Are Christmas Trees Toxic to Cats and Dogs? What to Avoid

Published November 22, 2021
cat biting Christmas tree branch

As a pet owner, you're likely cautious about the decorations you place on or around your Christmas tree. But what about the tree itself? Unfortunately, some varieties of Christmas trees are toxic to cats and dogs, and all types carry some potential dangers. Take these precautions into consideration before bringing a real Christmas tree into your home.

Dangers of Christmas Trees to Cats

man watering Christmas tree

Familiarize yourself with the dangers live Christmas tree pose to cats.

  • Pine tree toxicity. Christmas trees are most commonly pine, fir, or spruce trees. Although fir and spruce are generally not toxic to cats, pines can be very harmful. The oils in pine trees reportedly cause damage to a cat's liver or worse. Avoid choosing pine whenever possible and seek urgent veterinary care if your cat chews or eats any part of a pine Christmas tree.
  • Upset stomach from ingestion. Consumption of the needles, branches, or bark from any tree variety can irritate your cat's mouth or upset their stomach. Pets who decide to munch on the tree can experience oral irritation, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, or inappetence. Clean up fallen needles and use preventive measures to keep your cat out of the tree.
  • Risk of intestinal blockage or perforation. These undigestible tree pieces can have difficulty moving through the intestines, and if your pet eats a large enough volume, this could lead to a blockage. Intestinal obstructions typically require emergency surgery or endoscopy to treat. Due to the pointy ends on Christmas tree needles, it's also possible for a needle to pierce the inside of the intestines and perforate the tissues. If your cat or dog eats a moderate or large volume of the tree, check in with your vet then monitor for concerning symptoms, including vomiting, not eating, lethargy, and constipation.
  • Tree water hazards. The water that the tree rests in is also a concern. Not only can bacteria and other harmful parasites grow in standing water, but it can also contain dangerous preservatives. Select only pet- and child-safe products. However, even if you elect to use only clean water, it's possible for fertilizers or oils from the tree to leach into it. Keep the water adequately covered at all times.

Are Christmas Trees Toxic to Dogs?

dog on green sofa by Christmas tree

Although you may not have to worry about your dog climbing the Christmas tree, it's important to take the same above precautions for canines. In fact, dogs may be more inclined than cats to drink tree water or ingest needles. If your dog does consume part of the tree or chews on a pine tree, seek veterinary care.

Deck the Halls Safely This Christmas

It's possible to have a safe and merry Christmas with cats in the house. Taking the necessary precautions like choosing fir or spruce trees instead of toxic pines, covering the tree water, and preventing your pet from munching on the needles will allow you to enjoy peace of mind while keeping your cat out of harm's way. However, if you know your kitty is bound to get into trouble, an artificial tree may be the way to go.

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Are Christmas Trees Toxic to Cats and Dogs? What to Avoid