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!