The holiday season is filled with twinkling lights, sparkly tinsel, brightly colored garland, delicate ornaments and much more. These decorations can be an important part of spreading the joy and excitement of the season, but unfortunately they can also pose dangers for household pets. While pet owners should not have to entirely avoid decorating for the holidays, there are certain decorations that one should make sure their pet avoids coming into contact with.
Pets are not usually able to determine which things have the potential to cause them harm, and therefore rely on their owners to provide them with a safe environment. During the holiday season, this means that they are either supervised when around dangerous decorations or kept entirely away from them. Following are some of the most dangerous holiday decorations for pets and suggestions for how keep your pet safe:
● Christmas trees. Both dogs and cats can become quite excited about a tree in the home, and oftentimes may jump up onto or even try to climb the tree. This can cause the tree to fall over, which may injure your pet. If your pet seems particularly interested in the tree, it may be best to keep them out of the same room unless they are supervised.
● Imitation snow. Imitation snow, or flocking, can be very hazardous to pets that ingest it. Since flocking is often sprayed on Christmas tree branches, which in turn look like fun sticks to chew on, it is best to avoid it altogether in order to help keep your pet safe.
● Chemical preservatives on Christmas trees. Especially in states where Christmas trees are not grown, chemical preservatives may have been used to keep the tree fresh longer. These chemicals can leach down into the stand at the bottom of the tree, making the water poisonous. If you can, try to avoid a tree that has been chemically preserved. If this isn’t possible, cover the stand with aluminum foil, a towel, plastic wrap, a tree skirt or something else that will successfully deter your pet from drinking the water.
● Edible ornaments. Ornaments that look and smell good to you also look and smell good to your pets, who will definitely try to eat them. Excessive sugar from candy canes can cause a sugar rush and other health issues, while the glue and materials used for some edible ornaments can be toxic, poisonous and hazardous. These ornaments should either be placed high on the tree where pets cannot reach them, or left off the tree until pets have demonstrated that they won’t try to jump or climb on the tree.
● Lit candles. Candles that are low enough for pets to reach can always be dangerous, especially when they are near a highly flammable Christmas tree.
● Christmas lights. As much as is possible, strands of Christmas lights should be kept away from the bottom of the tree or other low areas where a dog or cat can chew on them and receive an electric shock.
● Holly berries. The ASPCA reports that holly berries can be toxic to dogs and cats if consumed in large amounts, and may even lead to gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. It is best to avoid these holiday decorations altogether in order to protect your pet’s health.
● Angel hair decorations. Angel hair is a finely spun fiberglass that was once used in decorations, but has been taken off the market because of health concerns related to its use. It is therefore important to verify whether one’s older decorations, and perhaps family heirloom decorations, are made from angel hair before using them in a household with pets.
● Tinsel. Tinsel that is ingested by a dog or cat can form a potentially fatal intestinal obstruction, so is best avoided entirely by households with pets.
One would be wise to consider that their pets are like small children in that they may be awed and amazed by Christmas decorations, without understanding the importance of not touching or eating them. Some pets may not care, and can make it easier for owners to enjoy their holiday decorations, but many pets need to be supervised carefully to ensure that they remain safe and healthy throughout the holiday season.