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Can Dogs Eat BBQ Sauce? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ


Apr 27, 2023
bbq sauce on wooden background


bbq sauce on wooden background
Dr. Lauren Demos Photo

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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It’s not a backyard barbecue or beach party without great food and a pup or two. However, not all that food is safe for those dogs. One of those unsafe foods is BBQ sauce, so you must keep it out of reach of curious and hungry four-legged party guests. But why is barbecue sauce dangerous for dogs, what do you do if they’ve eaten it, and how can you keep them safe? Let’s take a closer look.

divider-dog paw

Why is BBQ Sauce Dangerous for Dogs?

Barbecue sauce is dangerous for dogs because of many of the common ingredients that are toxic to them. In fact, most of the main ingredients in BBQ sauce can cause severe side effects and several that could lead to life-threatening complications.

Onion and Garlic

onions and garlics
Image Credit: Shutterbug75, Pixabay

Onion and garlic are both part of the allium family.1 Alliums are toxic to dogs (and cats) in all forms, even if they are cooked or powdered into spices. Powders and processed spices are much more potent than fresh ingredients, so BBQ sauce should be avoided altogether. These foods are dangerous because they cause a breakdown of red blood cells, leading to anemia.

Signs of Anemia Include:

  • Lethargy/Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Pale gums
  • Fainting
  • Reddish urine

Artificial Sweeteners

Many BBQ sauces are labeled as sweet or have their own proprietary blend of sweet and spicy ingredients. Instead of using natural sugar or sugar substitutes, manufacturers may use artificial sweeteners. Some sweeteners, like xylitol, are highly toxic to dogs and can quickly cause severe and life-threatening symptoms.

Signs of Xylitol Poisoning Include:

  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Seizures/Tremors
  • Coma
bowl of Xylitol
Image Credit: morisfoto, Shutterstock

Acidic and Spicy Ingredients

The strong smell and unique barbecue sauce taste are due to white distilled vinegar and a unique blend of spices. These ingredients will likely cause various gastrointestinal issues due to their harshness.2 Although they are too heavy for their digestive system and could cause severe symptoms, they may not even be able to taste them.

Signs of harsh ingredients:

  • Stomach pain (vocalization)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating and gas
  • Dehydration
Minced chili in a small bowl with peppercorns nearby
Image Credit: sabyrzhananelya, Pixabay


Salt is vital to a healthy, balanced diet for dogs, just like for humans. However, it can quickly become too much. In humans, too much salt becomes chronic and can develop chronic health problems over time. In dogs, too much salt, especially at one time, can lead to a life-threatening condition called salt toxicosis or hypernatremia.3

How much salt is too much? That depends on the size of your dog. A small amount of salt accidentally may not hurt a Great Dane, but the same amount could become a problem for a toy poodle. It’s best to be safe for all dogs and avoid processed foods, like barbecue sauce, no matter your dog’s breed or size.

Signs of hypernatremia (salt toxicosis):

  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy/Fatigue
  • Lack of coordination
  • Excessive thirst/urination
  • Seizures/tremors
salt shaker on table
Image Credit: Bru-nO, Pixabay


What Should You Do if Your Dog Eats BBQ Sauce?

If you’ve seen your dog eat barbecue sauce, you should call their vet immediately. Be sure to note what time it happened and how much they ate (if you know). Some dogs may be more sensitive to it or its ingredients, so you should assume that they may have a reaction and take immediate steps to make sure they stay safe. An experienced vet can guide you through the next steps, including monitoring at home, coming in for observation, or rushing in for emergency care, depending on your dog’s reaction.

Never induce vomiting yourself. If it is necessary, your vet can do it safely. Also, remain as calm as possible. Your dog will pick up on your emotional cues, and you want them to stay calm if they are ever experiencing severe symptoms.

Keeping Your Cookout Safe

Just because you’ll have a dog or two at your barbecue event doesn’t mean you must skimp the side dishes. You can still keep the four-legged party guests safe and the humans enjoying a delicious meal. Here are some ways to do that.

Lean Hamburger

A hamburger patty made with lean ground meat and no spices will be just fine for your pup. Be sure it is cooked through and cooled completely before feeding it to them. You might also want to make sure it’s been broken into pieces, especially for smaller dogs.

burger patties on the grill
Image Credit: planet_fox, Pixabay

Grilled Meat

Other grilled meats can be good for your dog, too. Grilled chicken is delicious and safe as long as it has no seasonings and the bones have been removed. Rib meat or fish from the grill can be tasty as well as nutritious.

grilled chicken meat
Image Credit: armennano, Pixabay

Grilled Veggies

Examples of dog-safe, seasoning-free grilled vegetables include bell peppers, asparagus, zucchini, and sweet potatoes. If you are making a side dish with vegetables, confirm that the food is safe for dogs, then leave a few pieces aside before finishing the meal. You can give them to your dog later so they don’t feel left out.

grilled asparagus
Image Credit: HolgersFotografie, Pixabay

Frozen Fruits

Even fruits are safe for dogs! Your dog may find watermelon an enjoyable treat on a hot day. Place a few pieces in the freezer for some extra fun! Other fruits for a BBQ that your dog may enjoy include cantaloupe, oranges, pineapple, and strawberries.

cut strawberries
Image Credit: Skitterphoto, Pixabay



No, dogs cannot eat BBQ sauce. While you have to keep that condiment safely out of reach, you can keep your dog safe at your barbecue event in other ways with pup-appropriate foods that are still tasty for humans. Be sure to keep BBQ sauce and other unsafe ingredients tucked away in an ice chest.

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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