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Preventing Frostbite – Keeping Pets Safe

Nothing beats a day in the snow with your dog. Watching that bounding ball of joy hop through the snow banks puts all the fun back into winter. But how do you know when the cold is too cold? Frostbite and hypothermia are nothing to sneeze at in pets or humans so it's important to know the warning signs and be prepared.

The most important thing you can do to protect your dog or cat is to know your pet. Pay attention to your dog. Watch your cat when she's out in the winter to see if she shivers and when ñ on days you would call cool? Cold? Freezing? Or maybe just shady? Knowing how your pet, with its distinctive coat, manages the cold, will help you be better able to prevent frostbite and hypothermia.

Dog and cat coats are like the coats we wear in many ways. They both trap body heat close to the skin. Since the air we breathe is usually so much cooler than our 98.6-degree body temperature, this layer of extra-warm air right next to the body is critical to keeping our internal heat up. This is why dressing in layers is so important, and it also explains why thick, breathable garments like sweaters work so well.

When a dog or cat starts to get cold, its hairs stand up, almost on end. In the same way that we get goose-bumps on our skin, dog and cat skin reacts by stiffening the hairs to thicken the coat.

If the animal's core temperature continues to fall, it will start shivering involuntarily, just like we do when we're cold. Our bodies shiver by reflex in an attempt to heat us up and raise that core temperature. If an animal keeps getting colder still, even after it starts to shiver, the body could restrict blood flow to the extremities (ear tips, face, tail, feet, etc.) in an effort to keep warm blood in the core organs. When this happens, frostbite sets in - tissues freezes and then damage to skin can occur. Many animals with frostbite also suffer from hypothermia.

Any pet that's outdoors in bitterly cold or sub-zero temperatures could develop hypothermia, a condition that can lead to shock, loss of consciousness, and even death. Symptoms include unresponsiveness, a blue tinge to the skin, and ice or snow on the extremities.

To prevent these conditions, it's important again to know your pet. Is your dog a big, hairy beast that can loll in the snow for hours without one sign of discomfort? Or do you have a small, short-haired dog that shivers on a cloudy day? A temperature-sensitive dog would surely appreciate a coat or parka and maybe even foot-gear in the height of winter, to ward off shivers. Dogs with thick coats are often able to play in the snow and ice without ever suffering from the cold. As we've seen, the key is to watch for shivering, the first sign that the animal's body temperature is too low and that it needs to be taken inside or warmed up right away.

If you think your pet has frostbite or hypothermia, call a veterinarian right away. In the case of frostbite, do not rub snow on your pet. Instead, get your pet inside right away. Once inside, get a bowl of warm water to soak the affected paw or ear in. Wrap your dog in a blanket and try to keep it warm and calm - it can be painful as the skin warms up. Avoid rubbing or touching the frost-bitten area.

The reaction to hypothermia is essentially the same ñ keep your pet as warm and dry as possible and call your veterinarian. In addition to wrapping the dog in blankets, you might heat a massage bag or a ziplock full of raw rice in the microwave, wrap it in a towel, and place it next to your pet. Be careful not to put anything too warm on a dog or cat's skin, in their exhausted state, they might not react and could end up with burns.

Once you have these heating devices in place, get your pet to a veterinarian. Since it's also important not to overheat an animal, it's vital that you see a professional who has the tools to monitor your pet's temperature.Looking for more information and other great articles about camping with pets? Visit

Keeping Pets Safe

The holidays are a wonderful time of warmth, love, and companionship for the whole family, pets or "fur-kidsî included. Sadly, many of the special things we do at the holidays can cause trouble for our furry friends. More pets are lost and injured during this season than any other. This year, show how much you care by creating a safe holiday environment for your pets. What better gift can you give to the smallest members of your family? Here are some things to guard against as you go about your holiday preparations.

Getting Lost. Airplanes, cars, relatives, shopping ñ it's a wonder we don't get lost during the chaos of the holidays, let alone our pets! Try to be extra attentive to your pets during this time. If you're traveling, make your pets an item on your to-do list so you don't forget any important supplies, food, or to arrange for a caregiver. Be sure your pets' tags are up to date and, if possible, have your vet implant a locator chip under each pet's skin.

Dangerous Plants and Food. Many of the most beautiful holiday plants are also poisonous to pets. Keep all poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, lilies, amaryllis, pine, balsam, ivy, and boxwood plants and swags away from your pets. Also, don't let your pets drink from any Christmas tree water, it can contain dangerous levels of fertilizer and bacteria. If you think your pet has consumed any of the plants listed above, contact the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center ( right away.

Many forms of people food are also harmful to dogs and cats. Never give your pet: chocolate, yeast dough, cookie dough, alcohol, rhubarb, onions, onion powder, salt, or coffee. Poultry bones are also dangerous, since they can splinter and do considerable damage. Restrain yourself from offering your furry friend too much cooked turkey or ham. Human foods are too rich for pets and the seasoning can upset their stomachs and give them diarrhea. And one more thing - watch for antifreeze puddles on your driveway. Even small amounts can be toxic to pets.

Stress. Dogs and cats thrive on routine. They like their naps at naptime and their walks at walk-time. When the holidays hit, however, the schedule crumbles. Do what you can to keep your pets' lives as normal as possible. Be sure they have familiar beds and comforting toys around, and try to keep your dog's walk schedule as normal as possible. Feed your pets at the regular time and be sure to give your little friends lots of love.

Parties and general commotion take their toll on your pets. With the regular routine abandoned and strange smells and noises in the air, your pets can become nervous and are more likely to act out or try to escape. Strange voices, fireworks, New Year's noisemakers, and unfamiliar cars can all cause your pets to panic. If your pets seem nervous, provide them with a special safe room, where things are quiet. Put food, water, a well-loved bed and litter box in this room so your pets will have all of their needs met. Be sure the room has no open windows or escape routes in case of a loud, startling noise. At the party's end, clean up left-over food and drinks before bringing your pets back from the safe room, then give them some of your undivided attention for behaving so well.

Dangerous Decorations. It may seem funny the first time your kitty pulls down the decorations or climbs the tree, but it's also a sign of things to come. Pets love decorations, especially ones that move, spin, or smell like the outdoors, but the temptation to play often causes havoc. Spend a few minutes pet-proofing your decorations and save yourself from some potentially dangerous situations.

Keep candles to a minimum and watch their placement. Tails and whiskers are easily singed, so keep any eye on any lit candles. Tree decorations made of tinsel, metal, and breakable glass are potential hazards ñ put any fragile ornaments high on the tree or leave them off altogether. Cloth and paper ornaments can go on the bottom. Be sure the tree stand is sturdy so the tree won't tip, and consider buying a Blue Spruce since its prickly needles make climbing less fun. Be sure the light cords are up off the floor, particularly if you have a puppy that's in the mood to chew.Looking for more information and other great articles about camping with pets? Visit

Easter Pets

Easter, with its warm weather, sunny skies, and joyous egg hunts is such a great holiday to spend with your pet! All across the country, small towns and humane societies are busily preparing dog-friendly Easter events that are more fun than a box of marshmallow bunnies. Wouldn't you (and your dog) love to participate in an Easter Bonnet Parade or a special doggy Egg Hunt?

Towns like Tulsa Oklahoma, Fernandina Beach Florida, Long Beach California, and Deerfield Township Ohio, along with many others host Easter events that are specially designed for people and pooches. Some hold Easter Bonnet Parades for dogs decked out in floral hats, biking caps, sunglasses, and leis. These are great fun for the whole family, whether you go as spectators or as parade participants. Vote for your favorite costume and then see what wins the award of Best-in-Parade! A costume contest with several different categories, from "most sophisticated" to "most festive", is a popular part of many of these events. Some parades even include speed-eating contests and awards for things like goofiest smile, so be sure to enter your dog for a chance to win.

Many communities also hold annual Doggy Easter Egg hunts. You could train your dog to carry the Easter basket or just let your puppy's incredible nose sniff out the hidden treats. Just be sure to keep your pup away from chocolate (this is particularly dangerous for small dogs and dogs of any size who eat dark chocolate. Be sure to check with your veterinarian if you think your dog has ingested chocolate.) If you keep dog biscuits or your pup's favorite treat in your pocket, you can reward your pet for being a good Egg Hunt companion without risking an upset doggy tummy.

Pet costumes are easy and fun to make. You can create a special hat or headpiece, or keep it simple with a decorative ruff or collar. If your dog already has a jacket, sweater, or harness, you might think of simple ways to convert that into a splashy costume. More elaborate costumes drape down in front of the dog, giving the (often hilarious) illusion of a fully-dressed human body dangling below your pet's face.

For large and medium-sized dogs, a small person's t-shirt can make a fun outfit - just be sure to get one with a wide neck or v-neck, so it'll go easily over your dog's head, and find one that's small enough so your dog doesn't trip itself while walking. Look for bright spring colors like canary yellow, petal pink, baby blue, and grass green.

This might be a good time to treat your dog to a new egg-shaped squeaky toy, a colorful leash, or a wooly-lamb stuffed animal (shop for these at discount stores, garage sales, and flea markets). And, of course, what your dog wants most is play time with you, so celebrate spring by including your furry friend in your Easter activities!Looking for more information and other great articles about camping with pets? Visit

Getting Pets Ready for Summer

May is an exciting time for pets and people alike. The days are getting long, and inviting weather beckons us all into the great outdoors. Get your pet ready for all the joys of summer by following this simple advice.

First, this is an ideal time to get your dog to the groomer (or do some grooming yourself). With summertime hikes, swims, and romps at the park coming up, this is the perfect time to get your dog's hair and nails into shape. If your dog gets hot in the summer, or if you live in a warm area, consider a short "puppy-style" cut or other trim as recommended by your groomer or vet. Short hair is less likely to pick up burrs, twigs, and dirt, so it's practical to keep your pup's hair trimmed even if heat isn't an issue. Overgrown nails can lead to scratches on the furniture, walls, and human skin, so keep them trimmed. And dew claws that aren't trimmed can get snagged on logs, gates, and other things during playtime.

Summer marks the height of a dog's social life. With walks through campgrounds, towns, and parks, plus picnics at the lake, your dog is sure to make doggie friends during the summer months. You can help ensure that these interactions go well by giving your dog a few social warm-ups.

Visit a nearby dog park, where your dog can meet fellow canines off-leash in a neutral environment. Make walking dates with other dog owners, so your pup can practice feeling like part of a team with another dog. Remember to always keep your dog on a leash in new areas and during any time when your dog might be tempted to run, chase, or bolt away from you. It's always better to be safe than sorry, so keep your dog leashed unless you're absolutely sure there can't be a problem.

In the summer, many older dogs can experience the same symptoms as human "weekend warriors". After a week of snoozing on a comfy bed, your dog can easily over do it with a weekend swim or a long, hilly hike. If you notice that your dog is stiff and sore after such a weekend, talk to your vet about ways to alleviate this pain. Another thing you can do for dogs of any age is to give your pet regular exercise throughout the week. Help your pet "train" for these weekend romps in the same way you'd train for a 5K race or a heart walk. Find activities that will let your dog build its strength gradually. If your dog enjoys swimming, try to work short swims into your weekly schedule. If it's racing around with other dogs that your pet loves, try a few games of fetch on the weekdays to warm up those running muscles.

Whatever you do with your dog this spring, be sure to bring a water bowl and plenty of water along, plus a towel for drying off wet or muddy paws. You may also want to pack treats for a little impromptu training. Remember that dogs enjoy having jobs to accomplish, so it's always best to ask your dog to do something - come, sit, or stay - for their treat-reward. This reinforces your training and leaves your dog with a sense of accomplishment!

Dogs enjoy following a daily routine, but like their human family members they also thrive on new adventures. This spring, consider planning a dog-centered day with an outing that's designed to make your pet happy. Will you head to the beach? Hike through wooded trails? Visit the dog park or socialize in town? If you're on a camping trip, maybe you'll arrange an hour of fetch by the lake or a game of tag with the kids. For some dogs, a scenic ride in the car is the nearest thing to heaven. It doesn't matter so much what you do ñ so long as you do it together, your dog will think it's been the finest day ever.Looking for more information and other great articles about camping with pets? Visit


Pastel-pale Arizona shines in November like no other place. Where else can you still enjoy warm days and clear skies, this close to the holiday season? This is the time to see Arizonaís premiere sights, when the crowds are small and the temperatures are mild. Make a memorable visit to the Grand Canyon by visiting the spectacular South Rim this month. Located eighty miles north of Flagstaff, this southern side of the park offers outstanding views of the 4,000-foot deep canyon. For maximum viewing, park your car and take one of the shuttle buses to the information center. Peer down through geologic time, hike along the rim, or watch for wildlife. From the Grand Canyon you can plan a side trip Flagstaff or head south to the red rocks of Sedona. The amazing beauty of these towering rock formations will amaze you, as will the excellent dining opportunities you can find in this hidden resort town.


With its bright blue skies and golden grasses, you might forget that itís fall in Texas. Even in this land of honest beauty, where the land and sky stretch out for miles, November is a time of harvest. Make this the destination for your family outing. Meet up for a meal at Dinosaur Valley State Park (located in North Texas) and stay to view the hillside blazing in red, orange, and yellow foliage. Kids will enjoy investigating the dinosaur tracks and models at the park. From there, visit the Dallas-Ft. Worth area for unsurpassed dining, museums, and sporting events. Not far south, in the rolling hills of Central Texas, youíll find rural beauty at its finest. The vineyards and farms, lined with rolls of harvested hay, are sure to put you in a holiday mood.

North Carolina

For a last glimpse of fall color, visit the charming Asheville area in Western North Carolina. Nestled amid the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains, this is the place to watch the leaves change. Try a scenic drive through the Mount Pisgah National Forest or tromp across the swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain. In Asheville, youíll find plenty of places to stay and dine. A trip to the North Carolina Arboretum lets you study the trees on a closer level. Nearby, at Hickory Nut Gorge, the oak and hickory trees shift from bronze to brown, providing a stunning frame to the 404-foot waterfalls that made the backdrop for the film, ìThe Last of the Mohicans.î The gorge is a perfect place for hiking and bird watching, or for an afternoon picnic on the shores of Lake Lure. For a more unique November experience, head eastward to the coastal plains. Explore the beauty of the shore without the crowds and capture a special set of memories to last throughout the winter.

Brew Your Own

Picture yourself settling back on a summer's afternoon, taking a satisfying sip of beer -- and not just any beer, but one that you brewed yourself. You might invite friends to join you, entering into a lively conversation about the virtues of hops, yeast, bitters, and malt. In time you could even perfect your own secret recipe, one that relatives and friends clamor over.

Homebrewing is surprisingly easy and fun, particularly if you start with one of the kits that are widely available in homebrewing stores and online shops. After your first experience, you might invest in your own brewing equipment, experimenting with your ingredients until you find just the right combination. Consider, for instance, the bitter beers, dark beers, porters, and fruit-flavored beers that you could try. You can even vary the alcohol strength in your final product by adjusting what you add to the wort.

People enjoy brewing their own beer for a variety of reasons. It allows them to create their own recipes, make beers that aren't available elsewhere, and to enjoy a more yeasty 'live' beer, rather than the pasteurized beer that's sold in stores. The most important trait the home brewer needs is patience, since it can take anywhere from two weeks to several monthsÛor even a yearÛto create the beer you want.

Contrary to popular belief, homebrewing doesn't require a large amount of space. Most home brewers make a five-gallon batch, and depending on space limitations, might have several batches fermenting at once, so they mature at different times. When you brew your own, be sure to keep good records, so that once you stumble upon the perfect recipe, you'll know exactly what steps to take to create that beer again and again.

Beer brewing begins with the creation of the wort (this is the name for beer that is not yet fermented). Malted grain, or malt, is soaked in hot water (60-70 degrees) until sugars are released -- this process is called mashing. The home brewer can skip this step by purchasing dry extracted malt or liquid malt. The run-off from the mash is the wort, a liquid that has all the sugars and proteins of beer, but not the yeast. The wort is then boiled with hops for flavor, then cooled. Once yeast is added to start the fermentation process, the liquid can rightfully be called beer. At this point it requires bottling, followed by a period of rest while the beer ferments and cures.

Wine and cider-making are also popular home activities. A novice wine maker can easily have a successful first outing, particularly if you use the kits that are available. Nearly any edible fruit or plant can be used to make wine -- the trick is to add the right amount of sugar to your blend (called 'must'), so that when you add yeast, the yeast will have something to feed on. Grapes are popular wine making fruits in part because they naturally contain the right amount of sugar.

As with all canning and bottling, it's crucial for safety reasons that you use sterile bottles, caps, and equipment in your beer or wine making. In the U.S., it's legal for every household to make up to 200 gallons of wine or beer each year. So why not make this the year you try brewing your own? The next time you have friends over and bring out your special blend, you'll certainly be glad you did.


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