Christmas Tree Hazards for Dogs! Guest Post by Joy Lee from Rover Oaks Pet Resort!
Posted Dec 06 2010 5:30pm
If your dogs are like mine, the annual appearance of the Christmas tree brings a lot of curiosity and exploration. Aside from the possible reaction of canine kids who think: "Cool! Mom gave us indoor plumbing!" - and the subsequent irritation of human family members when they give it a try - Christmas trees pose a number of hazards for dogs and other pets.
If you have a live tree, be sure to cover or otherwise protect the water in the stand. Many trees may leach fertilizer into the water, and the stagnant water alone is a breeding ground for bacteria and algae, so it is not safe for pets to drink. Dogs may also be inclined to sample the needles from the tree, which are very sharp and can cause perforations in the intestinal tract. Snacking on artificial tree parts is not recommended either, due to the risk of intestinal obstruction.
Some dogs, particularly puppies (but older dogs as well), have a tendency to chew on electric cords and lights. If the lights are plugged in, chewing through the cord can cause electrical burns or worse. Dogs have also been known to munch on the glass bulbs themselves (I caught one of my own dogs at this while putting up the tree this year), which can also cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
Breakable ornaments and ornament hooks pose additional risks. If dogs knock them off of the tree and they break, they can easily cut paws on the glass pieces or find themselves with a sharp hook in a foot. If ingested, the glass and sharp metal can cause perforations in stomach or intestines, and you may face emergency surgery if pieces become embedded in the gastrointestinal tract. Decorations such as tinsel, ribbons or angel hair can become tangled up in the digestive system and cause blockages.
One of the biggest risks with dogs and Christmas trees is that they may knock the entire tree over during an exuberant race through the house or an ill-timed wag of a tail. They can face a variety of injuries if the tree lands on top of them. Make sure that your tree is securely anchored in its stand, and if possible, secure the top of the tree to a wall or ceiling (fishing line works well for this).
So, how do you protect your dog and your tree from these many hazards? The easiest solution is to keep your dogs away from the tree when you are not there to supervise. If your tree is in a room that you can block off, do so when you are away. I have found that placing an X-pen around the tree prevents anyone from coming too close or exploring where they shouldn't. Gifts can also be placed inside the pen, preventing curious noses, paws and mouths from opening them too early or worse, destroying them. If you have a smaller tree, you can place it on a table out of reach of smaller canines.
If your dog does stick his nose, paws or mouth into places that he shouldn't, contact your veterinarian or local emergency clinic as soon as possible and follow their instructions. If he has ingested anything, you can also contact a local poison control center or a national center such as the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. But, since "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", the best advice is to take a few simple steps to protect your furry kids from getting into Christmas tree trouble in the first place.
Joy Lee is co-owner and general manager of Rover Oaks Pet Resort in Katy, Texas. She is also passionate about animal rescue, and has authored a book, "Rover's Rescues...True Stories of Shelter Dogs and Second Chances", for which a portion of each book sale will be donated to Citizens for Animal Protection in Houston. Visit her website, http://www.joyleebooks.com , for more information.