Keep Pets Out of Christmas Tree Water

Christmas decorations can cause problems for pets. While most people know about the common holiday dangers including tinsel, candles, electric cords and ornaments, few people know about a potential danger hiding at the base of the tree – Christmas tree water.


The big problem from Christmas tree water is bacterial overgrowth in the stagnant water. In warm indoor temperatures, bacteria can multiply quickly. When consumed by pets, this often causes vomiting, anorexia and/or diarrhea. Most animals will recover with supportive care including fluids to correct dehydration, antibiotics to get rid of the bacterial overgrowth, probiotics to repopulate the gastro intestinal tract and a bland diet.

Tree extenders are a mix of fertilizer and sugar to keep trees fresh. If the concentration is low, pets will suffer from gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea), irritation to their mouths, esophagus and stomach. If the concentration is high, cats may develop a serious condition called methemoglobinemia.

To keep your pets safe, I recommend blocking access to the tree stand. If that isn’t possible, use plain water for trees and change it frequently. Although adding bleach may decrease bacterial growth in the water, I certainly do not recommend it.  Bleach causes gastrointestinal irritation. I have seen it cause severe ulcers in cats and dogs.  Please, never use bleach in any place where animals have access.

I hope you and your pets have a wonderful and safe Christmas!


Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.