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Can Pine Tree Needles Make Dogs Sick?

By Cuteness Team and medically reviewed by Jennifer Coates, DVM
published: December 19, 2017 - updated: January 18, 2023 • 3 min. read
puppy chewing on christmas tree

Key Takeaways

  • Pine needles from Christmas trees can cause gastrointestinal problems in dogs.
  • Infections can result from a dog eating pine needles, and the needles can get trapped in a dog’s paws.
  • Christmas tree water can also be harmful if drunk by a dog.

The holidays are a time of merriment and relaxation for many, but it’s also a time of year when you should exercise plenty of care and caution when it comes to your pup. The hectic pace and traditions can sometimes interfere with household pet safety. For example, Christmas trees can be hazardous to pets and may make your furry friends ill.

Digestive Tract Issues

Dogs are very curious and often love to chew on and eat new things. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that your pup never chews on your Christmas tree and doesn’t eat tree needles that might have dropped to the floor. If your pet ingests needles, they could bring about serious gastrointestinal problems.

Pine tree needles can puncture the soft tissues that line a dog’s digestive tract. Sometimes the pointy pine needle will move deep into the tissue causing a foreign body reaction, which often leads to severe infections and abscesses. Sometimes pine needles will simply become stuck somewhere weird, like between a dog’s teeth or at the back of the mouth.

A lot of pine needles can also clump together and block the digestive tract. This can occur in the throat, stomach, or intestinal tract. Fake Christmas tree needles can be just as dangerous.

Protect your pet

Symptoms to Watch Out For

Dogs who eat pine needles often vomit. This can occur because pine tree needles aren’t easily digested and tend to cause a lot of irritation as they slowly move through the digestive tract. Gastrointestinal blockages are usually associated with severe vomiting. Other symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Gagging
  • Retching
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pain
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Abnormal swellings or drainage

If you observe vomiting or any other sign that your dog ingested Christmas tree needles, fake or real, seek veterinary care for the pup. Note, too, that Christmas tree needles are also problematic for cats.

Christmas Tree Needles and Paws

Christmas tree needles aren’t only hazardous to a dog’s digestive tract but also to their paws. Needles can get stuck in or on your pet’s paws, a seriously uncomfortable situation that can lead to skin irritation and infection. Be sure to sweep near the tree regularly to help avoid such issues.

Not Just the Needles

In addition to the needles causing harm, the water in the Christmas tree stand can also cause issues for pets. Since the reservoir isn’t cleaned frequently, the water can become heavily contaminated with bacteria. Stands and covers are available that can limit a pet’s ability to drink Christmas tree water, but never use potentially toxic water additives for Christmas trees, including aspirin, if you have pets in your home.

Talk to a veterinarian if your pet develops vomiting, diarrhea, or any other worrisome symptoms that may (or may not!) be caused by your Christmas tree.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical diagnosis, condition, or treatment options.

This article is provided by Cuteness—the go-to destination for passionate pet parents. Cuteness has answers to all of your health, training, and behavior questions – as well as the cutest, funniest, and most inspiring pet stories from all over the world.

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By Cuteness Team

Cuteness is the place for pet people. Whether you’re looking for adoption guides, in-fur-mation on your pet’s weird habits or showcases of pure pet cuteness, we’ve paw-sitively got it all. At Cuteness, we’re committed to working only with experts we’d trust with our own pets. We’ve done the legwork for you so you can focus your energy on loving and caring for your furry friends. We’re passionate about all things pet and fostering a community of pet lovers. Caring for pets isn’t always a walk in the park – but we’ve got you covered! Cuteness and Healthy Paws Pet Insurance had a content sharing agreement until 2021.

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jennifer coates
By Jennifer Coates, DVM

Dr. Jennifer Coates received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. After graduation, she worked for several years in the fields of conservation and animal welfare before pursuing her childhood dream—becoming a veterinarian. She graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and has worked as an Associate Veterinarian and Chief of Staff in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. Jennifer is also a prolific writer about all things related to veterinary medicine and the well-being of our animal friends. She has published several short stories and books, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian. She currently contributes to the Healthy Paws pet insurance blog as a freelance writer. In her free time, Jennifer enjoys life in Colorado with her family and friends… many of whom walk on four legs.

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