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Photos: Lack of snow doesn't stop Czech dog sled race

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PRAGUE (AP) — A traditional five-day dog sled race in the Czech Republic has gone ahead despite a lack of snow. Organizers said they had to change some routes but were able to prepare the 24th edition of the Sedivackuv Long at its original distance. Four years ago, the race had to be cut short due to warm weather. One of the toughest dog sled events in Europe began on Tuesday with 77 drivers and some 700 dogs from 10 countries racing in the Orlicke Mountains, a range in the northeastern Czech Republic along the border with Poland. In the race — part of the European extreme dog sled race series — competitors in two categories have to cover either 300 kilometers (186 miles) or 200 kilometers (124 miles), spending two or one night sleeping out in the snow.

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Florida brewery features shelter dogs on beer cans to find them homes

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BRADENTON, Fla. — A Florida brewery has perhaps the cutest beer cans in the state and is trying to make a difference with them. Motorworks Brewing in downtown Bradenton, Fla., is featuring the faces of shelter dogs in need of homes on its beer cans in an effort to find them families and raise money for the shelter that takes care of them. Motorworks partnered with Shelter Manatee and announced its adoptable dog beer release benefit at a "Yappy Hour" event. The featured dogs were also available for adoption at the launch event in Motorworks' beer garden and taproom. Proceeds from the purchase of each can are being sent to Shelter Manatee, which plans to use the funds for the construction of a new shelter.

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Czech dog sled race goes off despite lack of snow

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One of the toughest dog sled events in Europe began on Tuesday with 77 drivers and some 700 dogs from 10 countries racing in the Orlicke Mountains, a range in the northeastern Czech Republic along the border with Poland.

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How wildfire smoke affects pets and other animals

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A rural fire service crew attempts to protect a property in New South Wales in December 2019. Dean Lewins/AAP Images via AP Catastrophic fires across the globe are increasing in both frequency and magnitude . The bushfires in Australia, fuelled by heatwaves and drought, have burned more than 10.7 million hectares , an area larger than Iceland. Over one billion animals are estimated to have died in the Australian bushfires so far. This loss of life is devastating. Horses, dogs and other domestic animals are also being affected by the smoke generated by the wildfires. Read more: A season in hell: bushfires push at least 20 threatened species closer to extinction As veterinarians who have cared for small animals following the California wildfires and researched the impacts of wildfires on horses in Canada, we have some perspective on how smoke can harm companion animals and what people can do to protect the animals in their care. What is smoke? The composition of smoke depends on what is being burned. The smoke from a house fire or a barn fire will contain different compounds than the smoke from wildfires or bushfires. When an animal inhales smoke, it brings a combination of toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, and particulate matter, a mixture of small liquid and solid particles, into its throat, nose and lungs. Smoke inhalation can damage the respiratory tract in multiple ways; it can cause burns and lead to physical irritation, causing the airway to swell and become blocked. Thick smoke from bushfires blanked the Opera House in Sydney, Australia, on Dec. 10, 2019. AP Photo/Rick Rycroft Toxic gases can impair oxygen delivery and lead to death. Animals with immediate and close exposure to fires, such as barn or house fires, face this risk. Exposure to bushfires or wildfires results in a sustained, lower-dose exposure to smoke. The major concern here is particulate matter. Very small particulate matter (less than four microns in diametre) can bypass the body’s natural filters and reach the lower airways. Smoke inhalation in horses Our relationship with horses is unique in that they bridge the gap between livestock and companion animals. As athletic animals, air quality impacts horses’ capacity to perform. The financial ramifications of impaired performance is not insignificant, given the economic impact of the horse industry in multiple countries . Horses have a huge lung capacity. A horse moves more than 2,000 litres of air through its lungs every minute during strenuous exercise. With this air, horses also inhale a large number of pollutants, which is drastically increased during fires. Horse galloping while wearing a mask capable of measuring lung capacity and oxygen uptake from the air. (Collene Ferguson, University of Calgary) In 2018, Calgary was smothered in wildfire smoke for more than six weeks, with poor air quality warnings issued daily. During this period, we studied the impact of poor air quality on exercise performance in polo horses that were at a maintenance level of fitness at the end of the competition season. They continued the same training program throughout the trial, so all results are due to the improved conditions and not a conditioning effect. Every horse involved in the study exhibited coughing at rest and during exercise, with owners complaining of decreased performance. Inflammatory cells, intracellular debris and pollens from horses after exposure to bushfire smoke. (Angelica Galezowski, University of Calgary, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine) We performed a procedure called a lung wash on these horses to retrieve cells and particulate matter from their lungs. Every horse in the study showed inflammation of the respiratory tract. We also found large amounts of microscopic pollens and other debris trapped in the cells. These findings are diagnostic of asthma in horses, and were also commonly seen by veterinarians working in the affected area. We also wanted to know how much the performance of these horses improved after prolonged smoke exposure. The gold standard technique to evaluate athletic performance is the measurement of maximum oxygen consumption, also known as VO2max. After 2.5 weeks of improved air quality, horses had a 15 per cent increase in speed, as well as a 13.2 per cent increase in VO2max, compared to those measures on the first day of improved air quality. To put this into context, training two-year-old racehorses for eight weeks has been reported to result in a 6.7 per cent improvement in VO2max . How to keep animals safe There are many guidelines available for people when air quality is poor, but very little information for pet owners. The air quality index (AQI) is used in Australia and the United States. The AQI is a single number presented on a scale of 0-500, ranging from excellent air quality to the most hazardous air pollution. Canada uses the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) , using a scale from 1 to 10. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported several regions where AQIs had surpassed 500 in December 2019 . Wildfires in northern Alberta in 2018 sent AQHI index past 11 in Calgary in May 2019 . Stay indoors Where possible, animals should be kept indoors when the AQI is greater than 150 or AQHI is 10+ for multiple days in a row to reduce exposure to small particulate matter. The environment matters, however. For example, a dog in a tightly sealed home will have less exposure to airborne irritants than a horse in a stable. Like human asthmatics, staying indoors might not prevent symptoms in animals with pre-existing respiratory conditions, especially when smoke persists for greater than five days. In addition, brachycephalic breeds such as pugs and bulldogs are likely to have a reduced tolerance to smoke. The breathing difficulties faced by pugs and bulldogs can grow worse when exposed to smoke. Owners should keep them indoors and limit their exercise. (Shutterstock) Reduce outdoor physical activity When animals exercise, they increase the amount of air they inhale, which increases the deposition of particles deep in the lungs. Based on guidelines from multiple regulatory bodies and associations, we recommend limiting outdoor exercise in animals when smoke is visible. Moderate to intense exercise should be reduced when there is a high or very high risk rating (AQI exceeding 100; AQHI greater than 7). We recommend cancelling events (such as a Thoroughbred race) when there is a very high risk rating (AQI greater than 150 or an AQHI of 10+). Read more: 'This crisis has been unfolding for years': 4 photos of Australia from space, before and after the bushfires There’s every indication that fire seasons are going to become longer and more frequent . When smoke starts to blanket the land, remember there are simple things you can do to protect the respiratory health of both you and your pets. [ You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter . ] Renaud Leguillette receives funding from the University of Calgary, Calgary Chair in Equine Sports Medicine . Laura Osborne and Stephanie Laura Bond do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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How to write better pet adoption ads

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Millions of shelter animals are adopted in the U.S. every year. hedgehog94/Shutterstock.com About 1.5 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters each year because they weren’t adopted or had health problems that concerned potential owners. Agencies often use “Adopt, Don’t Shop!” campaigns to encourage people to adopt from or donate to shelters, but their effectiveness can be limited . How can adoption agencies persuade people to rescue pets who need a home? In a paper published on Dec. 26 , I investigated the pet adoption problem using advertisements from the online database Petfinder . The paper quantified the language patterns of nearly 680,000 adopted and unadopted pet ads. Concrete and analytic style The use of articles, like “a” and “the,” and prepositions, like “above” and “on,” indicate concrete and analytic thinking. For example, one highly analytic ad of a dog who was adopted read, “Meet Christina! Breed: Bull Terrier Mix, Estimated DOB: 8/21/18, Sex: Female, Weight: 6-8 lbs, Health: Up-to-date on vaccinations & preventatives, Rescued From: South Carolina.” By comparison, pronouns and storytelling words such as “he,” “they” and “extremely” indicate a more narrative style. An example of one ad that used many storytelling words read, “Look at the cuteness! This boy is adorable and he is full of love and is super playful. Make sure you have plenty of cat toys around because this boy loves his toys! Jack and his brothers are also super unique as they are polydactyl in their front paws.” Each ad received a score from 0 to 100, with high scores suggesting the ad’s style was more analytic and less like a story. The successful ads were more likely to contain a concrete and analytic style than the unsuccessful ads. Animal adoption is not the only setting where such verbal patterns can have a persuasive impact. A study of HPV vaccination ads showed that parents and physicians viewed formal, fact-based messages as more persuasive than those that were less straightforward. Related peer-to-peer lending research also suggests that people are more likely to receive money if their online ad is written in a concrete and analytic manner. Facts and photos A second important adoption indicator was the rate of social words in the ad, such as “buddy,” “friend” or “helper.” The pet data revealed that social words might be red flags for potential owners. Most adopters care if the pet is healthy and has its vaccinations, and they want to learn about the adoption process. Humanizing details – stating the pet is a “sweetheart” and will be a lifelong “companion” – might signal that the agency is hiding vital health details about the pet. The lending study also found that people were less likely to receive money from strangers if their ad contained high rates of social words and humanizing details. Words were not the only key features of adoption ads. On average, ads from adopted pets had more photos than unadopted pets. Photos may help to reduce uncertainty for owners whose introduction to a pet is online. Changing how people feel about adoption There is some evidence that language patterns can affect how people think and feel about the adoption process. In an experiment, I had nearly 1,000 people from Amazon Mechanical Turk read an ad associated with adopted pets – analytic writing style with few social words – or unadopted pets – less analytic writing style with more social words. Those who read the analytic and less social ad were nearly 6% more likely to say that they would adopt the pet and 4.5% more likely to say that they would visit its shelter than those who read the less analytic and more social ad. These are small effects, but they can have a large impact since millions of pets need a home. Writing style matters for pet adoption. If agencies are thoughtful about how their ads are communicated, pets can have an improved chance of adoption. David Markowitz does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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