Q: We recently adopted Reena, a curious, lively, 6-month-old puppy. Please advise us about keeping her safe during her first Hanukkah, when our children will want her to participate in the festivities.
A: During the eight nights of Hanukkah — the Festival of Lights — which began Sunday evening, as you light your menorah's candles to celebrate the miracle that a one-day supply of sacred oil lasted eight days, keep Reena's nose and tail away from the flames. You don't want her to singe her fur or knock over a candle and start a fire.
Foods cooked in oil, such as latkes and doughnuts, are a favorite part of Hanukkah, but they should be shared only with human family members. Their high fat content can cause stomach upset, diarrhea and painful pancreatitis in dogs, and the onions in latkes are toxic to dogs.
So, remind your children that Reena can eat only her own puppy food.
In addition, prevent Reena from eating the chocolate gelt, which is also toxic to dogs. Let your children enjoy their chocolate coins away from their puppy.
Reena will probably want to join the fun when your children spin the dreidel. Don't let her get close enough to the spinning top to snap it up and swallow it, or she may need surgery to remove it from her intestines.
As your children open their gifts each evening, dispose of ribbon and string immediately to prevent your new family member from ingesting it. Consider giving your children a gift certificate to take Reena to puppy kindergarten and a training book geared to kids so they can play an active role in training their new puppy.
Q: When Cheddar, my 5-year-old cat, was shot yesterday, one of his legs was broken in multiple places. I can't afford to have his leg fixed, so my veterinarian recommends amputation. Can cats get around on only three legs?
A: You may be surprised to hear that they do very well, as long as those three legs function normally.
A study of more than 200 cats whose legs had been amputated -- most often due to fractures after being hit by cars -- reported that 89% of families felt their cats regained a normal quality of life after amputation, and 94% said they would make the same decision again.
In a smaller study, 97% of families said their cats resumed normal activities and enjoyed a good quality of life after leg amputation, and 87% would recommend the procedure for other cats in similar circumstances.
Since Cheddar will have only three legs, he won't be able to run as fast or climb a tree to elude dogs and other predators, so he should live indoors.
As you consider amputation, think about the alternatives. One is forcing Cheddar to suffer with the pain of a badly fractured leg for the rest of his life. The other option is euthanasia. My recommendation is amputation of the painful leg he can't use anyway.
If you're still uncertain, ask your veterinarian to introduce you to a couple of "tripod" cats and their families, who can tell you how well their cats manage on three legs.
Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at