Can Dogs Eat BBQ Sauce? A Food-Topper Idea or Not?


It is no secret that BBQ sauce is one of the most popular condiments. And despite the name, it goes with more than just barbeque. Any food will be enriched and tastier with some BBQ sauce on it.

However, can dogs eat BBQ sauce has a clear answer, and sadly it is not what you hoped for. Dogs cannot eat barbecue sauce. In addition to being empty calorie-filled with artificial additives, some BBQ sauce brands include xylitol which is highly toxic to dogs.

Why is BBQ Sauce Bad for Dogs?

BBQ sauce is not found on the canine’s natural food pyramid. As a general rule of thumb, dogs cannot eat highly processed foods. And BBQ sauce is precisely that – a processed food with tons of additives.

However, there is more to why BBQ sauce is not a dog-friendly food. To make things easier, let’s go through the reasons BBQ sauce is not only bad but potentially fatal for dogs.

BBQ sauce

Stomach upset

Stomach upset is a widespread issue among dogs. Despite their proneness to dietary indiscretions, dogs have sensitive tummies, and eating any food that is not part of their regular menu has the potential to trigger digestive disturbances.

The telltale signs of digestive upset include vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, appetite loss, abdominal pain, gassiness, dehydration, and lethargy. A stomach upset in puppies is a much more difficult situation than dehydration in adults because of the dehydration risk.

Artificial additives

Like all processed foods, BBQ sauce is loaded with artificial additives – preservatives, colors, and flavors. Most artificial additives are associated with increased cancer risk. Plus, BBQ sauce is too high in salt and vinegar, and they can both be toxic in excess amounts.

Xylitol poisoning

Many BBQ sauce manufacturers use artificial sweeteners to enrich the condiment’s flavor. Sadly, one of the most frequently used artificial sweeteners, xylitol, is extremely toxic to dogs.

Xylitol poisoning is a dangerous situation with potentially fatal outcomes. Xylitol is highly fast-acting and capable of triggering intoxication signs in just 10 minutes after ingestion.

In dogs, xylitol causes a sudden drop in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). If left untreated, the intoxication progresses and damages the dog’s liver causing liver failure. The exact mechanism behind liver failure is poorly understood.

Garlic and/or onion poisoning

Garlic contains thiosulfate, and onion contains N-propyl disulfide. Both compounds are sulfides and act similarly – once ingested, they get absorbed into the bloodstream, where they cause permanent damage to the red blood cells.

The damaged red blood cells cannot perform their duties and are removed from circulation. As a result, the dog develops anemia and experiences trouble breathing. Both garlic poisoning and onion poisoning are life-threatening conditions.

The topped food

Last but not least, you need to consider what is underneath the BBQ sauce topping. Namely, the chances of your dog licking pure BBQ sauce directly from the saucepan are slim to none. More often than not, the dog will be attracted to something that is covered with BBQ sauce – for example, a juicy steak.

Depending on precisely what your dog eats alongside the BBQ sauce, it is at risk of developing a variety of issues ranging from something as simple as digestive upset through complicated acute pancreatitis bouts to life-threatening food poisonings.

Signs your Dog has Eaten BBQ Sauce

Since BBQ sauce is not dog-friendly, you need to know what to do in case your dog eats some – you serve it accidentally without knowing the consequences, or your dog steals from the table of the countertop.

The most common issue, digestive upset, manifests with diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and cramping. These signs are troublesome, but they are not life-threatening.

However, xylitol poisoning is potentially fatal, and it includes signs like:

  • Decreased activity
  • General weakness
  • Staggering
  • Lack of coordination
  • Collapse
  • Tremors and seizures.

Finally, a dog with onion or garlic poisoning, in addition to signs of GI upset, will manifest:

  • Pale gums
  • Fainting
  • Reddish urine.

An urgent vet visit is warranted if your dog is exhibiting one or more of these clinical signs.

dog waiting for BBQ

What to Do If My Dog Ate BBQ Sauce?

The first and most important thing is to remain calm. Panicking might seem natural, but you need to keep your mind sharp and act in accordance with the situation.

As soon as you realize what your dog is doing, you need to separate it from the BBQ sauce and assess the situation – determine how your dog is feeling at the moment and try to see how much BBQ sauce it ate.

Then, you need to call your trusted veterinarian and explain what happened in a calm and detailed manner. The more information you can provide, the easier it will be for the veterinarian to give suitable instructions.

Depending on the circumstances, the vet will recommend waiting and observing your dog or going to the office as soon as possible. If the vet recommends a visit, it is helpful to bring the BBQ sauce bottle with you so that the veterinarian can look at the ingredients.


All in all, BBQ sauce is not something you should be adding to your dog’s food bowl. Even if you are extra careful and shop for xylitol-free BBQ sauce versions, there are still many risks – added spices like garlic and onion and the unavoidable additives.

Generally speaking, when you are not sure whether a particular food is safe for dogs, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid giving it to your dog. Also, remember, just because your dog cannot eat BBQ sauce, it does not mean it cannot eat toppers – there are plenty of dog-friendly food toppers and sauces explicitly made for pets.


  1. Garlic Poisoning in Dogs, Grace Park, 2021
  2. Can Dogs Eat Onions?, The American Kennel Club, 2017
  3. These 6 Dog Food Preservatives Could Be Toxic to Your Pet, Dog Food Advisor, 2021
  4. Retrospective evaluation of xylitol ingestion in dogs: 192 cases (2007-2012), Meghan R DuHadway, Claire R Sharp, 2015

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Ivana Crnec

Ivana Crnec

Dr. Ivana Crnec is a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine, a passionate writer and a devoted pet parent. Specializing in domestic carnivores, her professional experience ranges from preventative medicine and routine wellness care through diagnosing and treating conditions to emergency and specialty care
Bitola, Macedonia