Amtrak Steals Old Womans' Cat

Worldwide Fish and Bird Deaths Create Confusion

A rash of dead birds and fish found worldwide has caused some to believe that the apocalypse is upon us, but environmental experts claim it’s a natural phenomenon.

"Personally, I definitely do believe we're in the End of Days, and I believe there is a lot of evidence of that," Steve Wohlberg, an author and theologian who has written several books about the end of the world, told The New York Daily News.

"On the Earth today, there's a lot of violence, and a lot of corruption,” Wohlberg said. “Indicators are flashing that there's a storm ahead of us."

It started on New Year’s Eve in Arkansas, when 5,000 birds fell from the sky and hundreds of thousands of fish were found dead along the Arkansas River. More dead birds in Louisiana, Canada, Japan, Italy and Sweden while massive fish die-offs were reported in New Zealand, South Carolina and Maryland, where at least two million dead fish were discovered in the Chesapeake Bay.

Despite the apocalypse theories, environmental experts have said that the animals are dying of natural causes.

In Maryland, state environmental officials attributed the fish deaths to ongoing frigid temperatures and an overpopulation of the affected species, juvenile spot fish.

"Spot may have difficulty surviving in colder temperatures, and the species’ susceptibility to winter kills is well-documented," the Maryland Department of the Environment said in a statement. “A rapid drop in water temperatures apparently caused cold water stress. Surface water temperatures in the bay have reached about 0.5 degrees Celsius according to Md. Department of Natural Resources Bay Program monitoring data, which is the coldest December recording in 25 years of monitoring."

In Canada and Japan, environmentalists believe a deadly strain of the bird flu is the cause.

Arkansas officials are still trying to determine a definitive cause for that state’s fish kill, but have a theory as to why the birds died: blunt force trauma.

According to a report released by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, loud noises on New Year’s Eve caused the birds to flush from their roost and fly at unusually low altitudes, causing them to strike objects and die.

Kevin McGowan, an ornithologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology told The Washington Post that occurrences like this have happened before, but have flown under the radar.

"All birds die,” he said. “You rarely see them for several reasons. They’re usually alone. They’re often eaten by the thing that killed them, or they go to some sheltered place to die. You rarely see dead birds until they whack into your window."

Welcome Home, Sarbi, Trusty Dog of War
Steve Meacham -

Major General John Cantwell with Sarbi before her flight to Australia. Photo: Nick Moir

SHE has her own Facebook page, a dedicated entry on Wikipedia, and is known - like so many celebrities - just by her first name. Surely, it can't be long before Hollywood beckons?

The ''meet and greet'' photo call in Canberra yesterday was the first time Sarbi - Australia's very own ''hero dog'' - had been seen in public with her handler, Sergeant D (his identity cannot be revealed) since they were separated in a bloody ambush in Afghanistan in November 2008.

In the same battle SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson won the first Victoria Cross to be awarded to an Australian since 1969.

Advertisement: Story continues below For the next 14 months there was no sign of the missing ''Explosives Detection Dog''. According to one report, there was a contingency plan to rescue her if she turned up in Taliban hands.

Finally the eight-year-old black labrador was spotted by a US soldier walking alongside a local man. Soon she was being flown to her Australian base in Tarin Kowt.

Since then she has been the subject of political controversy and ludicrous conspiracy theories. Did the then prime minister Kevin Rudd delay news of Sarbi's happy reunion so he could announce it on Remembrance Day during a surprise trip to Afghanistan? Had the Defence Department reneged on a promise to return the dog to the Victorian family who said they had only lent her for five years? Had she been ''turned'' by the Taliban during those missing 14 months? Should a runaway be made a hero for essentially going absent without leave?

Such questions were put aside as Sarbi returned to training. The official line by Defence is that a rocket exploded near Sergeant D, and the buckle attaching Sarbi to his body armour came away. ''Sergeant D was injured and unable to retrieve her. Sarbi probably got a bit disoriented with all the noise.''

So what does the future hold? ''When Sergeant D returns to work, he'll make an assessment. She'll either return as a working dog in Australia or will be retired to live with Sergeant D for the rest of her days,'' the Defence spokesman said.

There is talk of Sarbi being awarded a medal and her portrait has been commissioned for the Australian War Memorial.

Bizarre Animals from Around the World
from The Huffington Post

An Indri lemur from Madagascar sends a mating and warning call echoing for miles through the forest.

Tips for Keeping Pets in Apartments
By Shannon Camara / For the ConcordMonitor

At the Concord-Merrimack County SPCA, we have successfully placed many homeless animals into all types of homes by matching the pet's personality and energy level with the right person or family. In 2010, of the more than 1,400 animals we cared for, only 3 percent were returned from adopters. We are so thankful for everyone in our community who has made adoption their first option when adding a pet to their lives, and for the patience that is sometimes required in finding the right match that will keep pets and their people happy ever after.

Sharing your home with a pet, when the home is an apartment or even a rented house, requires special considerations for both the pet and people involved. We do not require a fenced-in yard, but here are some tips to help you approach pet ownership in apartment-style living successfully:

• Research your lease and talk to your landlord about rules or guidelines regarding pet ownership. Some landlords prohibit having pets in their rental properties completely, while others do allow pets but with pet-specific rules as well as possibly a security deposit or "pet rent."

• Look for a dog to match your lifestyle and living environment. Rules from the landlord may define the size of the dog but not its activity level. Our adoption counselors can help you identify a match if you share the specifics of the living environment the dog will be in, as well as advise you on the exercise and activity requirements of the new pet you are about to take home.

• Success often is a matter of choosing the right dog. Size is not always the determining factor. Many small dogs such as terriers and beagles are high energy and need to move around and run, they are also notorious for barking, especially when left home alone. Do not choose a dog that "hates to be confined" or is "prone to cabin fever."

As with any pet in any living situation, exercise and training are key factors in the health happiness of your pet. Crate training is helpful for dogs that may be home for periods of time, and doggie day care is a great outlet for activity and socialization. Rotating toys and a walk everyday will help to reduce boredom and the destructive behavior that can result from it.

Remember: Having an apartment dog may take a little more work, time and consideration. But it is worth it! The Concord-Merrimack County SPCA is located at 130 Washington Penacook. If you are interested in learning more, please visit us at

Bizarre Animals from Around the World
from The Huffington Post

Another of Madagascar's amazing adaptations, this giraffe-necked weevil uses its long neck as a crane to build a nest for its eggs.

Texas A&M Expands Retirement Home For Pets
by Ron Hogan -

It’s one of the only facilities of its kind in the United States. When you die, you’ll get buried or cremated or shot into space, and it’s over. But what about those left behind? Not children, but pets. Well, if you have the money, you can check Fido or Fluffy into the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center, the world’s first retirement home for pets. The facility is on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. It’s home to 21 cats, 16 dogs, and a llama at the moment, but the facility is expanding to a staggering 11,000 feet and adding an array of bird-friendly features for its future residents.

“It’s been an evolution,” said Dr. Henry Presnal, the director of the facility and a vet for 27 years. ”Growing up on the farm, dogs would be outside and cats lived in the barn. To go from that as a kid, to a practicing veterinarian … I’d see big, grown, tough men cry when you’d give them a poor prognosis for their pet. To me, it was just unbelievable how things had changed. Animals have become children substitutes.”

Much like children, providing a future for your animals after you’re gone isn’t cheap. Stevenson Center requires a 30 to 39-year-old to make one of two payments, either a minimum $100,000 bequest or $10,000 up-front payment, to have pets placed in the center. The fee doubles for large animals. Still, the center has 359 animals from 20 states signed up to enter the facility. It’s a good bit of cash, but it’s worth it to keep your pet from becoming dinner.

Bizarre Animals from Around the World
from The Huffington Post

This leaf-tailed gecko, yet another denizen of the endangered evolutionary playground of Madagascar, does an astounding imitation of a dead leaf.

Weird Science Makes Obscene Gestures
 at Misbehaving Cats
By John Timmer -

Cats really are messing with your head: Something many of us have expected, but it's nice to see it confirmed. Seventy-seven weeks spent observing cats kept in a veterinary vivarium confirms that even healthy cats will start acting as if they've got digestive problems when faced with "unusual external events," or UEE in the paper's parlance. I suspect that can be translated into "anything the cat didn't like" in the vernacular, although the authors suggest examples like "changes in caretakers, vivarium routine, and lack of interaction with the investigator."

Although unexpected events caused many cats to cut down on food, that was hardly the only response: "Exposure to UEE significantly increased the RR [risk ratio] for defecation (RR, 9.8) and urination (1.6) outside the litter box." So there you have it—don't mess with your cat's routine.

Bizarre Animals from Around the World
from The Huffington Post

The first of our close human relatives to leave Africa and get as far as Indonesia encountered these fierce Komodo dragons. Wills was almost bitten by this one as it chased everybody off the dock on Rinca Island.

Tips for Trimming Your Pet’s Nails at Home
by Mike Cole -

Taking care of a dog or cat involves more than providing food, shelter, love and affection. Pets also have grooming needs that are paramount for helping them maintain both their looks and their health. One area that pet owners tend to overlook involves nail trimming. This is not something that requires a trip to the groomer. If you want to do it at home, rest assured, you can. If you want to make sure your pet’s nails are trimmed as often as they should be, it does pay to learn to do it yourself.

Why Should You Trim Their Nails?

Many pet owners think a monthly trip to the groomer is enough to keep their pet’s nails neatly trimmed. This is not the case and it can become a pricey monthly expense.

To do it yourself, remember that your dog or cat’s nails should be trimmed weekly. If your pet’s nails are not properly trimmed, a number of problems can arise. Some of the top reasons to learn the right techniques include:

Comfort – When a dog or cat’s claws are allowed to grow too long, they can get in the way of comfort. Particularly long claws can make it very difficult and even painful for your dog to walk. Health – Serious problems with walking can develop when a dog or cat is made to walk on claws that are too long for a lengthy period of time. Preventing Damage – When a dog or cat’s nails are too long they sometimes have a propensity to leave claw marks behind while playing. This may also happen when your pet jumps on the furniture or paws at the doors. Keeping them neat and trim can help on this front.

Selecting the Right Tools of the Trade

When it is time to trim your pet’s nails, it is important to have the right tools. This can help ensure a faster, cleaner job. There are two main options to consider:

Regular clippers – Most pet stores and veterinarian offices sell special clippers for cutting claws quickly and evenly. These work well for dogs that are generally calm when their nails are being trimmed. When used correctly, they get the job done right and they are fast to use. The problem is they are not easy to use. Filing tools – Some pet owners find that clippers scare their pets or make them uncomfortable. If this is the case, you might want to consider using a specialized filing tool. There are special grinders that are made for trimming canine and feline claws. In fact, this is often the best choice for those who want to make sure their pet’s nails are trimmed perfectly every time.

Getting the Job Done

Once you decide how you want to trim your pet’s claws, it is time to begin trimming your pet’s nails. There is a basic process to follow to make sure he is happy and safe during this process. To tackle the job right, try these tips:

Inspect before a trim – Claws to have blood vessels in them. You want to be careful not accidently cut this blood vessel. Before you pull out the trimmer, inspect claws to make sure they are long enough to warrant a cut. Pay attention to how much needs to be cut before you attempt using the trimmers. Hold the animal tight – Once you know how much needs to be cut, make sure to hold your dog down firmly, but comfortably. You do not want him to move when you are trimming. Cut away from the quick line – Place the clippers on the part of the claw that does not have a visible vein.

To help you and your pet along with the process, remember you can:

Go slowly – If your pet gets uncomfortable, stop. You do not have to trim every claw right away. Go for one paw and come back for more when you are both ready. Have an emergency kit ready – If you cut your pet’s quick, do not panic. An emergency kit including baby powder or even flour can be used. Apply the powder to the claw and grab a cloth to staunch the bleeding. It will stop shortly. If you are using a specialized grinder to trim nails, you should not have to worry about a bleeding problem. This is one of the benefits of using this type of device instead of regular clippers.

Keeping your pet happy and healthy does involve some maintenance, patience and hard work. In the end, it is all worth it because your pet should be happy and healthy since their nails are more comfortable. Keep up with your pet’s nails on a regular basis and your pet will be very comfortable.

Mike Cole is a freelance writer who writes about pet care and pet products, focusing primarily on specific pet care products such as Pedi Paws.

Bizarre Animals from Around the World
from The Huffington Post

This bear cuscus, which lives on the island of Sulawesi, is a relative of the kangaroos of Australia. It has finally met up with black macaque after 180 million years of separate evolution.

Hints from Heloise:
Simple Solutions for Cat Scratching

Dear Heloise: Is there anything we can do about our cat scratching our furniture? I enjoy reading your column. — Janie in Portland, Maine

Janie, cats do scratch! They do this to mark their territory, sharpen their claws and signal to other animals in the household just who is boss.

Don't scold the cat for scratching the couch or other wrong object (as if the cat would pay attention to you scolding it anyway!). Encourage it to scratch the correct object. Introduce your cat to a scratching post. They come in different sizes and textures. Make sure the scratching post is tall, because cats like to stretch while they scratch.

Draw the cat to the post with catnip and toys. Place them where the cat likes to hang out. You may need several around your home.

Keep the cat's nails clipped.

Keep a squirt bottle of water handy. If you catch the cat scratching the couch, one quick squirt will chase it off. Try not to make this your only training method, though; you don't want kitty to be afraid of you. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: I was sitting at a table with a candle less than 2 feet away. My short-haired cat jumped on the table and walked next to the candle, and the back of her tail was immediately ablaze. Without thought, I grasped her tail and ran my hand up it, putting out the flame. Neither of us was hurt, but had she noticed her flaming tail, she would have been running like a shot, probably under a piece of furniture. — A Pet Lover, via e-mail

Yikes! This sounds like something from a cartoon! — Heloise

Dear Readers: When raising a puppy or kitten, please check the animal's collar often. These little guys and gals grow so fast that they can quickly outgrow a collar. You should be able to comfortably slip two fingers under the collar. When your fingers no longer fit, it is time for a new neckband. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: I have two large and very hairy couch potatoes — my dogs, not my kids. We recently had the couches re-covered and wanted to break their habit. I laid down heavy-duty tinfoil across the couches when not in use. It did the trick, and no need for us to get involved in correcting! — A Reader, via e-mail

This also works to keep kitty off the furniture. — Heloise

Bizarre Animals from Around the World
from The Huffington Post

If you dive on a coral reef, you will encounter many creatures. They are all your relatives, but this pygmy seahorse may be one of the closest!

What's That Smell?
Tips on Treating and Preventing
Bad Dog Breath

Many people automatically think that dogs always have bad breath, but that's not the case! A build-up of odor-producing bacteria in your pup's mouth, lungs, or gut is what causes bad breath. If your dog persistently has bad breath, known as halitosis, it could mean that he needs better dental care or he has a problem in his gastrointestinal tract, liver, or kidneys. The American Kennel Club offers the following tips for treating and preventing canine halitosis.


- If your dog's breath has a strange smell, consult your veterinarian so the culprit of the bad breath can be determined.

- If your veterinarian finds that plaque is causing the unusual odor coming from his mouth, a professional cleaning might be in order.

- If his diet is the issue, changing his regular food can do the trick.

- If the underlying cause is a gastrointestinal, liver, or kidney problem, your vet will determine the proper course of action.


- Make sure to take him for regular checkups to make sure there are no medical issues that could cause bad breath, and so your veterinarian can monitor his teeth and breath.

- Brush your dog's teeth regularly and be sure to use canine toothpaste since human toothpaste can upset a dog's stomach.

- Feed him a high-quality, easily digestible food.

- Provide your dog with hard, safe chew toys. His teeth also get cleaned by the natural process of chewing.

For more information on responsible dog ownership, visit the AKC website at

Tips on Painting Pet or Animal Portraits

If creating family pets or even dog or cat paintings you can find a quantity of essential details to help make a person’s end product turn out the best way you meant.

1:The majority of People browse by way of left to right which also will apply to how we go through a painting. So create ones source of light forty five degrees to the left as well as fortyfive degrees up from your content.

2: Use only one size and type of brush as opposed to a selection of brushes. That way you’re able to know precisely exactly what this will do and the way to find the exact same results or outcomes regularly. It gets to be instinctive, in-born, as opposed to one thing you need to think of while using it.

3: Pick-up fresh paint with all the tip of the particular brush mainly, never dip the whole brush in the fresh paint so you colour nearly the ferrule (metallic area of the brush). For those who overload any brush with color, absorb the excess water by wrap a material or perhaps towel round the bristles near the ferrule, definitely not by cleaning the tip using a towel.

4: You’ll be able to erase graphite (pencil) by using red-colored and also blue watercolours, although not thru yellow-colored.

5: Allow papers to dry in between glazes. Should you not, you will find muddy effects because damp colors will certainly blend over the document.

6: Continually shade in the direction of growth, whether it’s fur on an creature or maybe a stalk on a shrub.

7: When you need to be able to properly shade a bird flying, one of the keys is exactly how right your wing is actually plus the direction on the wing’s sides.

8: Knowing the bones there are in the bird’s feet, and how many toes travel forwards or back, enables you to put its feet correctly in a position while painting the application.

9: When viewing an animal’s thighs and leg, remember to take into account exactly what you are looking at. Would it be an ankle, leg, or even hip? Thighs possess about three important joints: hip, knee, and also ankle. The actual knee a lot higher when compared with what you consider — at belly level — and also the ankle joint wherever you would expect a knee.

10: Get acquainted with the number of colours it is possible to make using 3 primaries simply by glazing. The fewer prime colours you utilize inside a piece of art, the better ‘harmonious’ the result.

To see some excellent examples of animal painting and pet portraits visit pet portaits or

A Dog's View On: Pet Licensing

Losing a cat or dog is a pet owner's worst nightmare

When I was walking my Boston Terrier, Chase, the other day, I was struggling with too many things in my hands—purse, cell phone, keys, a shopping bag—and dropped the most important thing: him and his leash. Being the eager dog he naturally is, Chase booked it down the street, like a caged lion set free. Luckily, a person making a delivery at the small convenience store at the end of my street heard me yelling and running after him, saw the loose dog, and scooped him up.

Chase was barely out of my sight, but when he took off, my heart sank. What if that man wasn't there to catch him? What if he took a turn down Henry Avenue and actually went out of my site? What would I have done next?

There is no worse feeling than knowing that your pet is out in the world somewhere, possibly cold, hungry, and alone, and neither you nor him/her are able to find your way back to each other. Losing a pet brings on a variety of feelings and emotions: guilt, loneliness, concern, sadness, distress and maybe worst of all, feeling like a bad pet owner.

You can't help but think—how could you have let this happen? Where could he be? Is he safe? Hungry? Why has no one turned him in? So many questions are left unanswered.

Thankfully in this technological day and age, there are preventative measures to take before losing a pet that will speed up the recovery process.

Licensing your pet may be one of the best options to have you and your pet's information readily available to the people who are most likely going to be your first phone call if you lose your pet.

According to the Pennsylvania SPCA, as of January last year, all Philadelphia County dog owners are required by law to license their pets. Not only does this law benefit pet owners if their pet is lost or stolen, but it also helps keep the stray population down through out the city.

According to, the Animal Care and Control Team in Philly is required to hold dogs with licenses in shelters for up to 5 days while trying to contact their owner. Dogs without a license may only be held for 48 hours. When licensing your pet, his/her information is kept safe in a pet recovery database.

Here's a tip: Take legendary game show host Bob Barker's advice and get your dog spayed or neutered—not only does it control the pet population (like he says), but it will get you a drastically reduced licensing rate. A one-year license fee for a neutered/spayed dog is $8, or a permanent license is $16. A one-year license fee for an unaltered dog is $16, and a permanent license is $40. However, in order to receive a "permanent" license, your dog must be microchipped or tattooed, and proof must be shown when licensing your pet.

Licensing can be done online at the Web site listed below, or in person at the Pennsylvania SPCA located at 350 Erie Ave., or at the ACCT Operations Center at 111 W. Hunting Park Ave.

Bizarre Tale of Dog Trained
 to Mock Hitler with Nazi Salute
by Ben Spencer -

Jackie the Mutt

HITLER'S henchmen were obsessed with a Finnish DOG trained to mock their deranged leader, newly discovered Nazi papers have revealed.

Dalmatian Jackie was taught by his mistress to raise his paw in a Nazi salute every time he heard the word "Hitler".

And when they heard about the cheeky pup, officials in three German government ministries spent hundreds of hours plotting his downfall.

Historians have found THIRTY official files about the dog, written as the Nazis planned their colossal invasion of Russia.

Expert Klaus Hillenbrand said: "It's completely bizarre. Just months before the invasion, they had nothing better to do than obsess about this dog."

Jackie was owned by Finnish businessman Tor Borg and his German wife Josefine, a well-known anti-Nazi.

He was reported by an informer to the German Consulate in Helsinki and summoned for interrogation.

Borg said he had never done anything "that could be seen as an insult against the Reich", but Germans told their masters in Berlin that he was lying.

Bureaucrats in the Nazi foreign office, economy ministry and even Hitler's Chancellery wrote meticulous reports on the mutt.

In March 1941, the foreign office asked the Chancellery if they wanted Borg put on trial.

But none of the witnesses against the pooch were prepared to testify and Jackie and his master were reprieved.

75-Year-Old Woman's
 Pet Cat Snatched by Amtrak
By Gabriela Resto-Montero - DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

Alexandra Kroutchinina, 75, who only speaks Russian, was forced to hand over her gray Tabby cat, Mimi, to Amtrak employees after they said she couldn't board with a pet. (Courtesy Margarita Stolbikova)

MIDTOWN — An elderly grandmother traveling home after a holiday visit with her family is reeling after Amtrak officials at Penn Station confiscated her beloved cat during a transfer between trains — then sent the animal home with someone else.

Alexandra Kroutchinina, 75, had made it halfway home to Montreal, Canada after bringing her gray Tabby "Mimi" with her on a visit to relatives in North Carolina on Dec. 15 when Amtrak officials at Penn Station barred her from boarding the second leg of her trip home on the grounds that only service animals were allowed aboard, she said.

"They took the documents and the cage with the cat, asked the cat's name and let me take the train," Kroutchinina, whose primary language is Russian, wrote in an e-mail to DNAinfo. "Only on the train I realized that I might never see my cat again."

Amtrak officials confirmed they took the cat away from Kroutchinina, citing their no-pets policy, but claimed the elderly woman turned over her 1-year-old feline willingly.

Kroutchinina's relatives say Amtrak officials told them repeatedly that Mimi was sent to an animal shelter, but an Amtrak official told DNAinfo Thursday that staffers actually gave it to a private individual who lives on Long Island who is now taking care of the cat. They did not identify the individual.

"When the pet was handed over to Amtrak personnel by the passenger, it was taken to a home on Long Island, where it is being cared for in a loving environment," said Cliff Cole, a spokesman for Amtrak.

Cole defended Amtrak's actions, saying staffers acted "in accordance with Amtrak policy." He said he could not comment "on whether or not the pet was actually on-board the first leg of her (Kroutchinina's) travels."

He did not comment on why Amtrak staff told Kroutchinina's family that the cat was taken to a shelter when it was taken by a private individual.

Kroutchinina's granddaughter, Margarita Stolbikova, who lives in North Carolina, said she has been frantically calling and emailing Amtrak ever since Mimi was taken on Dec. 15 in an attempt to recover the cat.

She said an Amtrak staffer by the name of Anne initially told her she had until 3 p.m. on Dec. 15, an hour after the cat was taken, to pick Mimi up before she would be handed over to Animal Care and Control, the city's animal shelter.

But Animal Care and Control had no record of an exchange, she said.

"The poor and terrified woman was forced to abandon her cat without having been even given a chance to figure out what action to take. The Amtrak staff didn’t even have the courtesy to bother and provide her with a phone to call her English speaking daughter for help," Stolbikova said.

"Ignoring the fact that the staff was excessively rude and condescending during the whole ordeal, it is obvious that these Amtrak representatives were responsible for the escalation of this event as they (let) Alexandra board and travel in the first train without incident."

When Stolbikova learned about Mimi's true whereabouts, she was dumbfounded.

"We spent whole Christmas and New Year vacation trying to locate Mimi," she said. "Obviously, we failed."
Stolbikova added that she plans to file a letter of complaint with the Amtrak board of directors about the way her staff misled her about the cat.

"Alexandra is still in shock," Stolbikova said. "They forcefully took away a dear pet from an innocent elderly lady. She was ... brought to tears."

***UPDATE*** Amtrak has returned Alexandra's cat to her. A happy ending!

Bizarre Animals from Around the World
from The Huffington Post

The swollen tummy of this proboscis monkey from Borneo is filled with fermenting leaves. These monkeys eat almost nothing else.

How to Keep Your Pet Safe in Winter
By Megan Spees/

Animals that live outside should be kept in a sheltered area away from the elements

Winter is difficult for everyone — especially our four-legged friends. When temperatures drop below freezing, this time of year can be life-threatening to pets that aren’t prepared to brave the cold.

Certain breeds, especially those with long, thick coats, can tolerate winter weather better than others.

“Animals that are born and bred for those conditions (such as Huskies) will be fine,” said Dr. Ralph Robinson of Keokuk Veterinary Hospital.

Puppies, kittens, older pets and breeds with smooth, short coats are at the greatest risk of suffering in the cold.

Animals that live outside should be kept in a sheltered area away from the elements. According to the Humane Society of the United States, a dog that spends most of its time outdoors “must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat.” The floor should be elevated several inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The doghouse should be facing away from the wind and the doorway should be draped with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

Outdoor pets’ water should either be kept in a heated bowl (which should kick on automatically at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit) or changed several times a day so it won’t freeze. Robinson said an animal will drink “substantially more” water if it is kept at a temperature above freezing.

Outdoor pets also should be fed more often during the winter to increase their caloric intake. Staying warm expends more energy.

The HSUS suggests using plastic bowls for food and water — an animal’s tongue can stick and freeze to cold metal.

Pets that need to come in out of the cold may exhibit certain behaviors, including decreased appetite and activity level, reluctance to come out of a sheltered area, and depression.

“If a dog is truly not acting like itself, there’s something wrong,” said Dr. Tom Hutchcroft, a veterinarian at Krichel Animal Hospital in Keokuk.

Shelter is important, but “when we reach those real extreme temperatures, even a well-insulated doghouse may not be enough,” Hutchcroft added. If temperatures drop too low, an outdoor pet should be kept in a garage if available.

“Most garages, if they’re sealed up, will be warm enough (for the animal),” Hutchcroft said.

Temperatures in the single digits can be all the more dangerous when wind chill is added to the mix. In those conditions, Hutchcroft advises pet owners either shorten their routine walks or skip the walks altogether. At any time of year, pets should be kept on a 4- to 6-foot-long leash.

Going for a walk on an icy day can pose a hazard to animals as well as humans, not only because of the risk of falling. Animals can cut their paw pads on ice and pick up harmful chemicals from rock salt. Those chemicals usually wind up being digested later when pets lick their paws.

Hutchcroft suggested that pet owners keep a towel by the door and wipe off their dogs’ feet when they return from a walk.

Robinson added that paws should be thoroughly rinsed to remove rock salt chemicals.

Although some pets may not take to the idea, boots are another option. They can be purchased from most pet supply stores. Hutchcroft said many pets actually like having their paws covered once they get used to wearing boots.

Additionally, dog sweaters and coats are more than just cute accessories — they can help maintain body heat. A dog with short, smooth fur may appreciate suiting up for a winter walk.

For more winter pet safety tips, consult a local veterinarian. or go to www.humanesociety.

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