The first day you bring home a fresh Christmas tree is a wonderful day at my parents' house. Little bristles fall everywhere as my dad drags it to its usual spot by the fireplace, and all of a sudden, the entire place smells like Christmas. My dog, Hank, is almost excited as I am, and he usually takes a big bite out of a branch before he tastes the bitterness and learns his lesson. Are Christmas trees safe for pets, though? As funny as it is to see the shock on his face when he realizes trees don't taste like treats, I have to wonder whether his little snack has the potential to make him sick.
Frankly, your Christmas tree could pose a danger to your little pup, so knowing what to watch out for could help keep him safe. After all, nobody wants to have to make an emergency trip to the vet in the middle of all of the holiday cheer.
According to the ASPCA, the water that keeps your Christmas tree looking healthy throughout the month is definitely not safe for pets' tummies. Make sure to secure the tree in the tree stand when you set it up, the organization recommends. "This will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset—from spilling." Since the tree water sits in one spot for weeks, it creates an environment that's conducive to bacteria growth, which could make your pup nauseous or even cause diarrhea, as per the ASPCA.
Another popular Christmas plant can present some similar issues if your pet is prone to snacking on greenery. Dr. Dorothy Black, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, told Modern Dog Magazine that something as seemingly innocent as a mistletoe could lead to an upset stomach, changes in mental function, difficulty breathing, or even a low heart rate if eaten by your pet. “If you see these symptoms in your pet and suspect or know they ingested mistletoe, you should seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible,” Dr. Black told the magazine. “Mistletoe shouldn’t be used where pets could possibly reach it.”
As for felines, specifically, I know that whenever my cat, Kit Kat, sees the annual Christmas tree being carried inside, he gets very excited. I'm not sure what exactly is going through his adorable little kitty mind, but since he's a part-indoor and part-outdoor cat, I suspect that he loves the idea of getting to hide in a tree like he does outside, but inside where it's warm. But is climbing among the branches of a Christmas tree dangerous for cats? According to PETA, I'm right to be worried about Kit Kat, because apparently, a shaky tree and a climbing cat are not a particularly safe mix.
Try to move your Christmas tree as far away from any "launching zones" or furniture that your cat might try to use to jump onto the tree, PETA suggests, because attacking it full-force is likely to be more dangerous for your pet than a gentle climb from the bottom. Additionally, to keep your cat away from the tree in general, the organization recommends wrapping your tree trunk in foil and putting lemon or orange peels at the base (apparently most cats dislike the smells of citrus fruits).
From dressing her in an ugly puppy Christmas sweater to baking her some dog-safe gingerbread cookies, there are so many fun ways to involve your pet in the holiday celebrations. Just make sure snacking on the tree isn't one of them.