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Are Christmas Trees Poisonous to Dogs?

by Irene Hislop

24 December 2019

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Dogs love trees. Like utility poles and walls, trees are popular spots for dogs to leave a message – in urine. And what dog doesn’t love a stick? They’re great for playing fetch and for chewing. Cover a tree with ball-shaped ornaments, and you’re basically inviting your dog to go wild, right? Mostly at Christmas, we worry about keeping our trees safe from our dogs, especially if it is the dog’s first Christmas. What about the reverse? Are Christmas trees poisonous to dogs? Can your beautiful, festive tree hurt your beloved dog?

two dogs and a cat in front of the christmas tree waiting for their connolly's red mills go native healthy treats

Well, potentially it could, but it is extremely unlikely if you take some basic precautions. Yes, pine sap can irritate your dog’s mouth and skin, and pine needles can damage eyes and intestines. But not everyone chooses a real tree. Are artificial Christmas trees poisonous to dogs? Well, eating plastic and metal wire obviously is dangerous, but unless your dog is a puppy or has a particular thing for the texture or appearance of your tree, they are unlikely to actually eat it. Thankfully, most dogs don’t go that wild with the tree itself.

Christmas does pose some seasonally specific risks to dogs, but the actual tree is at the lower level. You should, however, try to protect the tree from the dog and vice versa by keeping them in separate rooms or putting a guard around the tree. (Fireplace guards designed to keep children far from the flames are an easy fix for that.) The real danger is the tree’s decorations.

  • Lights can be lethal if your dog chews the wire or swallows tiny bulbs.
  • If your dog bites an ornament, it can break and cut his mouth. Worst still, he can swallow sharp pieces. Many ornaments looks like toys to dogs.
  • Don’t hang any food on the tree, especially chocolate, which is a deadly poison to dogs. But even popcorn is a no because your dog might not be able to resist a bite, and then they could consume the thread. It could also lead to more destruction of your tree.

Other Holiday Hazards for Your Pets

Many of the foods we love for the holiday season are dangerous for our dogs. Chocolate is the worst, and at Christmas it can arrive undetected in a wrapped gift innocently put under the tree. You might not know it’s there, but your dog can sniff it out and eat it. Many sweets now use xylitol instead of sugar, and it’s extremely toxic to dogs. It can kill by causing liver failure.  Christmas cake and pudding are full or raisins and sultanas, which can cause serious kidney damage. Garlic and onion are key ingredients in dressing, but also dangerous to dogs.

Real greenery is a gorgeous touch to your festive decorating, but be aware of the hazards. Poinsettia, holly, ivy and mistletoe will all make your dog sick, so are best kept well out of their reach. Potpourri can be tempting to dogs, especially if it is scented like seasonal foods, but it is also dangerous. It can include so many different things, it is hard to know what exactly your dog consumed, which makes it difficult for your vet to help.

When it gets cold and icy outside, we take steps to protect our cars and make travel easier, but those are another source of danger for animals. Antifreeze is a lethal poison, and de-icer and salt are also hazards. Be careful using these, and remember they can kill cats and wildlife too.

Celebrating Christmas Safely with Your Dog

Your dog doesn’t have to miss out just because he can’t eat the tree or decorations or share your treats. Even the naughtiest pup deserves something special this season! Dental sticks are a great present for your dog because they are a delicious treat that also cleans his teeth. When picking out toys, look for quality over cuteness. If your dog can ripe it into a choking hazard in half an hour, it is not much fun. Toys with squeakers can be particularly dangerous. But solid rubber balls, sturdy chew toys and well-made rope tugs can be great fun for your dog – and the family members who play with the dog.

Want to include your dog in the Christmas jumper fun? You have lots of options! Your dog can even dress up as Santa, an elf or a reindeer. Look for well-made costumes that don’t have fiddly little parts your dog could chew off. Also, the ones that open along the bottom are easier to get them in and out of than pull-over styles. If your dog uses a harness on walks, you may need to expand it a little to fit over the jumper unless you find one designed to go under a harness with an opening for the lead. Some dogs hate them, but others like the extra warmth and attention. You know your dog best!

Christmas can be a wonderful chance to get some extra time with your dog, although it can also be quite busy seeing family and friends. However you spend it, give careful thought to your dog’s safety. Make sure they can’t get to the tree, presents or stockings full of chocolate. While they can have a little bit of turkey, make sure they don’t get any bones or Christmas cake or pudding.

Amid all the hustle and bustle, consider their stress levels too. If you are stressed, your dog is probably sharing in it. And the disruption to your normal schedule combined with lots of different people coming and going can be upsetting to some dogs. Try to keep walks and meals on their usual schedule, and spend a little extra time playing and snuggling with your dog. What every dog wants most for Christmas is more of you – more time relaxing by your side and walking with you. Taking a little extra down time every evening with your dog is also a good way to keep from feeling overwhelmed by the season yourself.

Irene Hislop

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