The holiday season is an exciting time filled with family and friends, holiday traditions, and festive decorations. Whether it’s a fir, pine, cypress, or even an artificial tree, your Christmas tree is a centerpiece of holiday decorating.
But with all the fun, there are some potential dangers to the season—including your tree being a hazard for your pup. To help your dog have a merry and safe holiday season with you, consider and avoid some of these potential Christmas tree hazards.
How to Dog-Proof Your Christmas Tree
Anchor Your Tree
Did you know that an excited tail bump, a curious nose, or even a pup pawing at an ornament could cause a tree to fall? Neither does your dog until it happens.
Trees should be mounted on a wide base stand and/or anchored to a wall to prevent falls that can result in serious injury to your dog, including wounds or broken bones.
Keep Tree Bare At First
To a dog, a Christmas tree is a sudden and curious addition to the home. The smells, lights, and dangling ornaments are exciting and sometimes confusing for your pet if they are not used to changes in their environment.
It may take some time for them to get used to this new addition, so consider putting your tree in its stand but then waiting a few days before decorating, so your dog can adjust to its presence.
Supervised access to explore can also be allowed at each stage of decorating to increase your dog’s comfort with the changes.
Secure Electrical Cords
Electrical cords for the tree’s lights can be both a tripping and shock hazard to a curious dog. Secure the cords and, if possible, cover them (a tree skirt or cord protector works great) to prevent biting, chewing, and tripping.
Tripping on the cord can cause injury to your dog and damage to your tree and decorations. Chewing or biting a cord can also lead to shocks that can cause severe injuries to the mouth, heart and lungs of a dog, and can even be fatal.
No Food on Tree
What you hang on your tree will already be exciting to your pup, because these items are something new to investigate. Avoid hanging edible decorations that can be tempting to your dog such as popcorn strands, dough ornaments, macaroni art, or any other food products.
Remember, humans know Christmas tree decorations don’t make a good snack, but dogs will not.
Placement of Ornaments Is Key
When decorating your tree, place the most durable and least chewable ornaments down low where a curious nose or mouth may find them. This will be a high impact zone for excited wagging tails that can knock ornaments off the tree.
Hang your fragile and most important ornaments higher to reduce the risk of them being knocked down or chewed on. If you have a dog that is likely to get into the tree decorations, consider a tree without decorations or one with just lights as a still beautiful but safer option.
Skip Toxic Decorations
What do mistletoe, dough ornaments, and tinsel all have in common other than being decorative additions to your tree?
They can all cause toxic reactions if your dog eats them. Signs related to ingestion can include gastrointestinal upset, gastrointestinal blockage, abnormal heart rate, abnormal blood pressure, and even seizures.
If your dog accidentally ingests one of these items, contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 for help.
Don’t Make Presents Accessible
Most people love to see beautifully wrapped presents under the tree. Your dog may see these packages as a new toy and an opportunity to tear them open and discover what’s inside.
Unfortunately, presents often contain things that are toxic, such as chocolate or coffee, or can cause other health issues to your dog, especially if ingested. Consider placing your presents on an elevated area near the tree or even using a small fence or gate to prevent your dog from getting at them.
Use a Gate to Keep Your Pup Out
Sometimes the safest way for your dog to interact with a Christmas tree is from a distance. Consider limiting unsupervised access to the tree with a dog gate, indoor pet fence, or by simply closing the door to the room the tree is in.
If these options aren’t feasible for your home, consider an indoor motion-activated security camera to alert you if your dog gets too close.
Are Christmas Trees Toxic to Dogs?
Christmas tree needles smell and may even taste good to a dog. Unfortunately, they can cause upset and injury to your dog’s gastrointestinal tract when eaten. The sap and oils found in the tree needles are known to cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea in dogs.
The needles themselves are also sharp and can irritate or sometimes even puncture the gastrointestinal tract if eaten. Don’t forget to vacuum under your tree regularly to clean up dropped needles to minimize potential exposure for your pet.
If you have a live Christmas tree, it’s likely sitting in a container of water to help keep its needles fresh and green for weeks. Unfortunately, many dogs can’t resist the temptation of investigating this new water source.
Christmas tree water contains sap and pine oils that can cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested. Opt for a Christmas tree stand that prohibits access to the water, or create a lid for the water container with something durable from your house.
If your dog is determined to get close, you may have to limit his access to the tree altogether for safety. Mild vomiting isn’t likely to cause severe issues. However, chronic ingestion of tree water that leads to frequent vomiting is stressful for your pet and may lead to dehydration.
Keeping Your Pup Safe This Holiday Season
In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, keeping the above tips in mind will help ensure your pup stays safe. If misadventure does find your pet being exposed to something toxic, the experts at Pet Poison Helpline are available 24 hours a day to help you and your veterinarian with the next steps.
Featured Image: Vadim Gavrilov/iStock via Getty Images
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