It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Unfortunately, it can also be the most dangerous time of the year for our four-legged furry family members. Holiday decorations, unhealthy sweets and treats, and cold winter weather can all pose threats to our dogs. But there’s one source of danger in particular that all pet parents should prepare for – the Christmas tree!
Whether you use a live, fresh-cut tree or an artificial one, your Christmas tree itself will no doubt create some curiosity for your furriest family members. Just be aware of these potential dangers:
Make sure your tree is very secure. Every year, curious canines tip over trees that aren’t properly secured. Make sure your tree stand is sufficiently sized for your tree and, if necessary, use wires to secure the tree to a nearby wall to prevent it falling (and injuring your dog).
Be careful of fallen needles. Depending on the type of tree you use, fallen needles could be mildly toxic to your dog. Fir tree oils, in particular, can cause mouth and stomach irritation and can lead to vomiting and upset stomach if ingested. Fallen tree needles from both live and artificial trees can cause an intestinal obstruction or can puncture a dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Artificial trees, especially those that are used year after year, can become brittle over time and, some are made using materials that are unsafe if ingested.
Don’t let your dog drink the tree water. Many live, fresh-cut Christmas trees are treated with preservatives, pesticides, and fertilizers to help them stay looking their best through the holidays. Additionally, many folks add aspirin or floral preservers to the water to keep trees fresh as long as possible. These additives make the tree water highly toxic to dogs. With curious pets in the home, always limit access and cover the water reservoir.
Keep lights and cords safely out of reach. Make sure any strings of lights used to decorate the tree are out of reach of your dog to avoid him being burned by a hot bulb or electric shock from chewing on a wire. Either firmly tape cords to the wall or floor, or use cord-hiders to prevent access.
Be careful when choosing ornaments. Many pet parents have learned the hard way to pack away the fragile glass ornaments in favor of plastic or shatterproof ornaments instead. If you have a few precious ornaments that you simply can’t live without, hang them high in the tree and use pipe-cleaner or ribbon to securely fasten them to a branch. If your dog is particularly fond of his ball (read: obsessed), you may consider avoiding round or ball shaped ornaments that may be far too enticing for a fetch-driven dog.
Avoid scented or edible decorations. With a dog in the house, the days of stringing together popcorn for your garland or hanging edible candy canes from the tree are long gone. Opt, instead, for unscented, inedible decorations that won’t attract your four-legged friend.
Scrap the metal ornament hooks. Metal hooks, although convenient and easy to use, can cause big trouble if swallowed. The lightweight hooks can also easily be caught in a wagging tail or hooked onto an ear. Instead, opt for plastic ornament hooks or hang ornaments using ribbon or yarn tied in a loop.
Avoid tinsel altogether. Though you may love the look of a Christmas tree drenched in silver, sparkly tinsel, it’s simply not worth the risk to your dog. Tinsel can very easily cause choking or an intestinal blockage. Surgical intervention is almost always required to remove ingested tinsel.
Don’t decorate gifts with curly ribbon. Curly ribbon, much like tinsel, can become wrapped around a dog’s intestines if swallowed, almost always requiring surgery to remove. Instead, just use standard gift wrapping bows to snazz up packages.
Keep small wrapped gifts out of reach. If a gift-wrapped package is small enough to fit inside your curious pup’s mouth, there’s a good chance it will. Keep small wrapped gifts up high and out of reach.
Don’t place wrapped food items under the tree. Although that gift basket looks good and sealed, your dog’s sense of smell is far stronger than any plastic wrap. If there’s food within reach, he’ll find it and very likely eat it. Keep edible gifts up high and out of reach of hungry pups.
With these safeguards in place, if your dog does become a little too curious about the Christmas tree, he should be safe from harm. However, if you simply can’t keep your furry friend away, consider using an indoor pet fence to prevent access or place the tree in another room which can be closed off.
If limiting access is out of the question, try spraying the tree with a deterrent like Bitter Apple Spray.
Never leave your dog unattended with the Christmas tree and consider consulting a dog trainer to assist in teaching your dog the tree is off limits.
What tips and tricks do you use to keep curious pups away from the Christmas tree? Share your advice in a comment below!