by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.
Summer is the season to enjoy a picnic. Planning a pet friendly picnic is likely to be an occasion enjoyed by the whole family. However, there are a few points to keep in mind to ensure the outing is a pleasant one for all.
Choosing the picnic location will be an important consideration. Parks, conservation areas, country settings and a variety of tourist attraction destinations are favourite places for people to picnic. It will be necessary to make sure that pets are allowed in the picnic ground area. Regardless of the site, responsible pet ownership requires that your pet be restrained somehow. This will mean a secure collar and leash for a dog or cat. Often it is a good idea for a smaller pet to have a cage or carrier that can be used for travel to the picnic spot and also used for times when other activities may leave your pet unattended.
Proper restraint at all times will ensure your pet is not disrupting set up tasks for the picnic, is not bothering other picnickers nearby and important to your pet's own safety and well-being. Here I must interject a reminder to always be sure your pet is well identified. This is especially important when a pet is outside in unfamiliar territory. The risk of separation and becoming lost is increased. Microchip identification is probably the best method for permanent pet identification and protection against the heartbreak of pet loss.
When the prevention of problems is considered, there are a few other things to remember. If the location you are visiting with your dog will mean meeting and greeting a number of other dogs, contacting infectious tracheo-bronchitis (kennel-cough) may become a danger. In more country picnic areas, if your dog will be swimming in or drinking water from streams or creeks where wildlife species have access, the risk of a disease called leptospirosis may be increased. Finally, you must be watchful for parasites like ticks, including the tick species that spreads Lyme disease. Vaccinations can protect against all these possible threats.
If you will be having your picnic at a spot near a tourist attraction that will be part of the day's activities, be sure to plan a safe place for your pet to stay while you visit. Many such attractions provide kenneling facilities for pets, where they can stay during your visit. Pets should never be left in the car when you are away. Heat stroke in such a place can quickly become a life threatening danger.
Surely the highlight of most picnic excursions is the meal. This can be an exciting time for your pet as well. Here again planning the menu for your pet is important. It is usually best to bring along some of the pet food treats most commonly enjoyed by your pet and keep the people food snacks to a minimum. Unfortunately, a number of foods that may be part of the meal for people, pose a significant danger for our pets. Take particular care to prevent your pet ingesting the following items both during the preparation of food for the picnic at home and during the eating of the meal itself. Chinese chives, onions and garlic, often used to flavour foods, can cause hemolytic anemia in dogs. Raisins and grapes can lead to kidney failure. Macadamia nuts can cause neurotoxicity. Apple cores may cause cyanide poisoning. Pits of apricots, cherries, peaches and plums, in addition to the risk of causing blockages in the digestive tract, also may cause cyanide poisoning in our pets. Avocados can damage the heart and lungs and even broccoli, in very large amounts can lead to isothiocynate toxicity and gastro-intestinal irritation. Raw egg whites can deplete biotin, an essential vitamin, nutmeg may be hallucinogenic and tomatoes (and especially the leaves and stems) may produce atropine toxicity.
Add together a little luck with the weather, a bit of pet play and fun, perhaps a walk along a woodland trail topped off with some great food in an outdoors location and you are guaranteed a day to remember for you and your pet.