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Consumer Q's: Pet obesity and winter-resilient aloe varieties
waloe plant
Soap aloe is usually not considered one of the most cold-hardy aloes, but is relatively hardy and easy to grow. - photo by ARTY SCHRONCE/special

    Question: I just heard a news story that many dogs and cats are overweight, but the owner doesn’t realize it. Is this true? I have a big breed of dog, and I think he is just naturally large.
    Answer: The eighth annual survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 58 percent of cats and 53 percent of dogs in the U.S. were overweight in 2014. The study also found a significant “fat pet gap,” in which 90 percent of owners of overweight cats and 95 percent of owners of overweight dogs incorrectly identified their pet as a normal weight.
    As in humans, the main causes for obesity in pets are overeating and lack of exercise. Contact your veterinarian to see if your pet is overweight and what you need to do to get it back to the desired weight. The course of action may involve training you and your family to refrain from feeding snacks, people food or too many treats to the animal. It could also include walking your dog or exercising with it a few more minutes every day, activities that will probably benefit both dog and owner, physically and emotionally. There are also activities and things like scratching posts, cat trees and laser pointers that may get your cat moving.
    Pet owners need to understand an overweight dog or cat is not a healthy pet. Obesity can lead to numerous diseases and health issues. Preventing obesity will help your pet lead a longer, happier life.
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    Q: Are there any aloes that are winter-hardy in Georgia?
    A: Most aloes cannot survive our low temperatures and our wet conditions during winter. However, there are a few species that are worth trying outdoors, especially in south and coastal Georgia. The key with all of them is planting them in spots protected from blasts of cold winds and providing excellent drainage. As a general rule, they cannot tolerate winter wetness.
    Some species can survive into the 20s or even into the teens if conditions are right. You may consider growing them in pots and moving them indoors when we have bouts of low temperatures, especially for extended periods. There is a big difference between surviving 15 F for one hour with the temperatures quickly rising back above freezing, versus surviving temperatures well below freezing for a day or more.
    South and coastal Georgia gardeners will have more success than those in central or north Georgia, and gardeners in the mountains should probably think of aloes only as houseplants.
    Here are a few of the hardier species you may want to investigate and experiment with: spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla), candelabra aloe or tree aloe (Aloe arborescens), guinea-fowl aloe or lace aloe (Aloe aristata), hardy aloe (Aloe striatula), Boyle’s grass aloe (Aloe boylei), hedgehog aloe (Aloe humilis), Cooper’s grass aloe (Aloe cooperi), fence aloe (Aloe tenuior), soap aloe (Aloe maculata, synonym Aloe saponaria), dwarf soap aloe (Aloe grandidentata) and coral aloe (Aloe striata). All of these are not equally cold hardy or readily available. If you enjoy succulents, pushing the hardiness envelope or trying something different, give one or more of these a try.
    We have grown Aloe maculata for more than 10 years in Atlanta in a terra-cotta pot, setting it inside only when temperatures dip into the low 20s. It is sometimes sold as Aloe saponaria and is one of the most commonly available aloes other than Aloe vera.

    If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce ( or visit the department’s website at 

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