Festive winter and holiday decorations are beautiful, but they can be harmful to cats and dogs.
“Every veterinary professional working in an emergency center knows they're going to be busy over the holidays,” says veterinarian Jo Myers, an expert with JustAnswer. “The list of seasonal items that are potentially dangerous when swallowed is endless: plants, lights, dried flowers, pinecones, ornaments, tinsel, and more,” she says. Plus, there’s risk from candle flames, chocolate and other holiday foods, and the cords on fairy lights.
Still, there are plenty of ways to incorporate seasonal decor while keeping your home safe for pets.
Christmas Trees and Wintry Plants
“The Christmas tree happens to pose quite a few potential threats to our furry companions,” says Tina Wismer, veterinarian and senior director of toxicology at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Think: Dangling breakable ornaments, along with the possibility of the tree tipping over.
If you’re getting a tree, follow these precautions:
- Go small. Keep the tree out of your pet’s reach with a tabletop version, Myers suggests.
- Secure it. First, place the tree in a sturdy base, then consider attaching it to the wall or ceiling with wire or heavy-duty fishing line to prevent tipping and falling.
- Cover the water. Stop pets from lapping up the liquid in the stand with a tree skirt. “Tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria that could cause nausea, diarrhea, or stomach upset,” Wismer notes.
- Remove needles that drop. Otherwise, they “can become embedded in paws or swallowed, causing digestive issues,” says Rebecca Macmillan, veterinary advisor for The Vets, a service that provides at-home visits.
- Keep ornaments high up. This helps prevent pets from batting at fragile, breakable baubles on the tree.
- Tuck away electrical wires. You want to avoid your cat or dog chewing on the wires for lights, which could cause an electric shock or pose a tangle hazard, Macmillan says. “Cable tidies or tubes could be used around any wires that have to stay exposed,” Macmillan recommends.
A Christmas tree isn’t the only dangerous holiday greenery: Holly, mistletoe, and some lilies can cause a range of issues, from GI distress to cardiovascular problems or kidney failure, Wismer says. Avoid these plants if your pets tend to nibble at indoor greenery. “Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet,” Wismer recommends.