Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cold Kills: Take precautions to keep your pets safe

Much of the country is getting slammed with bone-chilling weather right now, and Kentucky is getting ready to take its share of the damage in the next two days.  It seems like people are more aware of the dangers posed by extreme heat than they are of those posed by extreme cold, so we're hoping this will serve as a reminder that cold kills - and hopefully as a helpful guide to keep your pets safe during these frigid days.

1. Bring pets inside. 
The assumption that pets (and cats in particular) are able to fend for themselves outdoors, regardless of climate, can be a fatal one.  We've seen plenty of frostbitten pets come through our doors, which is bad enough...but those are the lucky ones that survive.  We have already heard reports of pets freezing to death outdoors earlier this week, and it's going to be even colder over the next few days; take into account wind chill from gusts up to 40mph and the threat of hypothermia is severe.

If you do not normally keep your pets indoors, today is the day to find a compromise.  A basement, utility room, tack room, or garage will do - any kind of protection from wind, ice, and drifting snow helps.

2. If you cannot bring animals in (feral cats, for instance), provide extra protection for them.
For free-roaming cats, a DIY kitty shelter is easy and affordable; these cost about $35 to make and may hold up to 6 cozy cats when the weather is bad.

Move dog houses onto porches or close to buildings, and provide extra bedding; straw helps conserve heat and stays dry.  Break the wind in any way you can.  Make sure food and water are checked hourly to ensure they are not frozen - that will happen quickly in sub-zero temperatures.

3. Be smart about outdoor exercise.
Don't go off-leash, especially in a snow storm; dogs can lose a scent easily in cold and blustery weather, and are likely to get lost.  The ASPCA reports that more dogs are lost during winter than any other season.  Just in case, make sure your dog is wearing current ID tags.

Wipe down paws, legs, and bellies when you come in from a walk.  Ice and snow can pack between toe pads and cause frostbite, and trekking through deicers can leave toxic residue on paws and fur.

Take it easy; as with hot weather exercise, you need to know your dog's limits and respect them.  Opt for more frequent, shorter bouts of exercise instead of a couple of long romps.  If your dog maintains a heavy outdoor activity schedule even in winter, bump up his protein intake to keep his body and coat in good shape. 

4. Dress to impress.
Nothing wrong with equipping your pet with a sweater, coat, or even booties before heading out on a cold day.  Plus, it's super cute, even (especially?!) on big dogs.  This is particularly important for puppies and elderly dogs, small dogs, and short-coated dogs, as they are naturally less equipped to handle the cold.

5. Report any lost or found pets immediately.
When it's -5 degrees outside, every minute matters.  If you have lost or found a pet, contact your local animal control agency immediately - do not wait.  In Woodford County, that number is 859.879.0598.  If you have found a pet, and are capable of keeping it indoors until help arrives, please do so.  You may save a life. 

6. A car is not a safe place for a pet.
We all know that cars act like little greenhouses in the summer, but did you know that they also act like little refrigerators in the winter?  A car is not a safe place for your pet; if you cannot take them with you wherever you're going, leave them at home. 

7. Check your microchip registration. 
If you haven't double-checked your pet's microchip registration in a while, take a minute to do it today.  In the event that your pet does become lost, a microchip with a current address and phone number registered to it is the fastest, surest way to get your pet home again - and, again, minutes can matter in sub-zero temps.

8. Get help when you need it.
If your pet is hypothermic, frostbitten, or in any other way in need of vet care, get it.  Don't wait.  Know how to get in touch with your regular vet, and look up the contact info for an emergency vet near you today; hopefully you won't need it, but if you do, you'll be ready.  Many vet clinics offer after-hours emergency care for established clients - find out if yours is one of them.

9. Now is the time for marathon snuggling.
We'll end on a lighter note, and just remind you that while you keep your pets warm, they can keep you warm, too!  Nothing is cozier than a lap full of cats or a dog tucked in beside you in bed.  Think of this weather as the perfect time to hone your snuggling technique.  

Stay safe and stay warm, Kentucky friends!  Take care of each other, and take care of your furry friends, too.  We could all use a little extra warmth this week.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A home for the holidays

A great reputation can be both a blessing and a curse.  

Ours is a tough job to do, but at Woodford Humane Society we work hard to do it right.  Our placement rate is between 90 and 95% annually, and we place no age or breed restrictions on the pets that come through our doors.  Nobody has a time limit on their stay, either; as long as we can keep a pet happy and healthy, it can wait with us for as long as it takes for the right family to walk through the door.  With the help of the VCA Woodford Animal Hospital, we provide exceptional veterinary care; with the help of staff, supporters, and volunteers, we provide exceptional daily care and love.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.  

But there’s a catch.  The knowledge that a pet will be safe with us makes us the destination of choice for people wanting to give up a pet, but that very same knowledge makes many potential adopters turn elsewhere to choose a pet that may not be so safe.  When those two things collide, we find ourselves in a perfect storm of high intake numbers and sluggish adoptions.  

In a perfect world, we could soldier on regardless of all obstacles, but in reality, there are very real limits on the space and resources we have to work with.  We are currently housing twice as many animals as our facility was built to hold, and many of them have waited a long time for their new homes.  25 of our pets have been homeless for more than a year; another 30 have been waiting for more than six months.  We have puppies and kittens, and seniors up to 14 years old.  We have every size, shape, and color, and every personality type from shy to spunky.  They all need homes as soon as possible, even though we don’t give them any deadlines to meet.  

For most of us, the holidays are a time for family; maybe that’s what brings this issue into sharper focus this time of year.  The hundreds of pets in our care don’t have families to spend the holidays with, but they could – they just need someone to adopt.  If you’ve been thinking of adding a furry friend to your family this holiday season, please make adoption your only option and find your new family member with us.  When you choose to adopt, you change the world for that pet, and you open up a temporary home for the next pet waiting in line.  When we, as a community, choose to adopt, we make it possible for organizations like Woodford Humane to continue providing top notch care – to continue placing 95% of our pets in great homes, and never setting time limits.  We wouldn’t have it any other way, but we can’t do it alone.  

So here’s our holiday wish, on behalf of our staff, volunteers, supporters, and pets present and future: a busy adoption center through December and beyond, and the gift of a home for the holidays – and forever – for our patient pets.  You can meet them at our adoption center 7 days a week at noon, or get in touch with us at 859.873.5491 or Or, browse our online pet listing here before you visit.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

From the Sun: Deck the halls (but not with holly)

From the November 21st edition of the Woodford Sun

Deck the halls (but not with holly), and other tips for pet-safe holiday decor
By Beth Oleson, Education Coordinator

Romy (adoptable) knows what's up
Ahh, the holidays – a time of year for tons of food, decorations, gifts, and good company…and, if you have pets, a time for obsessively protecting your food, decorations, and gifts (and sometimes your company, if you have pets like mine) from furry interference.  Defending your winter wonderland from your pets is just as important for them as it is for the holiday ambiance, though; here are some common holiday hazards and how to avoid them.  

If you’re a “deck the halls” kind of a person, go right ahead and get your deck on – just leave the holly outside.  Poinsettias tend to get a bad rap as a holiday favorite that’s dangerous to pets, but they’re actually not a danger to pets or people; a pet that eats poinsettia leaves in bulk will get an upset stomach, but won’t be at risk for more serious complications.  The same can’t be said for those boughs of holly or sprigs of mistletoe, which can cause serious cardiovascular and nervous system impairment if nibbled by a pet.  If you just can’t have holidays without mistletoe and holly, hit up a craft store and buy the artificial kind instead of the real thing.

In a season of much gift-wrapping and tree-decorating, ribbon and tinsel are in abundance.  These things are downright irresistible for many pets, and unfortunately they’re also downright dangerous.  When swallowed, long strings can become entangled in the twists and turns of a pet’s intestines and cause a range of problems, from a perforated bowel to an intestinal blockage.  If you have pets, avoid tinsel altogether, and don’t add ribbons to your gifts until the very last minute.  In the event that even your best laid plans go astray, and you see your pet with ribbon sticking out of its mouth or out of its…well, out of the other end, do NOT under any circumstances pull on the ribbon.  You do not know how much ribbon is already inside your pet and tugging from one end or the other can effectively scissor your pet’s intestines.  Get to the vet and let the professionals work it out.  

Nothing sets a magical holiday mood like natural candle light, and nothing ruins the magical holiday mood like accidentally setting your pet or your house on fire.  If candles are a big part of your holiday tradition, keep them well out of reach and don’t ever leave them unattended; this is good advice for handling candles in general, but especially important when you have inquisitive, flammable animals who might rub against them, jump over them, swat them, sniff them a little too closely, or knock them down.  Two safer alternatives are candle warmers (if you love scented candles) and LED candles (if you love the way candles look).  

Got holiday questions?  We’ve got holiday answers, so jingle our bell!  You can reach us at 859.873.5491 or  If you want to give a pet-friendly holiday a try and all you're missing is a pet, well, 'tis the season to adopt a new best friend!  We have hundreds of dogs, puppies, cats, kittens, bunnies, and guinea pigs looking for a home to call their own this holiday season.

Monday, September 23, 2013

From the Sun: Pet obesity is a big, fat problem

Adapted from the August 22nd edition of the Woodford Sun

Pet obesity is a big, fat problem
By Beth Oleson, Education Coordinator

Often overheard at the adoption center: “Ohh, I just LOVE fat cats!”  That phrase is such a mixed bag for us.  We always have overweight pets who need homes, and it’s nice to know that people are interested in them.  But pet obesity is a huge problem, and the thought that someone might take an overweight pet home and not make an effort to get it healthy - or worse, take a healthy pet home and deliberately let it become obese - is cringe-worthy.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53% of dogs and 55% of cats in American homes are overweight or obese.  Overweight pets suffer from severe arthritis (particularly declawed cats, whose joint alignment is already compromised), skin infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney disease.  Even their cancer risk is high compared to pets of healthy weight.  An overweight pet’s lifespan is reduced by an average of 2.5 years; their quality of life, as they struggle through the pain of all of the aforementioned medical complications, is reduced the moment we allow them to become overweight.  Intentionally or not, it is unkind to cause or perpetuate a painful lifestyle for your pet, and obesity is no exception.

Katie the cockapoo was 17lbs overweight

The driver of pet weight problems is – surprise! – diet and exercise.  We once took in a cocker spaniel/miniature poodle mix that weighed 42lbs; “healthy” for her body structure was 25lbs.  When asked what she was fed, the owner replied that the dog got whatever she wanted – mostly cheeseburgers.  An over-fed pet is not a well-fed pet, nor is a pet that is allowed to eat junk food, whether that’s low-quality, grain-filled kibble or the cheeseburger off your plate.  Get in touch and we’ll be happy to provide you with our guide to pet nutrition so that you can make good choices at the pet store; once you know how to read an ingredients list, it’s easy to do.   

Exercise is the other half of the equation, and it can’t be ignored – diet alone is often not enough to take off those extra pounds.  It’s up to us to take an active role in our pets’ exercise routines; just putting them out in the yard does not count.  Play fetch, take longer walks, have a play date, take a hike – there are lots of options.  As a rule of thumb, you should spend at least an hour a day exercising your dog.  For cats, exercise is all about toys; but again, just having toys around the house does not count.  Keep an arsenal of toys that move, bounce, or crinkle, toys that you wave, throw, or roll, and spend at least half an hour a day engaging your cat in the hunt.
is the other half of the equation, and it can’t be ignored – diet alone is often not enough to take off those extra pounds.

If your veterinarian tells you that your pet is overweight, don’t be offended; see it as a call to action to help your live a longer, happier life.  Open a dialog about healthier choices, make some changes, and help your pet slim down.  You’ll be happy you did.  Get in touch with us at 859.873.5491 or if you need some suggestions - we're here to help.

Oh, and in case you're wondering how we do our part to help out the chunky pets in our care, never fear - we're all over it!  Our largest cat colony room is a fitness club for overweight cats; they're on a strict diet and have space, toys, shelves, and furniture to get them moving...and, of course, a core of awesome volunteers to keep them on their toes.  Overweight dogs are a little less common around here, but they get the same treatment: strict diets, and lots of exercise with staff and volunteers.  We've seen great results, but it's up to the adopters to keep the ball rolling. 
Hilda (top) and Tavia (bottom) have slimmed down in our kitty fitness camp

Sunday, September 15, 2013

From the Sun: Cleaning up after your pet

From the August 8th edition of the Woodford Sun

Cleaning up after your pet
By Beth Oleson, Education Coordinator

One of the first things you learn as a pet owner is that accidents happen.  Puppies, kittens, dogs, cats…nobody’s perfect (although some are a little closer than others).  Eventually, you just have to reach that state of zen where you can take a deep breath, remind yourself that things are just things, clean up, and move on.  After all, who could stay mad at those cute faces? 

Cleaning up after a pet can be trickier than it seems, though, and it’s all because of those sensitive noses.  Pet use urine to mark territory, and their noses are fine-tuned urine-detecting machines – much more so than ours are.  That means that, if urine has been somewhere – in the litter box, or on a potty pad, or on the carpet – your pet knows it, and it’s a big deal.  It’s usually a big enough deal that your pet, or other pets in the house, will want to “go” there again and again, which is fine if it’s in the litter box or on a potty pad…but less fine if it’s on your carpet, bed, or furniture.  

Busting the chain reaction of accidents requires you to stop thinking about what you can smell, and start thinking about what your pets can smell.  This is why cleaners that mask odors and add perfumes don’t typically succeed when it comes to pet stains; you might think your carpet smells like flowers, but your pet thinks your carpet smells like flowers…and pee.  And that’s an invitation.  What you need instead is a cleaner that gets rid of urine by physically breaking it down instead of covering it up.  Look for an enzyme- or enzyme-and bacteria-based cleaner like Nature’s Miracle or Unique Pet Odor and Stain Remover; the enzymes break the urine molecules down and the bacteria clean up what’s left over, effectively removing the urine – and the urine smell – from your home.  Another great thing about products like these is that they’re safe; you’re not putting harsh, toxic chemicals into your home where they could harm your pet.

Finding a great, effective pet stain cleaner isn’t the solution to all potty problems.  For that, you have to go to the source: a strict house training routine and a vet visit to make sure there’s not a physical problem – like a urinary tract infection or diabetes - causing trouble for your pet.  But it sure helps keep things on track when your pet is in the “accidents” stage.  If you can help your pet learn by removing those smelly distractions, you might do something much more important than save your carpet; you might save your pet from winding up homeless down the road.  Every year, dozens of pets are surrendered when their person’s patience for pee runs out; how many of those might have been prevented with the right tools and techniques to correct the problem?  Our goal, first and foremost, is always to keep a pet in a good home if it has one, and we hope this info can help that happen.