Many people can’t wait to start decorating their homes for the holidays thanks to an endless array of festive options, from plants (and trees!) to candles to lights. But dog owners have to be especially wary about their holiday décor, as many holiday decorations can actually be dangerous for dogs.
When it comes to decorating your home for the holidays, many people rely on colorful plants to make their space feel festive. But some favorite holiday plants can actually be dangerous for your dog. According to Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club (AKC), while poinsettias have a notorious reputation for being toxic to dogs, they may not necessarily be deadly. They do, however, cause irritation of a dog’s mucous membranes, which leads to discomfort in the mouth and throat and excessive salivation.
“Just like Christmas carols, poinsettias can be irritating…so you’ll want to keep them out of reach of your dog,” he says. Among the holiday plants that can be toxic for pets are lillies, holly and mistletoe, as well as amaryllis, daffodils, and cyclamen. “Before placing any plants inside the home, be sure to consult the ASPCA or Pet Hotline’s Poisonous plants list,” Klein advises.
Unfortunately, one of the most iconic holiday plants—Christmas trees—can be very enticing to your dog. Dogs and cats alike can be drawn to lights, tinsel, or ornaments that are either edible or look like chew toys….and dogs in particular already have their own ideas about what they’re supposed to do on trees. That’s why it’s important to choose dog-friendly ornmanets whenever possible, and do everything you can to safeguard your tree. “The best way to pet-proof your tree is to prohibit access when your dog isn’t supervised—consider a free-standing pet or child safety gate, or you can even place heavy boxes wrapped in festive paper around the bottom,” suggests Bryna Donnelly, director of GreaterGood.org’s Rescue Rebuild program.
It’s also important to keep your dog in mind when choosing a tree in the first place. According to Tami Kelly, a spokesperson for Treetopia, artificial Christmas trees, garland, and florals are generally safer because they aren’t as enticing to pets as real greenery—and therefore they’re less likely to be ingested. “The good news is that faux holiday decor is available in a wide array of colors to help you express your personal style, and artificial greenery looks more real than ever before,” she says.
You’ll also want to be sure your tree lights and any other decor with wires are unplugged when you’re not around, as your dog may chew on or tangle themselves in the cords. It’s also a good idea to secure your tree to a wall or the ceiling to prevent Fido from knocking it over, and avoid hanging breakable or sentimental ornaments where your dog can reach them. “If your pets express interest in playing with the decorations on the tree, you can decorate the bottom third of the tree with sturdy ornaments that won’t break,” Kelly says.
If you do opt for a real tree, your dog may also be inclined to drink the water—but that can be a deadly situation for your pooch. “Some people like to add special chemicals to their Christmas tree water to keep it fresh. But if you have pets in the house, these concoctions could be dangerous for them to ingest,” says Laura Morgan, social media specialist at P.L.A.Y, a pet products company. “Either stick to plain water or make sure the mixture is not accessible by your dog.”
Even though your four-legged friend may limit the types of décor you can use, there are lots of ways to include your dog in your holiday traditions. Donnelly recommends baking special holiday treats for them, buying them a pet advent calendar, or making a low-calorie toy stuffing for their favorite Kong-like toy—and, of course, you can always surprise them with early holiday gifts like new toys or pet bed. You may just want to stay away from attempting to display any sort of dog-friendly decorations. “I’ve seen people make special tree garlands or decorations for their dogs, but in my opinion that’s just inviting your dog to interfere with your non-pet decorations (or non-holiday decorations) later on,” she concludes.