For many people, the Christmas tree is a symbol of good times, festivities and great memories… that is until they become parents to a dog or cat. Pets are known for their curiosity and uncanny ability to find ways to get into trouble.

Add a big tree loaded with shiny things to tempt them and hours alone with said tree, it often doesn’t end well. The same tree that makes humans want to sing carols and feel all warm and fuzzy will make your pet want to go crazy and get into a heap of trouble.

Here are five ways your Christmas tree can harm — or even kill — your pet.

Read this article carefully. Use a highlighter to help you to remember key points. It could save your pet’s life and you a lot of time and money in veterinarian bills.

1. The water in the tree stand is a magnet for pets. Why they seem to like it so much is a mystery, but they do. The water used to keep fresh trees alive is often treated with additives, such as fertilizer, aspirin, and other ingredients harmful to pets. If the water is not fertilized, it can still accumulate bacteria that your cat or dog shouldn’t drink.

A stand with a cover over the water reservoir will solve the problem. If you can’t find a stand with a cover, you could make your own using cardboard, tin foil or some other impervious material you may have laying around your house.

2. Pets can get hurt when they step on, or eat, broken ornaments or pine needles. Splinters or cuts on the pads of an animal’s feet can be painful and sometimes may require a visit to the vet… if you’re lucky. Ingesting pine needles can cause intestinal blockage or a puncture; that’s not just painful, but potentially fatal. Or it could just cost you thousands of dollars at the emergency vet hospital. So make sure to keep your floor free of any falling needles or other debris from your tree.

3. Your pet may find the flickering lights on your tree irresistible. He may even chew the wires which can result in electrocution and maybe even your tree and house catching fire. Use strong tape or computer cord covers (i.e. plastic tubing) to completely cover cords and firmly attach them to flat surfaces, so pets cannot possibly chew them.

4. If you own a cat, leave the tinsel in the store. What looks like a nice easy way to make your tree stand out to you, could prove deadly to your cat if ingested. Tinsel does not pose a poisoning risk but can cause severe damage to a cat’s intestinal tract if swallowed. Ultimately, cats run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of,their intestines and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.

5. Finally, probably the most common pet-versus-tree accident is your pet toppling over the tree.  Something about the tree makes pets want to behave like they are outside. A dog may lift his leg to mark his tree and stumbles a little bit, sending O Tannenbaum crashing to the floor.

Dogs have been known to cause a few missteps with the Christmas tree, but if toppling trees was a sport, cats would win hands down. Whether the tree is artificial or real, cats seem to be drawn to climb as high as they can… that is until the tree comes (you guessed it) crashing down.

Well there you have it… five ways your lovely Christmas tree can harm or kill your pet. Maybe your pet is smarter than most and will know better than to give into the temptation of the tree. Maybe he will be content to just enjoy the sights and smells that the tree brings into the house. Or maybe, just to be safe, you should forgo the six-foot-tall tree and opt for a nine-inch ceramic tree you keep on the floor.

No matter what you choose to do, have a very safe and Merry Christmas!

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