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Small Pets Are At Risk Of Heatstroke As Temperatures Rise

If you’re a small animal owner, it’s important to remember as we transition into warmer seasons in the coming months that your furry friends are at risk of heat stroke, depending on where you live, their setups, and how easy it is for them to cool down. Animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, chinchillas, and others need to be protected from extremely hot and humid environments.

Researchers have said that there needs to be an increase in public awareness of heatstroke, and the risks that different animals have to experiencing it. Climate change is making it even harder for small animals to remain cool during the summer months. 

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The most common symptoms that researchers found across every species include abnormal breathing, lethargy, collapsing, and stomach issues like diarrhea. Caged animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, and ferrets are at risk of heatstroke because of their confinement in their cage set ups. Make sure you have the largest and safest set up for your small animals and allow them to get free time every day to stretch. 

Dr Anne Carter, a researcher at Nottingham Trent University, said: “There is a misconception that heatstroke in pets only relates to dogs in hot cars and we need to do more to raise awareness of risk factors not only for dogs but in the wider pet population.”

“Owners of small animals such as rabbits, ferrets and guinea pigs may need to review their pet’s housing and take steps to keep their pets cool in the warmer months to reduce the risk of heatstroke.”

If you have a flat-faced rabbit, typically lop-ears have flatter faces, it’s important to know that they are more susceptible to heatstroke.

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Emily Hall, a researcher and vet, said: “Heat-related illness can affect all pets and is likely to become more common as global temperatures rise. Our findings highlight the need for better public awareness of heatstroke and the risk to all animals.”

“The fact that brachycephalic [flat-faced] dogs and rabbits were overrepresented in our study suggests that owners of these animals should be particularly vigilant during hot weather.”

The data from the study observed a relatively small number of pet patients, so the researchers made it clear in their findings that the overall figures for heat stroke among small animals, dogs, and cats is likely much higher than any reported numbers. 

Lack of awareness from the owner can be the biggest cause of death from heatstroke. In general, when you commit yourself to an animal, no matter how big or small, it’s important to do the proper research and make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep them comfortable and healthy throughout the warmer months.

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New Study Reveals Which Animals Can Contract Covid-19

Researchers working at the University of California, Davis recently discovered a way to find out which species of animal are susceptible to being infected by the coronavirus. Many researchers have attempted to figure out ways of testing this since the beginning of the pandemic, however, no one was able to come up with a way to do it without potentially harming the animal by infecting them on purpose; until now. 

The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS). The research showed that any animal that has the same enzyme in their cells that SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect human beings with the coronavirus would be at risk. The enzyme is referred to by scientists as ACE2, and is found within multiple types of cells in the human body, specifically our lung, nose, and mouth cells; the areas the coronavirus impacts the most initially. 

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When the coronavirus enters our bloodstream it binds itself to 25 amino acids (the particles that build proteins) and the ACE2 enzyme. Animals that have the same specific enzyme and 25 amino acids have the highest risk of potential infection while animals who have the enzyme but not all 25 specific amino acids are at a much lower risk. 

Prior to this study, we were already aware that the coronavirus could potentially infect dogs and cats, as it already has multiple times. Last month, Buddy the german shepard went viral online after being the first dog in America to contract Covid-19; Buddy unfortunately lost his life to the virus as well. House cats and wild cats are also at major risk, you may remember a couple of months ago when three African lions at the Bronx Zoo contracted the virus, however, there is no record of any type of cat dying from the virus. So this study wanted to focus more on other species that may be overlooked in terms of the coronavirus conversation. 

“Among 103 species, 41 (40%) are classified in one of three ‘threatened’ categories (vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered), five are classified as near threatened, and two species are classified as extinct in the wild. This represents only a small fraction of the threatened species also.”

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12 marine mammals, including dolphins, are at high risk as well as many different species of rodent, three types of deer, and more. Giant anteaters and the Angolan colobus monkey also made the list of high-risk for infection. The main goal of this entire study was not only to figure out which animals could potentially get the virus, but also to find new ways that humans and animals may be transmitting it to each other. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have already stated that there is no evidence that infected dogs or cats could give the virus to humans, and person-to-person will always be the number one source of infection. Asymptomatic individuals being the most dangerous demographic of individuals, as they could be unknowingly spreading it around. 

The research concluded that household pets really aren’t at risk, as they normally are always socially distancing from other animals and people by staying at home, however, it’s important to note that it’s unclear as to whether or not humans can give the virus to their pets. So remain diligent in your own health and safety procedures not only for your own safety, but also for the furry friends who rely on you everyday to take care of them.

Girl with her Dog

How Owning A Pet Can Lead To A Healthier Lifestyle

Having a pet is one of the most beneficial things humans can do for both their mental and physical health. A lot of people just think pets make us happy because we’re their owners and provide for them, which is accurate, however there’s a much deeper relationship that develops when we grow a bond with a pet over time. Especially during a pandemic that forces us to remain indoors indefinitely, many of us are turning to our furry friends as a means of comfort and joy, in a world that’s so scary and uncertain. 

Many individuals are also using the pandemic as a means of finally pulling the trigger on becoming a pet-owner, as there really is no better time to train/take care of a new animal and do all the proper research than during a quarantine. Beyond just having the time for a pet, many are looking to find additional means of emotional support, as spending months on months at home takes a toll on anyone after a while. 

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The fact that animals are able to provide emotional support isn’t just some commonly understood phenomenon, there’s scientific evidence that backs it up as well. It’s why some animals are specifically trained to be emotional support animals the same way some are trained to help assist individuals with disabilities. Dogs in particular have such a unique cognitive ability to be trained in specific fields as long as that training starts young. 

From a scientific perspective, the hormone cortisol is what’s released when we feel stressed. Research studies have shown that pets in general – whether it be a dog, cat, hamster, fish, rabbit, etc. – naturally help human beings reduce their cortisol levels through things like training or bonding. Even owning a fish can help relieve stress, simply by looking in your little friends tank every day and watching them live their simple, stress-free life, it ends up becoming contagious. 

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Think about how when we watch a certain television show, and for the time being we forget about all of our life’s stresses because for 30 minutes we’re engulfed in another fictional universe where our problems don’t exist, and the characters’ problems become our problems for that duration of time. It’s an empathetic reaction, and that’s what happens with owning a pet as well. Looking down at your dog or cat, thinking about how they are completely unaware of the world’s issues and just focused on the present moment can be completely contagious, and will remind you to try to remain in the moment. 

The same way that pets lower your cortisol levels, they also have been proven to reduce blood pressure/heart rates in certain individuals. The concept is essentially the same, owning a pet and building a loving bond with it is relaxing. In those moments where it’s just you and your pet, it’s hard to focus on everything else so your whole body is likely to be a lot calmer, and thus, your blood pressure and heart rate stabilize. 

Certain pets, like dogs, promote an active lifestyle as well. Dogs have to be walked, played with, and constantly attended too especially when they’re puppies. Owning an animal that leads an active lifestyle will force you to get up and do the same, because someones gotta clean up after your furry babies. Studies have even shown that owning a dog reduces older individuals risk of having a heart attack due to all the activity.

Finally, the bond you build with your pet is so unique and special that it’s been proven to reduce feelings of depression, anxiousnesses, and other mental stresses that many of us are enduring right now. Your pet may not be your whole entire life and world, but to them, you are their entire life, and that love is easily felt everyday.

South Africa Plants

South Africa Is Seeing A Massive Increase In Plant Extinction

The Succulent Karoo desert is located between the country of Namibia and South Africa. What the United Nations describes as the most “biodiverse arid desert on the planet” is home to more than 6,300 rare plant species, and countless exotic animals, most of which can only be found there. 

According to reports, a combination of overgrazing from wildlife, plant poaching, and other human demands on the desert has left only 25% of the Karoo in a habitable, intact state. It’s for this reason alone that conservationists in Africa have made protecting the Succulent Karoo a main priority. However, not many officials in Africa take the conservationist effort seriously, as for the most part the Karoo is just a barren desert. However, this desert’s ecosystem is extremely fragile and valuable to all of Africa’s inhabitants. 

Succulents are defined as plants that store water in their leaves, stems or both for long periods of time, hence why they’re most commonly found in dry, arid, desert environments. Cacti and aloe plants are the most common types of succulents, and the Karoo desert is full of them. In fact, the Succulent Karoo alone contains a third of the entire planet’s succulent species. 

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The 6,300 plant species that grow in the Karoo often have bright and colorful flowers stemming from them, which indicates to insects and small animals that they contain moisture and nutrients. Insects come and drink the water and eat the leaves, which in turn attracts insect-eating animals to the desert, such as moles, scorpions, tortoises, birds, and lizards, most of which have sub-species that are exclusive to the Karoo, much like a majority of the succulents. These beautiful plants also attract a plethora of tourists when they’re in bloom, however, tourists also means illegal poachers, and I don’t mean the kind that are hunting elephants. 

“A growing illegal market for succulents is fueling poaching activities in the Karoo region. Scorpions, baboon spiders, and some lizard species also fall prey to poachers in the region. Overgrazing by farmed ostriches, sheep and cattle is also seriously damaging the desert landscape, especially during droughts. This environment is very easily damaged, and has a long recovery period. The desert has also been mined for uranium, diamonds and sand, leaving great scars in the landscape,”says Marienne De Villiers, an ecologist for the South African government’s conservation organization, CapeNature.

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The desert is so vast and the inhabitants are so sparse and small that scientists find themselves having a difficult time locating and identifying species for protection. However, recently CapeNature researchers and conservationists have begun using drones to locate certain species that otherwise are out of sight. 

According to the researchers, the drones they use are mounted with infrared sensors that are connected to a machine that is able to identify species from long distances based on shapes and motion. Scientists are able to use this information to learn about when certain species are typically out in the open and therefore more susceptible to poaching threats. 

According to the Environmental Literacy Council, an international conservationist non-profit, only 3% of the Succulent Karoo Desert is protected under government legislation. This issue is CapeNature’s main focus, so much so that in 2002 they created something called the Biodiversity Stewardship Program. This program calls upon local landowners and farmers in South Africa to be recruited for their land as a space for wildlife to live and be protected. Paying landowners for portions of their vast properties is much cheaper than raising the funds to actually buy new land to be used as a wildlife safe haven.

“Over time, these projects have helped to build buffer areas and wildlife corridors throughout the Western Cape, helping to protect the Succulent Karoo and its rare species. I hope the Stewardship program will educate people about the value of the desert for years to come. There’s still so much that we don’t know about the Succulent Karoo, and there’s probably a wealth of species still out there waiting to be discovered,” says De Villiers.

Bushfire in Australia

Australia’s Bushfires Shut Down Capital City of Canberra

The bushfires in Australia have now claimed the lives of half a billion animals, 24 people, and caused extensive damage that’s almost unfathomable to imagine. These fires have been taking over the continent for a month now, and currently are burning over 13 million acres of land. Countless celebrities and individuals with high social media followings have been calling on everyone to donate what they can to relief efforts, as conditions are progressively getting worse every day. 

Recently, Canberra, the capital of Australia, was forced to shut down the Australian federal government department that is responsible for management of nationwide emergencies due to poor air quality conditions. Canberra had a rating of 340 on the Air Quality Index; for comparison, “good” air quality is considered anywhere from 0 to 50 on the Index scale. 

The Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Health branches that are located in Canberra have been closed and all non-essential staff have been told to evacuate. In general, the city has shut down most services due to the poor environmental conditions. This includes all childcare services, galleries, retail locations, schools, etc. Safety and health have now become the main priority for all living things nationwide.  

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There’s approximately up to 200 active fires still burning in Australia, almost half remain uncontained. Australia is used to having a “fire season” alongside the winter months (January and February) however, the fires have already been blazing for over a month now, making this one of the worst fire seasons to date. Typically, fire season in Australia doesn’t affect residential areas and refreshes certain plots of land to grow new crops through the burning. Now, it’s uncertain what results will come following the containment of all the fires. 

“The crisis is not over, there are months to go. [I’m] establishing a $2 billion (1.39 billion American dollars) National Bushfire Recovery Agency to help people hit by the unprecedented bushfires get the support they needed. It’s a long road ahead and we will be with these communities every step of the way as they rebuild. The funds will be used to help get communities back on their feet by rebuilding roads, mental health support, and helping restore the local environment,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a release

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Along with Prime Minister Morrison’s announcement, the New South Wales (NSW) police department also made a statement in which they claimed that they’re already taking legal action against 183 people for “bushfire-related offences.” The charges began in November, when the fires initially started, and the NSW police have stated 24 individuals have specifically been charged over “deliberately-lit fires” that spread out of control.  

The Australian Defence Force also made a statement this past weekend in which they said they would be increasing overall fire support and bringing in over 3,000 army reservists to help contain the natural disaster. One of the biggest Australian Navy vessels, HMAS Adelaide, is being used to evacuate up to 5,000 australians.

The conditions are growing worse. The photos online depict the entire continent to look like that of another planet. The sky is an amber red hue, smoke makes it impossible to see more than 100 feet in front of you, and citizens are constantly taking to the street to evacuate. There are countless resources that anyone from anywhere can use to help with relief efforts and all the sites are linked right here. As the fires continue to blaze and destroy the continent, more awareness is being brought to the devastation. Hopefully those with platforms continue to speak up, and those actually there remain safe and sound until this is completely contained.