Our family tradition has always been to put up the Christmas tree and decorations the weekend before Christmas Day but, every year, it seems that the stores start seasonal promotions earlier than the last. It obviously starts to get people in the festive mood, as homes seem to be lit up with Christmas tree lights much sooner too!
So, I thought it would be useful to get these helpful tips out now, just as a quick reminder of potential hazards for your pooch and ensure your holiday doesn’t include an emergency trip to the veterinarian!
❆ The fragrance of a real pine/spruce tree is lovely but just be aware that they can actually cause your dog mouth and stomach irritation because they contain mildly toxic oils, so be sure they are not chewing the branches or trunk.
❆ Do regular clean ups when the tree starts sheds its needles, to avoid them getting stuck in your pet’s paws, throat or intestines.
❆ Trees are often treated with preservatives to limit needle loss, insecticides or flame retardants and many have a sweet taste to dogs, so particularly tempting but toxic if ingested. Consider putting a tree skirt around the base of the tree, especially if there is a water base, to prevent them from drinking the liquid.
❆ Stabilize the tree in a sturdy stand to be sure it can’t be knocked over and potentially hurt a child or pet playing or laying under the tree. You can make it extra foolproof by also securing with string to a wall or window, but high enough up so out of chewing range.
Let’s face it, dogs love to chew and there are lots more enticing things to get their teeth into at Christmas, so here are a few tips to keep them out of harm’s way:
❆ Place glass or breakable tree ornaments on the higher branches. If they fell and got broken or your pet accidentally bit them, they could cut themselves or even swallow the pieces, which could cause internal bleeding and organ damage.
❆ Avoid edible decorations. Even if you think you’ve placed them high enough to be out of temptation’s way, your dog’s super-human sense of smell will sniff them out and will encourage them to jump or climb to get to the tasty treat, by whatever means possible!
Chocolate is extremely toxic to dogs and affects the nervous and urinary systems, causing symptoms ranging from diarrhea to seizures and death.
Popcorn, raisin and cranberry garlands have added dangers: raisins are toxic to dogs and can cause kidney damage plus the thread can cause an obstruction in the intestine.
And remember, many sweet treats contain xylitol (artificial sweetener) which is toxic to dogs. So, better to be safe than sorry and just keep these dangerous temptations off the decorations list altogether – they’re just not worth the risk!
❆ Although salt dough sounds edible it definitely is NOT. It is a baking material that is used for making ornaments (often of a newborn child’s foot/handprint or pet’s pawprint) and it contains an extremely high salt level, which can be fatal if your pet ingests it. Making salt dough tree decorations or parcel tags is a popular activity this time of year and especially fun to do with the kids, but just ensure that the end product is out of reach of your pooch.
❆ Keep electrical cords and electrical light wiring out of your dog’s reach. They can get tangled in wiring and pull the tree down or items on shelves. If they chew the cord they could suffer from mouth burns an electric shock or even death by electrocution.
❆ The glistening tinsel and ribbons are tantalizing playthings but if your pup gets their teeth into it, then swallows it, this can cause a blockage in their gastrointestinal tract, which requires surgical removal.
❆ Other potential hazards include scented oils and candles, which can cause spills, burns and a serious fire hazard, so again place in a safe position and always extinguish candles when you go out.
○ Holly leaves and berries cause severe stomach upset, seizures and can be potentially fatal to dogs.
○ Mistletoe contains several substances that are toxic to dogs, causing severe upsets stomachs, breathing problems, sudden & severe drop in blood pressure and potential heart collapse.
○ The Poinsettia plant contains a sap that is irritating to the tissues of the mouth and esophagus. If the leaves are ingested, this will often cause nausea and vomiting.
○ Amaryllis, Lilies and Daffodils are toxic, especially the bulbs. Even a small amount of plant ingested can cause severe gastrointestinal issues, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite, convulsions and arrhythmia.
○ Hibiscus may cause diarrhea
○ Yew tree has toxicityin ALL parts of the plant. Wheningested, it causes drooling, vomiting, weakness, difficulty breathing,dilated pupils, tremors, seizures, life-threatening changes in heart rate and blood pressure, coma and death may be seen.
I know our furry friends’ antics provide an endless source of amusement and in all the holiday hurly burly, it’s easy to forget the simplest safety precautions, but innocent play can just as easily turn into a medical trauma for your beloved pet at this time of year.
So please, just take a few minutes to check your Christmas tree and decorations and never leave your dog unattended in the decked-out areas, so you can all enjoy a safe and happy holiday!
Wishing you and your furry friends the best of festive fun and health!