With lots of new and exciting things around the house, Christmas can be both an exciting and confusing time for our dogs. With interesting decorations around the home, a tree full of lights and colour, lots of new exciting smells and an array of new presents for the family, it’s easy for your dog to get carried away and be overwhelmed by their natural instincts to explore.
Although Christmas can be hectic it’s important to keep a close eye on your dog, as some of the things we use to celebrate Christmas can also be dangerous to them.
Some Christmas decorations and presents can be harmful to your dog. During the Christmas period watch out for:
- Christmas tree decorations (tinsel, baubles, electric lights and salt dough ornaments)
- Batteries, silica gel and wrapping paper
- Small toys
During the Christmas period keep an extra close eye on your dog. Make sure they don’t sneak off to chew or bite anything they shouldn’t, and keep all dangerous items out of paws reach.
You can also find out how to keep your dog safe by reading our hints and tips on how to dog-proof your Christmas tree.
Which Christmas decorations are dangerous to dogs?
Decorations, such as baubles and tinsel are usually made of plastic, paper or foil and are usually low toxicity to dogs. If eaten however, these may get stuck in the throat or the stomach and can cause an obstruction. These obstructions can stop your dog from breathing or may need surgery to remove.
What should I do if my dog eats an ornament?
Glass or thin plastic Christmas decorations can be dangerous if chewed or swallowed and could cut their mouths or cause lacerations down their throat or in their gut. Try to keep these sorts of delicate ornaments out of reach of your dog and if they do manage to eat or chew them, call your vet immediately.
Are salt dough ornaments toxic to dogs?
Homemade salt dough decorations can be a special addition to your Christmas tree, but these decorations can be toxic to dogs. The high salt content can make your dog ill, causing them to be sick, drink lots, appear tired and can, in more severe cases, affect their kidneys and cause fits.
Are Christmas lights dangerous to dogs?
As well as there being a risk from any sharp broken bulbs or lights and an obstruction risk from the plastic cable, there is also a risk that if your dog bites into your Christmas lights they could be electrocuted too. If you have lights on your Christmas tree, remember to place them out of reach of your dog and try to keep as much of the cable tucked away or hidden from your dog.
How do I dog-proof my Christmas tree?
Tinsel, ornaments and fairy lights may appear to be great toys to your dog, but they can cause an obstruction, or even puncture their stomach. To help keep your dog safe around your Christmas tree, you could:
- Choose your tree carefully. Artificial trees won’t drop needles and so may be less harmful to pets
- Put your tree up for a few days before decorating it. This can help your dog gets used to it before you add the lights and baubles
- Use a strong stand, or tether the tree to the wall or ceiling to prevent it being knocked over
- Get a decorative tree base cover to prevent your dog drinking the water used to prolong the life of your tree
- Put a pet gate or tree guard around the tree to prevent your dog getting to it
- Keep the bottom branches bare. Dangerous lights, tinsel and baubles should all be placed high up where your dog can’t reach them
- Tape electric cables down from the lights to prevent them being chewed
- Don’t hang chocolate coins, sweets, popcorn or salt-dough decorations on your tree.
- Only place presents under the tree on Christmas Eve night, this should discourage your dog from ‘opening’ presents they shouldn’t do
What Christmas plants are dangerous to dogs?
Over the Christmas period, as well as tinsel and baubles, many of us tend to decorate our homes with an abundance of festive greenery. We hang wreaths of ivy on our doors, place brightly coloured poinsettia on our windowsills, dangle mistletoe in doorways and bring trees into our homes to adorn with ornaments, but did you know that some of these seasonal plants can make your dog ill? Find out more in our Christmas plants poisonous to your dog article.
If a battery is chewed and punctured by your dog it can cause chemical burns, or even heavy metal poisoning in very extreme cases. If swallowed whole, they are less likely to leak their contents, but can still cause a blockage. This can be very dangerous and may require surgical intervention. Signs of an obstruction may include vomiting, lethargy, being off their food, not defecating or finding it difficult to defecate.
Button batteries that become stuck in the throat, or in the gut, can produce an electric current which can significantly damage the surrounding tissue.
Silica gel sachets
These small sachets are commonly found in the packaging of items such as new shoes, electrical items, handbags etc. Silica gel is non-toxic, but the sachet is often labelled "do not eat", not because it is poisonous, but because it is not a food item and therefore should not be eaten. Although silica gel sachets are non-toxic, they could still cause a dangerous obstruction in the gut.
Wrapping or crepe paper
Eating wrapping paper or crepe paper may result in staining in and around the dog's mouth, which may look worrying, but both substances are of low toxicity and so unlikely to be poisonous. Eating a large amount, however, may cause a potentially dangerous blockage in the gut.
During the excitement of Christmas, children's toys may appear appealing to dogs and parts of toys may be swallowed, causing a potentially dangerous blockage in your dog's gut.
What to do if you think your dog has eaten something it shouldn't have
If you think that your dog may have eaten, touched or inhaled something that it shouldn't have, speak to your vet straight away.
Never try to make your dog sick. Trying to do this can cause other complications, which may harm your dog.
Things to tell your vet
In an emergency you can help your veterinary practice make an informed decision as to whether your dog needs to be treated by them and, if so, what the best treatment would be. Where possible you should provide your veterinary practice with information on:
- What poison you think your dog has been exposed to (e.g. chocolate, ibuprofen etc.). Include any product names, or lists of ingredients if relevant
- How much they may have been exposed to (i.e. 500mg, 500ml, one tablet etc. even approximations may help)
- When your dog was exposed to the poison (i.e. five minutes, five hours or five days ago)
- If your dog has been unwell and, if so, what clinical effects have been seen
It is easier for a vet to care for a poisoned dog if it is treated sooner rather than later. If you are in any doubt, don't wait for your dog to become unwell before calling for advice.
What to take to your vet
If you do need to take your dog to your veterinary practice, try to take along any relevant packaging, or a sample of the poison, e.g. parts of plant or fungi. Always make sure that you are protected and cannot be poisoned in turn.
How to use this information
The information is intended to be used to prevent poisoning by raising awareness of certain poisons, rather than as a document to be used in an emergency. If you think that your dog has been poisoned, or has come into contact with potentially poisonous substances, contact your local veterinary practice immediately.
Think your dog may be affected?
If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately.
We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information.