Winter poses a threat to pets

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Carla McCann
Saturday, December 29, 2007

Every winter, the Rock County Humane Society responds to calls about pets being left outside without adequate shelter, fresh water or nutritious food.

As director of the Rock County Humane Society, Chris Konetski has seen more than her share of animals suffering the perils of winter, she said.

“I’m never comfortable with a smooth-haired dog living outside,” Konetski said. “And cats never belong outside in this weather. They need all of the same things dogs do to stay warm and well.”

Often what happens to cats is that in seeking warmth, they end up under the hood of a car. They are injured severely or killed when the car is started, Konetski said.

“I can’t begin to tell you how many cats we’ve taken out of car engines,” Konetski said.

Recently, a young, adult cat was brought to the shelter after his foot was caught in a fan belt, Konetski said.

He lost that foot, she said.

Finding ways to provide for the well-being of outside animals during the winter often is challenging, she said.

When those cases appear, Konetski calls in the reserves.

“Rock County is blessed with great veterinarians who offer great advice,” she said.

Recently, Konetski teamed up with a Janesville veterinarian to find a solution for an outdoor dog that had inadequate shelter from the cold.

“He (the veterinarian) is a problem solver on many occasions,” Konetski said. “We kind of picked his brain.”

It wasn’t that the family didn’t care about the dog, they just didn’t know how to care for it, she said.

The cold, however, isn’t the only concern for pets this time of year.

They also are at risk of being poisoned by eating plants, chocolate and licking antifreeze spills from the ground, Konetski said.

To protect pets during the winter, Konetski suggests owners keep these precautions in mind. Pets need:

n Adequate shelters.

Although the popular igloos are appropriate wind blocks, it is critical to have some type of bedding on the floor.

“Straw is a wonderful insulator,” Konetski said.

The society also has chunks of fleece material, which were donated by a local fabric mill, available to pet owners on request.

“We use it in all of our cages,” Konetski said. “We want to help animals living outside.”

Blankets and towels hold moisture, while the fleece doesn’t, she said.

Whether a dog house is an igloo or a wooden structure, it’s also important that it is large enough for the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but not too large that it doesn’t hold his or her body heat.

Their bodies must be able to heat the space, Konetski said.

Dog houses also should be faced away from the north and west winds, raised a few feet off the ground and have a flap at the entrance for additional protection from winds and blowing snow.

n Fresh and unfrozen water.

Plastic heated water dishes are priced reasonably and the solution for offering fresh water.

On its Web site, The Humane Society of the United States recommends pet owners use plastic dishes for their outdoor pets, rather than metal.

A dog’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

n Nutritious food.

Pets spending much time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy.

Local veterinarians can be good resources in helping select the right foods to meet the need, Konetski said.

n Protection from other threats to animals this time of year, including toxic plants and holiday decorations.

A list of poisonous plants include:

Poinsettia leaves and stems.


Mistletoe, especially berries.

Dangerous decorations include:

Tinsel, which can block intestines if swallowed.

Dangerous foods for dogs include:

Even small amounts of alcohol and chocolate are toxic for dogs.

Last updated: 10:08 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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