Most pet owners understand that bringing a Christmas tree into their home means they will have to carefully monitor their pet’s behavior to prevent their pet from damaging and destroying the tree and decorations on it.  We only occasionally think about whether Christmas trees can harm our pets.

Christmas Trees and Pets

Depending upon a pet’s normal disposition, Christmas can be a stressful and scary time for them.  New things appear around the home, some small, some big, some noisy, and some fragrant.  Some pets may simply hide, others may inspect the new items, and still others may try to destroy them.  It is the interaction and destruction that opens the door to potential health problems.

There are some holiday plants, including mistletoe and holly, that are highly toxic to our pets, and pet owners should avoid keeping these plants in their homes.  However, since it seems a bit extreme to forego a Christmas tree just because one has pets, it’s important to find out if these popular decorations can actually harm our pets.

Christmas trees can be mildly toxic to pets; the needles aren’t easily digested and the oils can irritate the mouth and stomach.  Of course, the level of illness the pet experiences as a result of Christmas tree exposure has a lot to do with their existing health condition and the amount of the tree that they ingest.  Artificial Christmas trees can also be a major issue, as they can still garner enough interest that your pet may try to ingest them.  Toxin release from the artificial material, as well as the indigestibility of the tree, is the primary concern with artificial trees.

Some pets may “try out” Christmas trees, even ingesting a small amount of it, and then decide that they aren’t interested in it anymore.  A few, especially young puppies or kittens, may continue to show interest and a willingness to try eating it.  Because of this, it is smart to confine your pets in a space separate from the tree when you are not around to supervise them.  If your pet has shown a fond interest in your Christmas tree, and especially if you have seen them chewing on the tree or needles, and they are now acting abnormally, including displaying excessive drooling or licking, lack of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting or other discomfort, it is important to get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.