Are Christmas trees poisonous to cats and dogs? How to keep your pet safe

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Xmas trees, whether real or artificial, can be a danger to houses with pets during the vacation season. Here we look at what dangers you need to be aware of and how you can keep your cats and dogs safe around the Christmas trees.

Santa Claus trees can be poisonous

Pay attention to fallen down Christmas tree needles, which “are not digestible and can be easily poisonous depending upon size of your dog and the quantity, which it takes to itself,” said Hartz, the enterprise for domestic animal care.

“The Christmas tree oils can irritate your dog’s mouth and stomach and cause him to vomit or drool excessively. Fir needles can also clog or puncture your dog’s gastrointestinal tract,” the company added.

Special care should be taken with artificial Christmas trees, as they become more brittle over time. “Small pieces of plastic or aluminum can break off and cause intestinal obstruction or mouth irritation when ingested by your dog,” Hartz said.

Blue Cross for Pets, the UK pet charity, warned: “There is a very low risk that sharp pine needles can cause internal damage if swallowed, or get into eyes or ears – but cases are extremely rare. If you are concerned about this and would like to have a real Christmas tree, you might consider buying one of the variety without drops.

“The oils produced by some real Christmas trees are also slightly toxic when eaten and can easily irritate a pet’s mouth and stomach,” the charity added.

Several holiday plants found in the home around Christmas time can also be dangerous to pets.

This was noted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): “Amaryllis, mistletoe, balm, pine, cedar and holly are among the common holiday plants that can be dangerous and even poisonous to pets who choose to eat them. Poinsettias can also be annoying”.

A complete list of poisonous plants for dogs and cats can be found on the website of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Tree water can be dangerous

The water from the Christmas tree can be dangerous for your pets, as it is often treated with preservatives, pesticides, fertilizers or other means, including aspirin.

The AVMA warned: “Water additives for Christmas trees can be dangerous for your pets. Do not add aspirin, sugar or anything else to the water for your tree if you have pets in the house,” the AVMA warned.

The National Capital Poison Center noted, “The amounts [of tree water]normally consumed by children, cats and dogs are not toxic. It can cause upset stomachs and even vomiting, but no serious problems are expected.

However, some homemade preservatives contain “both bleach and vinegar or lemon juice; this combination can produce a toxic gas called chlorine,” added the National Capital Poison Center.

The ASPCA warned: “Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and your pet could get nausea or diarrhea if it drinks from it.

Blue Cross for Pets noted: “Also be careful when using fertilizers or plant foods on your tree if it is potted, as many of these are toxic to cats and can seep into watering troughs.

Use a covered bowl for your Christmas tree’s water and anchor your tree to a secure structure to prevent it from tipping over and spilling its water on the ground where it can be eaten by pets.

Be careful with tree decorations

Decorations such as tinsel, ornaments and Christmas lights also pose a danger to your pets.

The AVMA warned: “Tinsel and other festive decorations can also be tempting for pets. Their consumption can lead to constipation, which sometimes requires surgery. Fragile ornaments or decorations can cause injury.

“Fragile ornaments can cause injury, and swallowed ornaments can cause bowel obstruction or even poisoning. Keep all homemade ornaments, especially those made of salt dough or other food-based materials, out of reach of pets,” added AVMA.

Christmas tree lights can be dangerous if your dog or cat chews on the electrical wires and lights, as there is a risk of mouth burns and electric shock. “Chewing on wire can also cause pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), which can be fatal,” warned Hartz.

All electrical wires for Christmas lighting should be firmly attached to either the wall or the floor. The wires should be monitored regularly for chewing marks or other punctures, in case your pet has used any of the wires.

Blue Cross recommended for pets: “Be sure to cover all exposed wires leading to the tree with plastic or cardboard tubes, and turn off the lights on the power supply when you are not around to supervise your cat. Instead, battery powered LED lights are a good option.

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