Dear Daisy Dog: Our dogs, Stiller and Meara, love french fries, so we think they'd enjoy a latke for Hanukkah. May we give each of them one?

Daisy responds: Latkes, potato pancakes fried in oil, aren't good for us dogs, but then again, neither are french fries. So please don't feed them to Stiller and Meara.

Hanukkah celebrates the miracle that one night's supply of purified, sacramental oil kept the lights of the rededicated Temple burning for eight nights. You humans observe this victory of light over darkness with many traditions, one of which is to eat foods prepared in oil, including potato or cheese latkes and jam-filled donuts called sufganiyot.

As delicious as they are, these and other high-fat meals can cause vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis in us dogs. Not only is pancreatitis painful, but it can damage the cells within the pancreas that produce hormones essential to life.

The pancreas produces insulin, which drives sugar from the bloodstream into the body's cells to make energy. Without insulin, we develop diabetes and require twice-daily insulin injections, which Stiller and Meara won't think is so funny.

Damage to the pancreas also can block production of digestive enzymes. If this occurs, your dogs will need enzymes with each meal.

This Hanukkah, give Stiller and Meara new toys, perhaps doggy dreidels and gelt chew treats. But please don't give them people food.


Dear Christopher Cat: We just welcomed two new kittens, Jingle and Elf, into our family. They love to play with plants, so I need to know about cat-safe Christmas plants. What else should we do to keep our new family members safe?

Christopher responds: Most Christmas plants are reasonably safe. If Jingle and Elf eat a bit of poinsettia, Christmas cactus or holly, they may lose their appetite and energy, or even develop vomiting or diarrhea, but these problems usually subside quickly without treatment.

Ingestion of amaryllis can cause similar clinical signs as well as abdominal pain and tremors.

The toxicity of mistletoe, a parasitic vine, is influenced by the plant on which it was growing, so any berries that drop can cause substantial trouble. Play it safe by buying the artificial variety.

Lilies, though not traditional Christmas plants, are often included in flower arrangements and are highly toxic to cats. Even a tiny bit of leaf, flower or pollen can cause life-threatening kidney failure.

Your Christmas tree poses additional risks. Since many kittens climb Christmas trees, you should secure yours to a nearby window frame or wall to prevent it from toppling. Cover the tree stand so your kittens won't drink water tainted by preservatives, tree oil and bacteria.

Decorate with unbreakable ornaments, but not tinsel or ribbon, as almost every cat will eat them and then develop a life-threatening intestinal obstruction. If Jingle and Elf chew the electrical wires, hide them inside a plastic shower rod cover.

Finally, remember to tuck a few cat toys under the tree.

Ask the Vet's Pets appears Friday in the print edition of the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices companion animal medicine. Contact them at