vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need. Be sure to clear all litter after a picnic, and as a safer alternative, instead feed them sweetcorn, porridge oats, crumbled biscuits, defrosted frozen peas, or bird seeds”.
Food Types Dangerous to Dogs
As well as litter causing a problem for animals, if our pets join us on our visits to the beer garden then feeding them from our plates can also pose a risk for our pooches.
Cooked bones, found in various BBQ dishes and some meaty pub meals, can be dangerous for our pet pooches. Dr Inglis explained that “cooked bones can splinter into shards, so there is a risk of choking and serious damage to the dog’s mouth, throat, or intestines. Do not feed dogs cooked bones”.
Alcohol, found in most drinks that are served by a pub, is dangerous for dogs. Dr Inglis explained that “alcohol has a much bigger impact on dogs than it does on people and can lead to sickness, diarrhoea and even central nervous system damage. Do not give any alcoholic drinks to dogs and keep any well out of reach”.
Onions, Garlic and Leeks
Onion, garlic, and leeks are ingredients commonly found in many picnic, BBQ, and pub foods, and both can cause health problems in dogs. Dr Inglis explained that “onions and related plants from the allium family, such as garlic and leeks, can be toxic to dogs, causing gastrointestinal irritation and damage to red blood cells. Always avoid feeding onions, garlic and leeks to dogs.”.
Most people know that chocolate, a likely inclusion in sweet treats perfect for picnic foods, is toxic to dogs. Dr Inglis explained that “chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine (dark chocolate has the highest content of this) which is toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure. Never feed chocolate to dogs, and always keep any well out of their reach”.
Corn on the Cob
Corn on the cob is a favourite BBQ side dish for many people – however, these are also dangerous for dogs. Dr Inglis explained that “although not poisonous, corn on the cob can be potentially fatal if eaten by a dog, as the hard fibrous cob can easily be swallowed and cause a serious blockage in the intestine. Never feed corn on the cob to your dog”.
Brunch favourite avocado is another ingredient that is dangerous for our canine friends. Dr Inglis explained that “a chemical called persin in the leaves, fruit and seeds of avocado plants can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs. Avocado stones are also a danger as they can cause intestinal blockages if swallowed. Avoid feeding any part of avocado plants to dogs”.
Grapes and Raisins
Both grapes and raisins are dangerous for dogs. Dr Inglis explained that “Grapes and raisins are found in many foods but contain an unknown active ingredient which can cause severe liver damage and kidney failure in dogs. Never feed grapes or raisins to dogs”.
Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs. Dr Inglis explained that “macadamia nuts contain a toxin that can affect dogs’ muscles and nervous system resulting in weakness, swollen limbs and panting. Avoid feeding macadamia nuts to dogs”.
Xylitol Artificial Sweetener
The artificial sweetener Xylitol, widely used as a sugar substitute and in “sugar-free” chewing gums, mints, and other sweets, is dangerous for dogs. Dr Inglis explained that “Xylitol causes an insulin release that can result in dangerous hypoglycaemia in dogs, which is linked to liver failure and blood clotting disorders. Never feed dogs foods or drinks containing xylitol”.
Whether you like cheese on a burger, in a salad, or as a snack with a glass of wine, be aware that blue cheese can cause issues for dogs. Dr Inglis explained that “Roquefort and other blue cheeses contain a substance called roquefortine C and in rare circumstances this can cause dogs to develop muscle tremors and seizures, which may last for up to two days. Avoid feeding blue cheese to dogs”.
Food scraps discarded after a meal, or used in compost, can also prove dangerous for dogs. Dr Inglis explained that “mouldy foods can contain lots of different toxins and, if eaten, may make your dog ill. If you compost your food scraps, then make sure that they are kept outside in a sealed container that your dog cannot access”.
With many people expected to enjoy a picnic, BBQ, or pub lunch in the coming days, weeks, and months, we hope the advice in the article provides you with some useful insight into the potential dangers to animal life. Whether you’re enjoying your meal in a local park, beer garden, or your own backyard, be sure to clean up any food scraps or litter once you’ve finished.
Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. Virginia Hayward are not liable or responsible for the accuracy of the advice provided by third party experts, nor for the content or operation of any third-party websites, webpages, or resources which have been linked to within this article