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Deck The Halls!

Ben Garney

'Tis the season to deck the halls with boughs of holly and lots of other pretty things that we enjoy; but our pets may see the decorations as potential toys. 


This is it, the weekend after Thanksgiving, the official start of the Christmas season. If you’re not out shopping, then ( like me) you may be at home, decorating. Christmas makes me think of all the sights, sounds, smells and feelings that make it such a special time of the year. As wonderful as it is for us humans, though, Christmas can pose some dangers for our pets.

Let’s start with what is probably the biggest decoration in the house, the Christmas tree.

Whether it’s an artificial tree or a real one, choose pet-friendly ornaments, especially on the lower branches. Plastic ornaments with pieces that break off can be a choking hazard for both children and pets. Glass ornaments can shatter, cutting an animal’s feet or causing serious internal injury if the jagged pieces are ingested. Tinsel can also cause harm in the digestive tract if swallowed.

Lights are not usually a concern, but those electrical cords should be hidden from playful paws and chewing teeth. If you have a real tree, make sure your tree skirt securely covers the stand to prevent your pet from drinking water from the base which may contain chemicals to fertilize the tree. And be careful with artificial snow, which can also be poisonous to pets.

While you’re being careful about the tree decorations, give some thought to keeping the tree upright. Your cat may try to climb the tree. Your dog or cat may decide to run underneath it. I’ve seen folks use rope, twine and even fishing line to tie the top of the tree to the wall or ceiling to keep it stable. I’ve even seen one nailed to the floor, right through the carpet.

Beware of decorating with holiday plants at Christmas. Berries from holly, mistletoe and poinsettia are poisonous. Even munching on the leaves can result in an upset stomach for your furry friend.

So this Christmas, go ahead and deck the halls, but keep your pet’s safety in mind when you do so. Protecting your four-footed family members from the hidden dangers of the season can help to insure a merry Christmas for all, when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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