Are Christmas Trees Safe For My Dog?
Tips to keep your dog safe around your tree 🎄🐶
You love admiring your Christmas tree, but all the ornaments and lights probably look more like toys to your dog. So he might try to play with them — or even chew on your tree.
But are Christmas trees toxic to dogs, or is it OK if your dog takes a nibble?
We spoke to Dr. Paul Cunningham, a senior emergency clinician at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Michigan, to find out if Christmas trees are toxic to dogs.
Are Christmas trees toxic to dogs?
As pretty as your Christmas tree is, it can be dangerous if your dog eats it.
“Live Christmas trees are not toxic to any animal brushing past them,” Dr. Cunningham told The Dodo. “Rather, the ingestion of branches, needles or water in the tree stand can cause illness.”
Here’s why Christmas trees can be bad for dogs.
Tree chemicals and sap
Christmas trees contain a chemical called pinene, which is a type of terpene that gives pine trees their classic Christmas-y smell. It’s also super toxic to cats.
“Most varieties of trees (whether pines or firs) contain these toxic terpenes,” Dr. Cunningham said.
When dogs eat part of a Christmas tree or sap, they can show symptoms such as:
- Mouth irritation
- Lack of appetite
- Muscle weakness
- Unusual breathing
Pine needles have been known to puncture the intestinal lining because they’re so pointy, leading to internal injury when ingested.
Christmas trees need water to stay fresh throughout the season, and you probably add some preservatives to the water so your tree will last longer. But be careful, because if your dog drinks the chemical-filled water, he could get sick.
Pine needles and sap can also get into the water, which can cause problems if your pup takes a drink.
Plus, if you don’t change the tree water frequently, it can develop bacteria that can be harmful to your dog, too. “Standing water can also grow harmful bacteria or mold that can cause digestive distress if ingested,” Dr. Cunningham said.
Some trees may be treated with fertilizers, pesticides and preservatives before you buy them, which can be poisonous to dogs.
Are fake Christmas trees safe for dogs?
Fake trees can be safer for dogs.
“Generally speaking, fake Christmas trees pose less risks than live pine trees,” Dr. Cunningham said.
But that doesn’t mean that they’re totally risk-free.
If your dog does manage to take a chunk out of your fake tree, the plastic could cause choking, an obstruction in your dog’s digestive tract or poisoning. Luckily, the chance of that happening is probably pretty low because your dog would have to spend some time gnawing on the tree to eat a piece big enough to pose a risk. But you should still keep an eye on your pup whenever he’s near the tree, just to be safe.
How to keep your dog safe around your Christmas tree
Don’t worry — just because Christmas trees can be harmful to dogs doesn’t mean you can’t have one in your house. You just need to be on alert in case you do have a dog who’s determined to chomp away on those pine needles.
“While the risks are limited, it's best to be informed and cautious around the holidays,” Dr. Cunningham said.
According to Dr. Cunningham, it’s important to take measures to prevent chewing on tree parts or drinking tree stand water.
Cover the tree water
To prevent your dog from drinking out of the tree water, cover the base with a tree skirt or buy one that comes covered.
You can also use fresh water with nothing added to it and change the water daily so if your dog does sneak a sip, he’ll be OK.
Block off the tree area
To keep your dog away from your tree, block off the area. You can get this highly rated dog gate from Chewy for $42.
Clean up any pine needles that fall around your tree so your dog can’t eat them and get sick. And it’s a good idea to throw out your tree before it starts shedding tons of needles at the end of the season, too.
Use a deterrent
You can place a spray deterrent near your Christmas tree to keep your dog away. Spray deterrents release a burst of air when your dog gets close to an area where you don’t want him to go to teach him that area is off limits.
Dr. Cunningham suggests using a SSSCAT motion-sensored air canister. “It uses an unscented jet of air to keep pets away from any desired area in the home,” Dr. Cunningham said.
Anchor your tree
You don’t want the tree to fall on your pup!
He might think the tree decorations are toys and try to play with them, so get a sturdy base for your tree in case he gets too excited, and make sure your tree is far away from anything fragile that can break in case the tree ends up falling.
And while it’s important to know that your dog shouldn’t have a Christmas tree as a snack, Dr. Cunningham said you’re more likely to run into issues with tree lights and decorations.
To help make sure your bases are covered in those areas also, here are some more holiday safety tips for keeping your dog healthy and happy this holiday season.
And while it’s pretty unlikely your dog will eat your Christmas tree, it’s probably a good idea to block it off anyway in case your dog chooses to do some redecorating — like these pups.