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Wildfire Prevention and Safety Tips

Forests cover about a third of all the land on Earth, including about 700 million acres in the US alone. They’re places of unmatched beauty, and a treasure trove of natural resources that can be used for food, medicine, and building materials.

However, manmade wildfires ravage these forests all too often, as the result of negligence or arson. While some fire is good, unplanned fires can make it difficult for a forest to recover, often taking dozens of years for them to regain some of their former glory. As such, wildfire prevention is something that we all need to take seriously, both for the good of the environment, and the safety of those who might get caught up in the blaze.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the famous line quoted by Smokey the Bear: “Only you can prevent forest fires.” The hidden messaging in this phrase would indicate that most wildfires are started by people, which is why they’re the only ones who can prevent them.

And it’s true – about 85% of all forest fires are started by humans. When you consider the fact that there were 58,950 wildfires in 2020 alone, that means that roughly 50,000 of those were caused by human negligence. A staggering number any way you slice it.

However, not all of these were the result of unattended campfires. Plenty of others were created by intentional acts of arson, discarded cigarettes, the burning of debris, and equipment failures and malfunctions. Then you also have the non-human causes that make up the other 15% of wildfires, of which, lightning is the primary culprit.

Ecological Role Of Fire

fire burning in a green forest with smoke

Wildfires are often viewed as devastating acts of nature, consuming and destroying everything in their path. The number of lives lost to them over the years, and the amount of property damage on top of that, is enough to make your jaw drop in disbelief. Depending on the size of the fire and where it’s located, tornados, hurricanes, and floods can seem like child’s play in comparison.

But fire actually plays a critical role in the health of the ecosystem, acting as a way to clear out the old and bring in the new. Not only does it consume deadwood, in order to provide nutrients for the soil, but some plants actually need the fire in order to germinate their seeds.

Back before we really understood the role that fire plays, the policy was to do everything possible to limit the creation and spread of forest fires. However, suppressing fires to that extent is harmful in its own way. Without regular burnings, dead biomass will quickly accumulate on the forest floor, which increases the risk for more frequent and intense wildfires in the future. These mega fires are far more likely to impact human lives and property, emphasizing the importance of letting nature run its course.

Wildfire Prevention

However, don’t think you have a free pass to be careless with fire just because it has ecological value. You should still do everything in your power to prevent wildfires, otherwise they run the risk of getting out of hand. The Forest Service manages prescribed fires, which are controlled burnings designed to improve the health of the ecosystem and limit the occurrence of extreme wildfires.

Which is to say, leave the fires to the specialists!

To do your part in staying safe and responsible, here are a few tips that you can follow to help prevent wildfires:

1. Build Your Campfire Away From Flammables

It should go without saying, but you never want to make a fire that’s close to other flammable objects. This includes dry grass, leaves, needles, and brush, as well as your tent and other personal items. Ideally, you’ll be building your campfire on a flat location, either in a pit that you’ve dug or in a fire ring surrounded by rocks. Of course, if you’re at a campground that has a fire pit available, that’s going to be your best option.

2. Don’t Leave Your Fire Unattended

Negligence is one of the biggest factors contributing to wildfires. If you’re going to build a fire, don’t leave it unattended – all it takes is a strong gust of wind to blow some sparks into a patch of dry brush. Keep your fire small and manageable, and always have a bucket of water on hand (or something similar) to extinguish it quickly, in case of emergency.

3. Douse The Fire Until It’s Cold

As long as there’s heat radiating from your campfire, even if the flame is long gone, there’s still a risk of wildfire. Continue to douse the embers and ashes with water until everything is cool to the touch. It’s only at this point that you should feel comfortable leaving the area.

4. Check Weather Conditions

Is there a drought where you are? Are you likely to encounter strong winds? Have the temperatures been exceptionally hot? If the answer to any of these is yes, then you need to consider non-flammable light and heat sources. In these sorts of conditions, it’s just too dangerous to start a fire for any purpose.

5. Beware Of Equipment That Produces Sparks

Never use equipment that can create sparks if the area around you is dry. If you must, then clear the area around your workspace, removing anything dry and flammable to the best of your ability.

6. Keep Vehicles Off Dry Grass

Perhaps you didn’t realize it, but the exhaust from your vehicle can get surprisingly hot – sometimes in excess of 1,000 degree Fahrenheit! With that in mind, it’s easy to see how off roading on dry grass is a great way to start a fire. Especially if you find yourself idling in one location for longer stretch of time. Keep track of the weather and the current risk for wildfire before you decide to drive off the main road.

What To Do If There’s A Wildfire Near You

burning log with smoke on a forest floor

Unfortunately, you may still find yourself in a position where a wildfire is heading in your direction. Should you find yourself in a circumstance like this, there are a few steps that you should take immediately:

Call 911
If you see a wildfire, don’t just assume that everyone already knows about it. Especially if you haven’t been notified by an outside agency, it’s likely that word hasn’t spread about the fire’s existence yet. Call 911 immediately so that proper measures can be taken, and folks can start to evacuate if they’re in the line of fire – literally.

Create a plan for evacuation
Assuming FEMA hasn’t issued an order or recommendation to evacuate yet, it’s still good to plan out what you’ll do if you need to go somewhere else. Start by calling friends and family to see if they’ll let you spend a few nights at their place while you wait out the fire. Remember to turn off any valves that supply natural gas, propane, heating oil, or other flammable substances. Close doors and windows to slow down airflow, and wear clothes made from fire retardant fabric (such as cotton or wool). It can also be helpful to gather tools that are useful for fire management, such as rakes, axes, shovels, and buckets. And finally, don’t forget to fill as many containers with water as possible, in case you need to use them to put out a fire.

If you receive orders to evacuate…
Gather important documents, pets, and valuables inside your car. If they can’t all fit, find a fireproof safe to store them, or submerge them in a pool or other body of water if they’re waterproof. Disconnect your garage door from the automatic opener so that you can open the door manually, and consider leaning a ladder against the side of your house for firefighters to use. Once you’ve taken care of all that, turn the lights on inside and outside your house for increased visibility. Then, drive safely to your next destination.

Protecting Against Smoke

smoke rising up from behind a line of trees

Even if you don’t find yourself threatened by the flames of the wildfire, the smoke is harmful in its own way. Able to travel hundreds of miles, cities in a different country may experience problems with pollution because of a wildfire where you live. It’s sort of like a nuclear bomb – the blast from the explosion targets a very specific area, but the fallout from the radiation is able to spread much farther. In that case, what are you supposed to do if your town is consumed by smoke?

Who’s Most At Risk?

While smoke isn’t good for anyone to breathe, it does affect some people more than others. For example, folks who suffer from heart or lung disease are likely to experience more severe symptoms. Likewise, older adults and children are also at a higher risk, either because of underlying health disorders or because their airways are still developing. Pregnant women may also find that their children will be born prematurely if they inhale too much smoke.

Air Quality Ratings

If the air looks a little hazy, or if it smells funny when you step outside, your region may be experiencing poor air quality. The AQI (air quality index) is a good indicator for how good or bad the air is at any given time. The range goes like this:

0-50: Good. Air quality poses little to no risk.

51-100: Moderate. Acceptable for most, but may cause problems for those who are extra sensitive to pollution.

101-150: Unhealthy for sensitive groups. While the general public probably won’t notice any symptoms, sensitive people will start to have health issues.

151-200: Unhealthy. Everyone will start to notice problems with their health.

201-300: Very unhealthy. Everyone may start to notice severe health effects.

301-500: Hazardous. Emergency conditions that are dangerous for everyone.

As someone with more sensitive lungs, I start to have trouble breathing once the AQI hits 100. Symptoms will vary from person to person, so make sure you take appropriate action depending on the severity of your health condition.

Keep Indoor Air As Clean As Possible

birds eye view of a city surrounded by air pollution

If you’ve been advised to stay indoors, or if you’re sensitive to pollution, do your best to keep the air inside your home clean. You can do this by limiting the amount of “fresh” air entering your house, keeping your doors and windows closed, and changing dirty air filters.

In addition to that, don’t do anything that might add more pollution into the air. Burning a candle, running a gas stove, or lighting up your fireplace can all decrease the quality of the air inside your home. Even vacuuming can stir up particles on the floor, allowing them to contribute to the problem.

Regular Masks Won’t Help

Dust masks, paper masks, cloth masks, and other “normal” types of masks won’t protect you against wildfire smoke. The particles found inside the smoke are too small to be blocked by ordinary masks, which is why a respirator is necessary for better protection. For example, an N95 respirator would be more effective against both smoke and viruses than any type of disposable mask that you might find on the market.

Protecting Your Home Against Wildfires

It’s often said that one’s home is more ignitable than any of the surrounding vegetation. In the wake of being hit by a wildfire, there have been many stories of homes being burned to a crisp while the surrounding trees are still alive and green. Contrary to popular belief, wildfires don’t just ravage everything in their paths – they need fuel in order to survive and spread. Unfortunately, homes and other urban settlements are excellent fuel sources.

While it’s not possible to make your house fireproof, there are some steps that you can take to prevent too much damage from occurring. To mitigate damage caused by a conflagration, here are a few steps you can take around your property:

1. Fix Your Roof

house on fire at night

The single best thing you can do to prevent a fire from consuming your home is to proof your roof. After all, the roof is the most likely place for embers to fall. And once the roof goes up in flames, it isn’t long before the rest of the building follows suit.

If your roof is made from wood shingles, or another flammable material, consider replacing them with something like asphalt shingles, tile, slate, or metal. It can be a bit of a hassle, but it’s far more effective than applying flame retardant on top of what you already have. Especially if you live in a location that’s frequently hit by wildfires every year, it’s an investment worth making.

2. Clear The Perimeter

Once you’ve taken care of your roof, take a look at the area surrounding your house. Specifically, you should clear away anything flammable that’s within 5 feet of your home, such as wood logs, a wooden fence, mulch, gas tanks, dead vegetation, and other organic substances. Even organic fertilizers can go up in flames if an ember falls on them, so it’s important to do your research and keep things like these far away from your home.

Ultimately, anything combustible that’s within 100 feet of your house can be a threat. Within this space, make sure plants are spread out, low hanging branches are pruned, and all vegetation is regularly watered.

3. Work Together

It doesn’t matter how hard you work to fireproof your property if your neighbors don’t do the same! It’s like the saying, “A chain is only as strong as the weakest link.” If you’re in a neighborhood where the houses are pressed pretty close together, it’ll be very easy for the fire to spread once one of those houses goes up in flames. Because of this, community organized fire preparedness is vitally important for reducing risks that you wouldn’t have control over otherwise.


Comparing Protein Amounts in Pet Food

By Dr. Jean Dodds

Dr. Dodds’ website is www.hemopet.org

Comparing Protein Amounts Amongst the Different Types of Companion Pet Foods

February 11, 2022 / Nutrition / By Hemopet

Have you ever been at your local pet food supply store and someone mentions that commercial raw food has more protein than kibble? So, you wander over and check out the protein content on the guaranteed analysis on the raw and it states 13%, but that bag of kibble you were just looking at states 32%.

Huh? Say what? Are you confused? Are you internally wondering where they learned to read as clearly the guaranteed analyses state differently?
They are actually correct. But why?

Moisture content. We’ll explain.

When comparing the variety of pet food types – such as canned, dehydrated, kibble and raw – you should refer to the dry matter basis.
‘Dry matter basis’ sounds more complicated than it is.

The definition is, “The dry matter basis assumes no water is present — i.e. 100 percent dry matter.”

Please take the definition at face value; there is nothing to read into. There is NO underlying complexity.

Guaranteed analysis does not contain the food’s pre-processing moisture content, which can change dramatically during processing, depending upon the type of food.

Let’s look into the various food types and how they are processed:

Kibble is highly processed compared to moisture-rich foods. It goes through an extrusion process – the same process as human cereals – to become shelf stable so it does not rot or become moldy from moisture. The high temperatures are necessary for extrusion, but inactivate or destroy a certain amount of the protein.

Dehydrated foods use warm air to evaporate a food’s water content. A benefit of dehydration is that it diminishes the growth of pathogens such as bacteria, yeasts and molds without adding chemicals, since pathogens need water to grow. With dehydrated food, you need to reconstitute it.

Meats contained in cans are less processed and thus tend to be closer to their natural state than those found in kibble. Canned foods are pressure sterilized and sealed. The contents are naturally protected from rancidity, so manufacturers don’t need to add potentially harmful chemical preservatives.

Raw food is found in the freezer section. A raw commercial diet is literally uncooked food and the moisture has barely been removed from the meat. Major commercial raw manufacturers incorporate kill steps to destroy pathogens while creating the least impact on the food’s enzymes, proteins and other nutrients.

Think about it in terms of human food. Beef jerky is dried, whereas a fresh steak is juicy. The steak has more moisture.

Homework: Converting to Dry Matter

So, you need to convert the guaranteed analysis into dry matter basis.
Fortunately, calculating Dry Matter Basis is quite simple once you get the hang of it. Here’s how in two simple steps:

Step 1

Subtract the percent of the food’s listed percent of moisture from 100% to determine the food’s percentage of dry matter (DM). For example, a kibble containing 8% moisture will contain 92% DM.

100 – Percent of Moisture Listed on the Back of Package = Y

Step 2

Take the percentage of crude protein listed under the Guaranteed Analysis and divide that number by the DM number you determined in Step 1.

Step 3

Crude Protein Guaranteed Analysis ÷ Y = Dry Matter Basis

We’ll Show You

Below we have 4 only-turkey, grain free diets: kibble, raw, dehydrated and canned.

StepsKibbleRawDehydratedCanned
Moisture10%74%7%75%
Subtract Moisture from 100 to Determine Dry Matter100 – 10 = 90100 – 74 = 26100 – 7 = 93100 – 75 = 25
Dry Matter Result90269325
Guaranteed Analysis Crude Protein25%13%30%10.5%
Divide Guaranteed Analysis Crude Protein by Dry Matter25 / 90 = 2813 / 26 = 5030 / 93 = 3210.5 / 25 = 42
Protein on Dry Matter Basis28%50%32%42%

But…

As you can see from the numbers, kibble barely changes. So, if you are comparing kibble-to-kibble, this should be OK. However, there is definitely more to consider when choosing a pet food. Dr. Ryan Yamka recently gave an excellent presentation on product label claims and what’s the truth on the back of the bag. We suggest watching Flip the Bag Over: What Do Pet Food Labels Really Say?Post navigation← Previous Post

When Should You Neuter Your Dog?

The below article is from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.  There are many opinions about when to neuter your dog, so be sure to do your due diligence and speak with your veterinarian prior to making any decision for your pup.

 

When Should You Neuter Your Dog to Avoid Health Risks?

Comprehensive Study Lays Out Guidelines for 35 Dog Breeds

golden retriever puppy
A 10-year study lays out guidelines for pet owners and veterinarians for each of 35 dog breeds to assist in making a neutering decision. (Getty)

Some dog breeds have higher risk of developing certain cancers and joint disorders if neutered or spayed within their first year of life. Until now, studies had only assessed that risk in a few breeds. A new, 10-year study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, examined 35 dog breeds and found vulnerability from neutering varies greatly depending on the breed. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

“There is a huge disparity among different breeds,” said lead author Benjamin Hart, distinguished professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Hart said there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to health risks and the age at which a dog is neutered. “Some breeds developed problems, others didn’t. Some may have developed joint disorders but not cancer or the other way around.”

Researchers analyzed 15 years of data from thousands of dogs examined each year at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital to try to understand whether neutering, the age of neutering, or differences in sex when neutered affect certain cancers and joint disorders across breeds. The joint disorders examined include hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tears and elbow dysplasia. Cancers examined include lymphoma; hemangiosarcoma, or cancer of the blood vessel walls; mast cell tumors; and osteosarcoma, or bone cancer.

In most breeds examined, the risk of developing problems was not affected by age of neutering.

Breed differences by size and sex

Researchers found that vulnerability to joint disorders was related to body size.

“The smaller breeds don’t have these problems, while a majority of the larger breeds tend to have joint disorders,” said co-author Lynette Hart, professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

One of the surprising exceptions to this was among the two giant breeds — great Danes and Irish wolfhounds — which showed no increased risk to joint disorders when neutered at any age.

Researchers also found the occurrence of cancers in smaller dogs was low, whether neutered or kept intact. In two breeds of smaller dogs, the Boston terrier and the shih tzu, there was a significant increase in cancers with neutering.

Another important finding was that the sex of the dog sometimes made a difference in health risks when neutered. Female Boston terriers neutered at the standard six months of age, for example, had no increased risk of joint disorders or cancers compared with intact dogs, but male Boston terriers neutered before a year of age had significantly increased risks.

Previous studies have found that neutering or spaying female golden retrievers at any age increases the risk of one or more of the cancers from 5 percent to up to 15 percent.

Discuss choices with veterinarians

Dog owners in the United States are overwhelmingly choosing to neuter their dogs, in large part to prevent pet overpopulation, euthanasia or reduce shelter intake. In the U.S., surgical neutering is usually carried out by six months of age.

This study suggests that dog owners should carefully consider when and if they should have their dog neutered.

“We think it’s the decision of the pet owner, in consultation with their veterinarian, not society’s expectations that should dictate when to neuter,” said Benjamin Hart. “This is a paradigm shift for the most commonly performed operation in veterinary practice.”

The study lays out guidelines for pet owners and veterinarians for each of 35 breeds to assist in making a neutering decision. Read the full list here.

Other authors include Abigail Thigpen with UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and Neil Willits with the Department of Statistics in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science. Research support came from the Canine Health Foundation, the UC Davis Center for Companion Animal Health and Versatility in Poodles.

Media Resources

Benjamin Hart, School of Veterinary Medicine, blhart@ucdavis.edu

Lynette Hart, School of Veterinary Medicine, lahart@ucdavis.edu

Amy Quinton, News and Media Relations, 530-752-9843, amquinton@ucdavis.edu

The Ultimate Guide to Pet Safety at Home

This guide will look at each room of the home, as well as outside yards. It will review potential problem areas and how owners can better “pet-proof” each. This complete guide will help pet owners determine which indoor and outdoor plants are toxic, why appliance and window cords can be hazardous to pets and how to go about making renovations to make a home even more pet-friendly.

READ MORE

How to Help a Friend Who Is Grieving the Loss of a Pet

Knowing how to help a friend that is grieving be challenging to begin with, but looking for cues in your friend’s language and behaviour may give you some indication of what they need.

Everyone feels grief differently, so it’s important not to dismiss anything they may say or how they are feeling, but to provide them with a non-judgemental listening ear or practical support at a time when they need it most will be most welcomed.

 

READ MORE

 

 

Pet Owner Pays for Surgery With Help from Angel Fund

Late last fall, Maria Barraza noticed a lump on her dog’s right hip.  “Blanca had an infection and I started feeling around and felt the lump.  So I took her to a local veterinarian in Baldwin Park where I live,” she said.

“The doctor checked her and told me it looked like she had a tumor and that it might be cancer.  That scared me.  They gave me antibiotics for her infection and we got rid of it.  But the doctor told me that her clinic didn’t do surgeries and that she would have to refer me to another hospital.”

The referral was to a hospital in North Hollywood, Maria said.  The staff there treated her rudely, she said, and frightened Blanca, who ran out into a busy street.   “That scared me,” she remembered. “I wasn’t happy and I wanted to take her somewhere else.”

One of the doctors she had seen told Maria about Huntington Pet Vet and Wellness Center in Huntington Beach and suggested she might be able to get help with her bill there.  On the way to Huntington Beach, she noticed another lump on Blanca’s chest.  When she arrived at the hospital, she told the staff member who picked the dog up at curbside to take her into the hospital about the new lump she had noticed.

Dr. Allison Naito examined Blanca and told her that Blanca, a poddle, was overweight and confirmed there were fatty lumps that should be removed.  “But when I picked her up, I didn’t notice any stitches on her hip.  When I called to ask about it, they told me that they had to take two lumps off her chest and that I should keep her on a diet and bring her in if the lump on her hip gets bigger.”

Dr. Naito recommended Angel Fund when  Maria told her that’s she would need help to pay for the surgery.  “I’m on a budget,” Maria said.  “I was afraid of what the cost might be if Blanca had cancer.  I was really depressed about it.”

The hospital staff helped her fill out the Angel Fund forms.  She received a grant that was matched by the hospital, for which she was very grateful.  She was also relieved when she was told that there was no cancer.

Blanca was one of a series of poddles Maria has owned, nearly all living until about age 16.  “Three years ago, I had to put down Selena, my older dog, who was a black poddle, and it very hurting for me.  I did not want to have to do that with Blanca when she was only 10 years old.”

Blanca is doing well now.  She has recovered nicely from her surgery last December and Maria is careful about what she eats.  “I avoid giving her fatty foods and snacks. She is eating better and seems to have more energy.  I can’t walk her much because I have a bad back but I have a big backyard and she loves to run there.  And my caretaker does take her for walks.”

She also said that the fatty tumor on Blanca’s hip is smaller now and she is now optimistic that her dog will make it to 16.  She is grateful to Angel Fund and the hospital for the help they provided.

Using Kinesiology Tape On Your Dog

FROM THE WHOLE DOG JOURNAL

READ WHOLE ARTICLE

Proponents say that kinesiology tape can help your dog recover from chronic and acute sports injuries. It’s not expensive to give it a try, so why not learn how?

Although there is lack of evidence, veterinarians, canine rehabilitation therapists, and canine massage therapists who routinely use kinesiology tape report that many of their patients improve as a result. Taping is easily incorporated into other hands-on treatments, most dogs quickly adapt to it, and it can be done at home by family members between treatment visits.