Hazard Awareness and Prevention
Age, temperament, and your dog’s energy level all play a role in how much mischief she might find herself in. Even the most well behaved canine can succumb to the temptation of a Christmas tree and its trimmings. Short of 24/7 supervision, your next best defense to ensure her safety is to take precautions that minimize or eliminate the risks.
- Needles: Don’t let her chew or swallow fallen Christmas tree needles. They are not digestible and can be mildly toxic depending upon your dog’s size and how much she ingests. The fir tree oils can irritate your dog’s mouth and stomach and cause her to vomit or drool excessively. Tree needles also can obstruct or puncture her gastrointestinal tract.
- Water: Tree water can poison your dog. Preservatives, pesticides, fertilizers and other agents, such as aspirin, are commonly added to tree water to keep the tree fresh. Treated water can be harmful to a thirsty dog -so use a covered tree water dish to be safe.
- Lights: Don’t string the bottom of your tree with lights; some types can get very hot and burn your dog. Firmly tape cords to the wall or floor and check them regularly for chew marks or punctures. Dogs who gnaw on electrical cords and lights can receive electric shocks and mouth burns. Chewing on wire also can cause pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) which can be fatal.
- Ornaments: Avoid decorating your tree with edible or glass holiday ornaments. Your dog may knock over the tree trying to get to one, or injure itself trying to play with a broken one. Swallowing an ornament also can cause a gastrointestinal blockage. Some ornaments may be lethal depending upon the materials or chemicals used to create them.
- Hooks: Use ribbon, yarn or lightweight twine to hang your ornaments – not traditional wire hooks – which can snag an ear or swishing tail. If swallowed, they can lodge in your dog’s throat or intestines.
- Tinsel: Don’t trim your tree with tinsel. If swallowed, it can block her intestines causing decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and weight loss. Surgery is often necessary to remove the tinsel.
- Gifts: Keep the area around your tree free of discarded string, ribbon and small toys or toy pieces. These can be swallowed and cause a bowel obstruction.
Prevention is Key
If possible, put your Christmas tree in a room that can be closed off from the rest of the house. Another option is to install a baby gate in the doorway to prevent entry to the tree room, or put low-lattice fencing around the tree and secure it so she can’t knock it over. When you are not at home or unable to supervise her, confine your dog to her crate or a separate room to keep her out of mischief.
More Pet-proof Christmas tree tips: Keep them away from the tree
Christmas trees and pets do not mix, and you may have to lock your tree or your pet away from one and the other. Very small pets, such as toy dogs and rabbits, may not need protection (but can be kept from the tree with small, foot-high barriers). Other pets may need barriers that they cannot climb on or topple over. Artificialtrees.com suggests baby gates to keep your pet away from the tree. However, larger dogs and cats may need to be kept out of the room where the tree is kept, as they have a higher reach (cats love to climb) and will be able to jump over or bulldoze their way through gates with their strength.
Deter them with smells
Cats are known to hate citrus smells so have them liberally around your tree. Orange peels or orange air fresheners at the base of the tree are a good idea. Both cats and dogs are turned off with the smell of citronella oil, so use an atomizer to spray the oil diluted in a bit of water on pinecones or other ornaments that do not sustain water damage. They won’t approach a tree that irritates their strong sense of smell
Decorate your tree so it won’t be attractive to pets
Cats are attracted to tinsel and ribbon, so avoid these decorations to keep the feline in the house away. The life-like bark of artificial Christmas trees can also be very attractive to dogs who love to chew. Wrap your tree in fabric or paper at its base so Fido won’t be tempted to try it as a chew toy. Never decorate with edible items; if it smells like food to pets, they will try their best to reach it. (That means no peppermint canes, strung popcorn strings or cookie ornaments, especially chocolate items!)
Train them to stay away
Use a spray bottle or other training tools for pets and use them repeatedly when they approach the tree. Continued association with water or a jerk on a choke collar will eventually deter them from trying to conquer it on a daily basis.
Secure all items (including your tree)
Whether you use a rope or wire to secure the tree to the wall, make sure it is perfectly steady and fastened so it will not tip over. Avoid glass ornaments that might fall and break. Securely hang each decorative piece so it will not drop from the tree and be grabbed by an excited pet to taste. Hide electrical cords from pets that chew. Accidents can happen in a house with a pet, and preventative measures will ensure that there will not be accidental swallowing of plastic Santa Claus ornaments!
Pet-proofing your Christmas tree requires diligence and the knowledge of the personalities of your four-legged friends. Cater your pet-proofing technique to fit the needs of your family and pet so you that your tree and your beloved companions are safe this holiday season.