How To Handle 4 Holiday Pet Emergencies

Yummy treats! Shiny ornaments! The holidays are fun for our tail-wagging friends, but they can be hazardous, too. Here's how to handle four common mishaps.

dog mess pet emergency

1. The dog ate the chocolate in our Christmas stockings!
What you've likely heard about dogs and chocolate is true: It's hard for pooches to metabolize theobromine, a compound in cocoa—and it can make them sick as a dog, or worse. If your pup eats a chocolate Santa, call the vet immediately and tell her how much the dog ate as well as the type. Dark and baking chocolate contain more theobromine. And it's not only chocolate: Onions and garlic contain a compound that can damage dogs' red blood cells if ingested in large amounts. Onion soup mix and garlic powder are potent sources, so be especially sure Fido can't find them.

Plus: See 7 more foods that are potentially dangerous for your pets »

2. Our house guest's pooch bit our pet!
The first thing you should do is carefully separate the aggressive animal from your dog or cat, then check to see if there are any puncture wounds (as opposed to mere scratches). A puncture is deeper than it is wide, making it a dangerous breeding ground for bacteria. It might bleed as well. If you notice any wound, take your animal to the vet right away.

3. Our cat swallowed tinsel!
Cats love the sparkly stuff, don't they? But those shiny little pieces might damage their intestinal tract and cause blockage. If you see glitter hanging from your cat's mouth or in the litter box, or if the cat is throwing up something other than a hair ball, get to a vet immediately. And toss your tinsel—the extra flair is not worth the health risk to your feline.

4. Table scraps made our dog barf!
When you're eating a holiday dinner, it's only natural to want to share. But all that rich food can upset your pooch's stomach. If the dog starts to vomit, restrict water and food and call the veterinarian. If the dog seems back to its perky self, the vet might tell you to reintroduce water. And if there's no more vomiting, you might be able to give the dog a bit of its food.

Sources: Cameron Jones, DVM, veterinarian at the Emergency and Critical Care Pet Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla.; and Lindsey Nielsen, DACVECC, veterinarian at the Sage Centers for Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care in Campbell, Calif.