Animal expert Marc Morrone offers advice for protecting your pets from holiday hazards.
Credit: Laura Moss

The holidays are the busiest time of year for 24-hour emergency veterinary hospitals, and one of the main reasons is that there are new pet owners who received their pet as a gift and don't know how to handle certain situations. Also, many people find themselves stranded if their pet gets sick at holiday time since their own vet may not be in the office or can't be reached. So, it's good to know the possible risks you may encounter beforehand.


The problem is two-fold: The ornament could fall, the glass shatter, and the animal step on it or swallow it. So the symptom could be bleeding paws or blood near the mouth. If your cat or dog steps on or swallows a shard, take the animal to the vet or mold cotton balls soaked in water into the shape of a pill and push it to the back of the pet's throat to induce swallowing. Feed the pet high-fiber bread, and for the next three to four days keep a vigilant watch.


Tinsel is very attractive to cats since they love shiny objects. If tinsel falls on the floor, or the cat reaches for it and swallows it, the animal will have difficulty breathing and may start gagging. If your pet swallows tinsel, feed it white bread soaked in half and half or heavy cream to surround the foreign bodies, which should enable the animal to pass it in its stool. Of course, see a vet if you suspect a bigger problem.

Outlets and Wires

Open outlets are always a problem, and you should have covers on them to protect children and pets. But the additional element with pets is that they may chew on the electrical wires and get shocked.Tape the cords to the floor with duct tape, or run them through PVC pipes. Make sure to unplug the Christmas lights on your way out, and cover open outlets with a guard.


If your dog is choking, do not induce vomiting. Just watch your pet for signs of distress and take him to a vet. It's important not to induce vomiting because it would do more damage coming up then if it just comes out on its own.


Colorful foil can cut the pet's mouth or pose a choking hazard. Chocolate is bad for dogs; it could cause gastrointestinal issues. Be sure to keep your candy in candy dishes that are not accessible to your climbing cats. Cats and ferrets love chewing on Styrofoam, another choking hazard. Like with the tinsel, try feeding your pet white bread soaked in half and half, and hopefully he'll pass it in his stool. If your pets eat these items, call your vet.

Christmas Tree

Chemicals in the tree water can pose a threat. If the tree stand looks like a pet's water dish, cats and dogs will be attracted to it. No pet will die from drinking the water but they most likely will vomit. It's better to be proactive rather than reactive. Keep your tree apron secure around the bottom of the tree so your pet cannot get to the water.


If you allow your birds to fly freely around your home, open flames are an issue. Make sure they're not flying around while candles are lit. Also, if you have active animals, make sure they can't tip over your candles.


If you encounter an animal emergency, you can call 911 or the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435. Remember: When in doubt, call the proper authorities.

This article is part of the Pet 'Net Safety Event! Read More Articles

Special Thanks

Marc Morrone, pet expert

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
May 1, 2009
I left my undecorated tree up for 2 weeks to no avail. My cat, a rescue with an amputated R front leg loves to play with tree decorations. We finally put up 3 n n n n n n child gate guardsn n n n n n around the tree and placed the tree on a 2-foot pedestal. Next year we will put up felt panels with Christmas scenes to prevent him from reaching into the bars. p.s. My cat is a rescue who was caught in a trap. He is a most loving cat and forever grateful for his home. My last cat was blind, a rescue as well.