Are Christmas Trees Safe For Dogs?

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Dogs love trees, and if you have a male dog, you may notice them mark their favorite tree outside your home from time to time. This year, not only do you have to worry about whether your dog will mark your Christmas tree and make a mess, but you should also consider their safety. Christmas trees are spruce, pine, and fir, all found outside your home, so you may think they're safe for your dog. But are Christmas trees safe for dogs?

In general, they're safe for dogs to rub up against, but the needles or any other part of the tree should never be ingested because they can cause mild toxicity resulting in GI upset. Since a Christmas tree is an essential part of your holiday decorations, you should do everything possible to ensure the safety of your pets. 

Are Real Christmas Trees Safe For Dogs?

Many potentially poisonous plants can be found around your home during the holidays, such as mistletoe, holly, and even your Christmas tree. Keeping dogs away from Christmas trees can be challenging, especially because they have a delightful scent that might attract curious creatures. Even if you've trained your dog to follow your commands, you must still be careful with plants like Christmas trees around your home. Potential dangers of real Christmas trees for dogs include the following: 

Pine Needles

Pine needles are mildly toxic to dogs because they contain oils that can irritate the mouth and digestive tract, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.1 In addition, needles are choking and intestinal blockage hazards. Pine needles are sharp and can cause intestinal tract damage even if they don't cause a blockage. Meanwhile, blockages are veterinary emergencies, so if your dog eats any part of a Christmas tree, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible for examination and potentially life-saving treatment. 

Signs of pine needle ingestion

Signs Of Pine Needle Ingestion

As we've mentioned, pine needles are not digestible and can be mildly toxic to dogs, depending on how much they eat. In addition, since Christmas trees contain naturally occurring oils, pesticides, and other chemicals, they can cause mouth and digestive tract irritation, causing GI problems. Signs your dog may have ingested pine needles include the following: 

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Trouble breathing
  • Choking
  • Irritation inside mouth1

Tree Preservatives & Water

Trees are grown with pesticides and other chemicals that can harm your dog. In addition, many people use preservatives in the tree's water to extend its life. Unfortunately, these chemicals are toxic to dogs, and they may become poisoned if they drink the water under the tree.1

Decorations

How you decorate your tree can also pose risks to your dog's safety. For example, Christmas tree lights can be choking hazards or cause electrical burns.1 They're also a fire hazard, so you should use the right lights or LED Christmas lights that don't get as hot. In addition, your ornaments can be dangerous to your dog. Glass or ceramic ornaments can easily fall and break, resulting in cuts on your dog's paws. Always secure your ornaments where your dog can't get to them. Remember, some might resemble their favorite fetch or chew toys, so you don't want them accidentally grabbing them from the tree and playing with them. Additionally, it's a good idea to keep them as high on the tree as possible because dog tails can easily knock them down.

Another dangerous decoration to consider is flocking, which can be found on live and artificial Christmas trees. This decoration may seem pretty innocent, but are flocked Christmas trees safe for dogs? Flocking is imitation snow used to give your home a winter theme. However, it can easily fall off the tree and be swallowed. In addition, flocking is made from low-toxicity substances that can cause mild GI upset when consumed, so it's best to avoid it altogether whenever possible. 

Are Artificial Christmas Trees Safe For Dogs?

Are real Christmas trees safe for dogs? Not if you can't prevent your dog from ingesting the needles. But are fake Christmas trees safe for dogs? Unfortunately, no holiday decoration is truly safe for pets. The most important thing to watch out for is your dog chewing on the artificial tree. Even though artificial trees don't contain the same fir oils that can cause mouth and digestive tract irritation, they can still pose risks to your dog's health and safety. Dangers of artificial Christmas trees for dogs include the following: 

  • Choking hazard: You should never let your dog chew on an artificial Christmas tree. These trees are made of plastic and other materials that can easily break, especially if your dog is a heavy chewer with a track record of destroying their toys. In addition, artificial Christmas trees can break or include small pieces designed to come off easily. Unfortunately, these pieces can be potential choking hazards for curious dogs. To ensure your pet's safety and prevent choking, all pet parents should know the Heimlich maneuver, which could be potentially life-saving if you can't make it to an emergency vet clinic in time. 
  • GI issues: Eating anything that's difficult to digest can cause GI issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog consumes a small enough piece of plastic Christmas tree, they may be able to pass it on their own. However, if your dog swallows a large piece of a fake Christmas tree, it could result in a dangerous intestinal blockage. Vomiting after eating a few needles may be a sign your dog has ingested a mild toxin. However, it can also indicate an intestinal blockage, a serious medical emergency that needs immediate treatment. 
  • Decorations: Many of the same decorations used on live Christmas trees can be used on artificial ones. Unfortunately, they pose the same risk no matter the type of tree you use. For example, Christmas lights can be chewed on and cause electric shock or even fires. Meanwhile, the lights are small enough to cause choking hazards or intestinal blockages. Tinsel is another choking hazard, while flocking can cause GI upset in dogs. 

How to dog-proof your Christmas tree

How To Dog-Proof Your Christmas Tree

Dog-proofing your Christmas tree is crucial for their health and safety during the holidays. Unfortunately, some dogs are more destructive than others and may chew on your tree, while others may be curious about what it is, whether real or plastic. Here are a few ways you can protect your dog from your tree this year: 

  1. Ensure your tree is sturdy: Christmas trees tend to tip over if you bump into them, so you should secure your tree to prevent your dog's wagging tail from pushing it over. In addition, since trees can fall if you put too many heavy ornaments on one side, securing it will prevent it from falling over on top of your dog while they're trying to take a nap. 
  2. Place decorations carefully: Always keep ornaments and lights out of your dog's reach by placing them higher up on the tree. Dogs sometimes chew cords, and ornaments look like tennis balls to them, so the best way to protect your pet and your tree is by ensuring your dog can't reach them. 
  3. Clean up pine needles: If you're using a live tree, the pine needles will fall throughout the day. However, you should never leave them on the floor because they can harm your dog. Since dogs may want to eat them because they smell nice, removing any pine needles that fall on the floor as soon as possible is always best.  
  4. Keep trees out of reach (when possible): Unfortunately, dogs will find a way to get to the Christmas tree if they want to. However, you can block your tree with baby gates to prevent your dog from knocking it over or eating anything off it. In addition, you should keep the water for live trees covered at all times so dogs can't drink it, especially if it contains additives or preservatives that can be toxic. 
  5. Use battery-powered lights: Battery-powered lights are a safer alternative because they'll have fewer cords for your dog to chew on. In addition, they won't run as warm, reducing the risk of an accidental fire. Of course, you should still keep the lights higher on the tree so your dog can't get to them. 
  6. Practice obedience training: The best way to prevent your dog from getting into trouble is to teach them how to listen to basic commands. Obedience training will ensure your dog knows to stay away from the Christmas tree even when you're not home. However, you should also take the proper precautions since even well-behaved dogs can engage in undesirable behavior. Therefore, you should keep a baby gate around the tree when you're not home to deter your dog from trying to eat anything off the tree.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you have a Christmas tree with a dog?

Yes, you can have either a live or artificial Christmas tree if you have a dog. However, you should take the proper precautions to ensure your dog won't try to eat anything off the tree or bump into it and cause it to fall. If you have a puppy, consider strategically placing baby gates throughout your home to control where they can spend time to keep them away from the tree. In addition, you can put a barrier between your tree and your dog. 

List of Christmas decorations that are dangerous to dogs

Which Christmas decorations are dangerous for dogs?

Unfortunately, many pet parents don't realize that the holidays can be dangerous for dogs. You should learn which plants are toxic to dogs and either buy fake alternatives or avoid using them altogether. The following decorations are dangerous for dogs: 

  • Christmas trees
  • Mistletoe
  • Holly
  • Poinsettias
  • Lilies
  • Amaryllis
  • Tinsel
  • Ornaments
  • Candles
  • Advent calendars
  • Lights

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of potentially dangerous decorations for dogs, so you should use your best judgment when decorating your home for the holidays. Additionally, you know your dog best, so if you know they have a habit of jumping on the tables, keep these potential dangers out of reach. 

How do I train my dog to leave the Christmas tree alone?

Obedience training can help your dog understand desirable behaviors, such as leaving the Christmas tree alone. However, it's important to remember that training, especially obedience training, that they won't get to practice year-round will take time, and your dog might not be fully trained by the time you put a tree in your home. Therefore, you should take proper precautions even after training to ensure your dog understands that the tree is off-limits. A few tips to help you train your dog to stay away from the Christmas tree include:

  • Crate training them
  • Use verbal commands when they get too close to the tree, such as "No," or "Come."
  • Distract them with toys and treats 
  • Continue redirecting them away from the tree and giving them treats when they ignore it

Two dogs sitting on couch in front of Christmas tree

Final Notes

What Christmas trees are safe for dogs? It depends. In general, live and artificial Christmas trees are safe to have around dogs, but you should always consider whether or not your dog will try to eat any part of the tree or its decorations. If your dog rubs up against the tree, they're unlikely to experience any side effects, but ingesting any part of the tree could be harmful. 

Consider plastic trees and placing your ornaments and other decorations strategically to keep your dog safe and ensure your tree looks beautiful all season long. But, of course, Christmas trees aren't the only safety hazard to consider around the holidays. People coming and going from the home, noise, and even a schedule change can make the holidays stressful for pets. Consult a Dutch vet if your dog gets anxious around the holidays. We can help diagnose and treat anxiety in dogs to prevent undesirable behavior. Try Dutch today. 

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References

  1. "Dog Christmas Tree Safety Tips for Pet Parents." PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/dog/dog-christmas-tree-safety-tips.

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