Written by Kim Rain
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 12/01/2022, edited: 12/20/2023
Decorating your home at Christmas time is an age-old tradition. With a bright, decorated tree, seasonal plants, lights and other decor, it's easy to lose yourself in the holiday. But not all holiday decorations are safe for our dogs and cats.
Do you have a kitty tree climber, or a pup who loves to chew on ornaments? Does your feline love to chew on electrical cords? Is your dog fond of munching houseplants? Most animals are curious by nature and will gladly investigate all the new things in their home, which means you'll need to think ahead to ensure they stay safe throughout the festivities. Even if your pet hasn't exhibited these behaviors before, it can only take one time to create a dangerous situation, so be sure to make your indoor Christmas wonderland a welcoming place for your four-legged besties.
In this guide, we'll explore which Christmas decorations are safe for pets and give you tips and ideas to keep the season merry and bright while keeping your best furry furiends in mind.
Nothing says its Christmas time like a sparkling, decorated tree. Sweet-smelling firs and pines are a staple in many households during the holidays, but they can present several health hazards, including irritating pine needles, toxic tree water and the possibility of a toppled tree.
Most people will admit they love real Christmas trees. The pine smell wafting through the house and the ritual of finding the pawfect tree each year often becomes cherished memories. But are Christmas trees toxic to dogs and cats? Pine needles, while not particularly toxic, can be quite dangerous if eaten as they can cause irritation in the mouth and GI tract of your pet due to the oils they contain, as well as their sharp points. Symptoms of ingestion can include mild vomiting or diarrhea, but a bigger concern is a possible blockage or puncture in the gastrointestinal tract. Needles can also injury delicate paw pads or the skin between your pet's toes.
Artificial trees, however, can also shed undigestible plastic and metal bits which could be eaten and cause choking, or an intestinal blockage or injury. So, which is better, a real or artificial tree? Overall, an artificial tree is the safer choice, especially since they don't require water, another possible hazard for your pets. Whether you opt for a real or artificial tree, here are some tips to help reduce your pet's risk.
Another health concern is tree water that may contain additives such as pesticides, fertilizers or preservatives that can be harmful to pets if ingested. Some people also add aspirin to the water to help it last longer, which can be extremely toxic to pets if too much is ingested. And if the water sits for too long, harmful bacteria and fungus could grow. It's important to take steps to prevent your pet from accessing the tree water. This could be:
Not only do you have to worry about the tree or tree water harming your pets, but you may also need to protect the tree from your furry bundles of love. Whether curiosity, playfulness, or just plain rambunctiousness, there are many ways our pets can threaten the stability and health of the Christmas tree. Cats can climb the tree trunk and could use it as a scratching post. Dogs could rip off or chew on branches, or even knock the tree with their swinging tails. All these actions could make the tree topple, causing needles, water and ornaments to go everywhere! But we got you covered with these tips:
A tree becomes a Christmas tree when it is decorated! Whether bulbs that glitter and sparkle, garlands that add color and shine, or lights that illuminate, the right decorations can reflect your household as well as your holiday spirit. But many items can hold hidden dangers for our pets.
Flashy and fancy ornaments with festive sounds, lights or glitter can easily catch our eye- and those of our pets! Bulbs that look like toy balls will certainly look attractive to playful dogs, and ornaments that move, such as toy trains, spinners or dangly ones, are sure to draw our pets to them.
Ornaments can be made out of many different materials, including fragile glass which can shatter when eaten or knocked from the tree. Broken glass could cut soft paw pads and toes, and if eaten, could also lacerate your dog or cat's mouth, throat and digestive tract. Other non-digestible materials can cause a blockage or injury much the same as pine needles can to your dog’s digestive tract. If you want your Christmas tree to look less inviting to the four-legged household members, try these tips:
Ah, tinsel! This sparkling addition to trees and decor is a great way to bring the winter wonderland into your home- especially for those who live in areas without snow. But tinsel is one of the biggest decorating hazards for your pets. These shiny strings are meant to imitate icicles on our trees, but are just like any other string for our dogs and cats. If eaten, these strings can cause severe blockages in our pets' digestive tracts, which can require intense surgery to cut them out.
Tinsel strings, tinsel garlands that can shed, small width ribbons and strings on the tree or presents can all attract our pets, and possibly turn a happy holiday into an emergency room visit. Most pet experts explicitly say to ditch the tinsel altogether due to its high level of attractiveness that most pets, especially cats, simply can't resist. For all things stringy, we got the tips for a safe holiday.
Popcorn garlands, cookie on hangers, and other edible ornaments can be found on many a decorated holiday tree. But if you have a dog or cat in the house, you are probably well versed in the lengths some pets will go for any food they can sniff out. These food decorations may be cute and fun to make, but they can pose a threat to your dog or cat's health.
Cookies often contain too much sugar and other ingredients which can be problematic for your pets. And pupular salt dough ornaments contain far too much salt and could cause a salt poisoning in your pet. Plus, your dog or cat may damage the tree or knock off ornaments in their pursuit of a hanging treat. Keep the tree and your pet safe with these ideas.
When strung around the Christmas tree or around banisters or windows, lights in so many colors, shapes and patterns can certainly bring the holiday spirit into your home! But are Christmas lights safe for dogs and cats? Pets could chew on the light cords, causing electrical burns to their mouth, electric shock or even a fire hazard from compromised cords. And active pets can easily get tangled in Christmas lights if they are left low to the ground or within their reach. With these tips, however, you can still enjoy strings of lights while keeping your pets safe from harm.
Many households really get into the season by decorating their entire house. However, just like the tree, you should take the same precautions, especially when it comes to lights and breakable items, such as figurines or picture frames.
Snow globes are often made of glass which can cut when shattered, and often contain antifreeze, a highly toxic substance for our pets. Cookies and gingerbread houses can be left out as decor, which are highly tempting to our critters. And live wreaths carry the same hazards as real trees. Try these strategies:
Christmas plants that dress up our home for the holidays look festive, but if you have pets in the house, they can also make them sick. Many of the popular plants used in Christmas decor can be lethal if ingested- and no one wants to spend Christmas at the animal ER! If you have a house full of pets or young children during Christmas, you may want to think about which plants to add or ban to avoid potential disaster.
If you suspect your cat or dog has ingested any of these plants, or is showing any of these symptoms, seek veterinary help immediately. Waiting to seek help can significantly lower your pet's chances of recovery in many cases.
Considering swapping out these dangerous plants for their artificial counterparts found in most craft stores and online. Or look for plants to use that are safer for your furry pals.
Amidst all the hustle and bustle of holiday decorating, present buying, and visiting friends and relatives, the thought of relaxing with your precious furbaby near a crackling fire may sound like a dream. But open flames and curious pets with flammable fur can be a terrible combination.
Whether you have a cozy fireplace or love the soft glow of candles, you'll need to be cautious if you also have pets. If your dog or cat gets a hold of a candle, the flame and hot wax can burn their nose and paws, and they can also knock them over and cause a fire in your home. Always be extra vigilant during the busy holiday season when pets may be left unattended more often. Here are more tips to keep your pets safe.
With a safe, decorated tree and home, you and your pets can enjoy a furrific holiday season!
Got more questions about Christmas safety and your pet? Chat with a veterinary professional today for answers on how to keep your dog or cat safe this holiday season.
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