How To Protect Your Dog’s Paws From The Hot Florida Summer Pavement

Imagine walking down the sidewalk barefoot on a blistering hot day. You’d be in agony after a few seconds.

That’s how your dog likely feels when you head out for a stroll in the heat of the day. Pet owners often overlook how painful hot pavement can be for their four-legged companions. Here are some tips for protecting those paws when it’s hot outside:

Adjust your walk schedule

Avoid the middle of the day and take your walks in the early morning or evening hours suggests the Humane Society of the United States. That’s when the pavement isn’t so hot.

Get off the concrete

Have your dog walk in the grass or dirt instead of the sidewalk or other hot surfaces. Those surfaces are much cooler, and there’s a much lower chance the dog’s pads will get burned.

Try it for yourself

Before you bring your dog outside, test to see how hot the concrete or blacktop is. Press the back of your hand against the concrete for seven to 10 seconds to see if it will be comfortable for your dog to walk on. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws, says the Humane Society of Charlotte.

Cover up

Consider protective booties or paw wax, which creates a barrier against the elements. They will create a protective layer between your dog’s feet and hot surfaces.

Build up calluses

Walk your dog on concrete during the cooler part of the day to help build up calluses on the pads of her feet, suggests the Oregon Humane Society.

Be careful at the beach, too

Sand can get as hot as pavement. Use the hand test in this setting as well before taking your pet out to the beach. Your dog’s paw pads may be more sensitive after being in the water, so pay special attention to her feet if she’s just been swimming or splashing around.

What to look for

If you’ve been out with your dog on a hot day, it’s a good idea to check their feet for any problems. Here are signs of possible burned paw pads:

  • limping or refusing to keep walking
  • licking or chewing at feet
  • pads that are darker in color than normal
  • blisters or redness on the feet
  • missing part of paw pad

If you think your dog might have burned her paw pads, here’s what to do:

  • Carry your dog to a grassy, cool area.
  • Immediately rinse with cool water.
  • Apply a gentle antibacterial cream or liquid.
  • Keep your pet from licking her paws.
  • If burns are minor, apply an antibacterial ointment and loosely bandage.
  • For serious burns, see your vet to prevent infection.

Don’t Have Time To Exercise? Science Has Good (And Bad) News For You

It’s a common refrain: We’d like to exercise more, but we just don’t have the time! Well, we don’t have the time for most kinds of exercise. If this is true of you, then a team of researchers has sort of a good news tortilla wrapped around a filling of bad news: You do, in fact, have time to exercise, because you can fit an optimal exercise routine into a ten-minute window. It will just be highly unpleasant!

Backing up previous research, a new study took sedentary subjects and subjected them to two different exercise regimens: A standard 45-minute one where subjects partook of moderate exercise, and sprint interval training. The latter is catching on among fitness types and is essentially mixing long periods of moderate exercise with short, all-out intense exercise. The exact routine was a two-minute warm-up, followed by a twenty-second sprint, and two minutes of moderate exercise, repeated three times, and paired with a three-minute cooldown. Imagine if you were jogging for a few minutes, and then had to sprint away from a bear three times.

The result is that the 45-minute routine and the ten-minute routine yielded similar benefits, despite the latter group doing less exercise and spending less time doing it. Of course, the trade-off is, as we said, you can’t just turn the exercise bike up to 8 and keep pedaling; for this to work, it has to be a complete sprint, putting everything you have and more into it. If you’re not ready to vomit at the end of those twenty seconds, you’re probably doing it wrong. It also is unlikely to substantially change your physique. But look at it this way; at least you’ve finally found the time to exercise. Before you engage, though, make sure you consult your Doctor.

Foods That Wake You up and Give You Energy

Sleep is vital to good health. MayoClinic.com states that adults have lower mortality rates and perform complex tasks better if they receive seven to eight hours of sleep per night. However, waking up with energy in the morning is difficult if you’ve spent the night tossing and turning. Incorporate certain foods into your diet that will help wake you up and give you energy throughout the day.

Whole Grains

High in fiber and complex carbohydrates, whole grains are a nutritious breakfast food that can help to wake you up. According to Wheatfoods.org, whole grains contain antioxidants and may reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Examples of whole grain foods include whole-wheat flour, oatmeal and bulgur. Add oat bran muffins and whole-grain bread to your breakfast meal.

Vitamin C

Studies at Arizona State University in Tempe showed that participants low on vitamin C performed better on the treadmill once they started receiving vitamin C on a daily basis. Some foods high in vitamin C include oranges or orange juice, guavas, strawberries, kiwifruit and cantaloupe.

Protein

Prevention.com recommends including protein with your breakfast for longer-lasting energy. Some examples cited are fat-free milk, cheese, eggs and low-fat yogurt. Enjoy a high-energy breakfast by making an omelet combining eggs, egg whites, cheese, chopped green and/or red pepper. Enjoy your omelet with whole-grain toast.

Protein Smoothie

If you don’t have time to eat a sit-down breakfast, MayoClinic.com has a high-protein recipe that can help boost your energy for the day. Blend 1 cup of vanilla yogurt, 1 cup of 2 percent milk, one medium banana (cut in chunks), 2 tbsp. of wheat germ and 2 tbsp. of protein powder until smooth. You can add ice and any combination of berries as well. Use low-fat yogurt and nonfat milk to reduce the number of calories in the smoothie.

Mid-Morning Snacks

Eat foods high in protein to keep you going throughout the day. Snacks between meals can include peanut butter spread either on whole-wheat bread or an apple, dried fruit, almonds or cheese.

Do Fitness Trackers Take the Fun Out of Fitness?

If you find yourself obsessively checking your tracker every time you leave the house for a run or power walk, you might be inadvertently taking away some of the joy you get from exercising.

Or so says a study conducted by researchers at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. In the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, participants reported feeling less fulfilled after participating in activities they once found fun. That is, they enjoyed it less when they kept checking their progress.

“In general, tracking activity can increase how much people do,” says Jordan Etkin, the study’s author. “But at the same time, measurement has these pernicious effects. Enjoyable activities can become almost like a job, by focusing on the outcomes of things that used to be fun.”

It’s kind of like being a student and dreading exam day, says Amanda Dale, an ACE-certified personal trainer in Los Angeles.

“A fitness tracker is like a constant reminder of your progress, evaluating your every move and tallying up whether you are ‘succeeding’ at any given moment in the day. For some, it can feel like you’re adding unnecessary social pressure instead of being what is supposed to be a stress-relieving activity.”

So, while it’s ever-important to remember that exercise should be fun, it’s also true that physical activity takes many forms, says Jenna Wolfe, a health and wellness expert in New York City and author of “Thinner in 30.”

“If you’re exercising, I think trackers are what get you — and keep you — working out,” she says. “We’re in this amazing age of having access to data — we can find out right away how many steps we’re taking, what our heart rate is and how many calories we’re burning. It’s a beautiful thing.”

At the same time, if your idea of exercise is taking a hike with your kids, a tracker might take away the joy of the activity.

“When I’m running around with my kids at the beach, I don’t want to look at my wrist and track my heart rate,” Wolfe says. “If the goal is to go out and have fun while doing an activity you love, enjoy the activity for what it is.”

In the end, both experts think fitness trackers are still worth it.

“I swear by trackers,” Wolfe says. “People think they’re doing enough, and then they see data and realize they could do more. It’s a beautiful barometer that lets people see where they are and how they could do better.”

Dale concurs.

“For those who are more goal-oriented and thrive on competition, a fitness tracker may actually make fitness more fun because it becomes a game,” she says. “Can I beat my steps from yesterday? Can I get a gold star for reaching my goals? Some of my clients enjoy the intrinsic rewards that trackers give, whether it’s just stepping more than the day before or actually getting a virtual ‘badge’ or ‘cheer.’ They ultimately find it lots of fun.”

Two Cups of Coffee Can Reduce the Risk of Liver Disease, Study Finds

Here’s some good news for those who enjoy a coffee: scientists have managed to link regular consumption of it to a reduced risk of liver cirrhosis. Having two cups of coffee a day appears to reduce the chances of developing the disease by 44 percent, based on data from 430,000 individuals spread over nine studies.

“Cirrhosis is potentially fatal, and there is no cure as such,” lead researcher Oliver Kennedy from the University of Southampton in the UK told The Washington Post. “Therefore, it is significant that the risk of developing cirrhosis may be reduced by consumption of coffee, a cheap, ubiquitous, and well-tolerated beverage.”

The researchers analysed five cohort studies and four case-control studies involving 1,990 cases and 432,133 participants, and found that in eight of the nine studies, the risk of cirrhosis continued to decline as the number of cups consumed continued to rise, leading them to conclude that increasing coffee consumption may sub-stantially reduce the risk of cirrhosis. The team wasn’t able to distinguish between different types of coffee or brewing methods.

Cirrhosis is estimated to cause the death of around 1 million people every year, and can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption, hepatitis infections, immune disorders, and fatty liver disease (linked to obesity and diabetes).

Despite containing compounds that offer antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory properties, coffee cannot reverse the “systematic damage” of lifestyle choices that tend to bring on cirrhosis, according to New York University senior clinical nutritionist Samantha Heller, who wasn’t involved in the study.

In other words, if you’re drinking too heavily, don’t expect a couple of cups of coffee to save your body from the punishing effects. However, it does appear that coffee offers some protection against the onset of the cirrhosis of the liver.

“This could be an important finding for patients at risk of cirrhosis to help to improve their health outcomes,” said Oliver Kennedy in a press release. “However, we now need robust clinical trials to investigate the wider benefits and harms of coffee so that doctors can make specific recommendations to patients.”

Few drinks attract as much attention as coffee from scientists. The hot beverage has previously been found to affect our circadian rhythms, lower the risk of skin cancer, and reduce the risk of developing diabetes. If you want to know all of the ways that the caffeine plays around with your body, consult this infographic.

The findings have been published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

Can the Zika Virus Affect Pets?

The once-obscure Zika virus is now making daily headlines as it surfaces in more countries and health officials rush to make recommendations to keep it from spreading.

We know the virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes. Only about one in five people infected with Zika virus will get sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and even then the symptoms are usually mild. However, the disease has been linked to serious birth defects and other major health problems. We know it is of most concern to pregnant women and there is at least one case of it being spread by sexual contact.

But we don’t know if our pets are at risk.

“I think unless you’re talking about pet monkeys, which should be extremely rare cases, as far as dogs and cats, I don’t know of any information or scientific studies on that topic,” says Chris Barker, a researcher in the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at the University of California, Davis. Barker studies the epidemiology of mosquito-transmitted diseases.

Of two common mosquito species that spread Zika — Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus — the former prefers biting humans and the latter has a broader palate. CDC researcher Roberto Barrera found that up to 20 percent of bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito in several rural communities in Puerto Rico were on dogs.

“Certainly there’s the potential for a pet to become infected,” says Barker. “What we don’t know is what that means for the health of the animal.”

If a dog or cat were to become infected, we also don’t know if they could spread the virus to humans.

“What would ultimately matter in terms of whether a pet would play a role in transmission is how much virus would be in the animals’ blood,” Barker says.

Although there have been no cases of Zika being transmitted via mosquito in the United States, the mosquitoes that are capable of transmitting the virus do live in the U.S. So one of the best ways to protect people (and pets) from possible infection is to practice good mosquito control on your property.

“Encourage people to limit mosquito production from their own backyards, and they should encourage their neighbors to do the same. That’s one of the best measures we can take,” says Barker. “Where we do have the mosquitoes, we want to do everything we can to minimize the mosquitoes and limit the transmission risk.”

Rick Scott Declares State of Emergency Over Zika Virus

Florida Gov. Rick Scott isn’t taking any chances with the Zika virus. He officially declared a health emergency in four counties today where cases of the disease have already appeared, The Associated Press reports.

The disease, which has been linked to birth defects, is spread by mosquitoes. If there’s one thing the Sunshine State has a buttload of—even more than insane news stories—it’s mosquitoes.

As of last week, Zika had been detected in 31 U.S. states, but every one of those cases, including nine in Florida, are believed to have been contracted by traveling to places in Latin America and the Caribbean where Zika is already in the mosquitoes.

The good news is that across the U.S., even in sunny Florida, it’s still too cold for mosquitoes right now. The problem: That’s going to change very soon, which means that the disease has the potential to spread. There’s also the lesser risk of transmitting Zika through sex.

“We have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state,” Scott said in a statement. “We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best.”

Declaring an emergency gives state agencies, such as the department of agriculture and health departments, more freedom to deal with the disease as they see fit.

Social Media is Really Messing With Your Sleep

Instagram models and Snapchat gurus might want to proceed with caution. According to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, frequent social media users probably aren’t sleeping too well.

The study, which was published digitally and will appear in the April issue of the academic journal Preventative Medicine, featured a subject pool of 1,788 American adults ranging from 19 to 32 years old who were asked about their social media activity. Researchers inquired about popular social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn, EurekAlert reports.

What they found was that individuals who checked their social media more frequently were three times as likely to suffer from sleep disturbance, and users who checked more often during the day were twice as likely to have troubled sleep compared to those who didn’t use it as much.

“This may indicate that frequency of social media visits is a better predictor of sleep difficulty than overall time spent on social media,” said Dr. Jessica C. Levenson, lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in Pitt’s Department of Psychiatry. “If this is the case, then interventions that counter obsessive ‘checking’ behavior may be most effective.”

In others words, it might be time to put down the phone and get some shut eye.

How to Work, Sleep, and Exercise Better

Even if you exercise regularly, sitting at your desk all day will kill you. Literally. One study by the American Cancer Society found that men who sit for six or more hours a day are 20 percent more likely to die from a given cause than men who sit for less than three hours. Other research has linked prolonged daily sitting to high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes.

How to Work Better

Scientists have found that physical movement inspires creative problem solving. To craft your own ideal setup, follow these suggestions from Todd Meier, an ergonomics expert at insurance company the Standard, and Carey Fitzgerald, an expert in evolutionary psychology at Michigan’s Oakland University.

How to Make Working at Your Desk into a Healthy Experience

  1. A number of pricey treadmill desks have popped up recently, but you’ll get many of the same benefits by simply standing for two-thirds of your day. Ergo Depot’s adjustable-height desk ($750) allows you to create all kinds of workstations. You can even hook up your bike to a trainer—we like the CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro ($400)—with your front tire under your desk.
  2. Sitting on a physio ball like the Gymnastik Standard Swiss ($20) corrects your posture and strengthens your core. Ease into it—your abs will be sore after a few hours.
  3. Awkward wrist, arm, and shoulder positions lead to muscle knots and carpal tunnel syndrome. Your elbows should dangle even with your keyboard and mouse, and your wrists and forearms should be in a straight line. A keyboard tray makes this easy ($139).
  4. To prevent eyestrain, position your computer monitor at least 18 inches from your face. To prevent neck strain, it should be directly in front of you at eye height, tilted up 10 to 20 degrees. Placing it on books works as well as a stand.
  5. A 2011 study published in the science journal Nature found that greenery decreases anger and frustration.
  6. Simply petting your dog increases your level of oxy-tocin, a.k.a. the love hormone, resulting in lower stress levels.
  7. A growing number of studies suggests that images of nature will boost your memory, attention, and concen-tration almost as much as the real thing does.
  8. Exposure to sun-light, even if the UVB rays are filtered out by a window, has been shown to improve mood.

How to Sleep Better

Not getting enough rest impairs your attention, hinders your reflexes, and leaves you prone to emotional outbursts. For athletes, that’s an awesome recipe for poor performance—and possibly injury and lasting shame. Which is why top professional triathlete Andy Potts makes sure to get 11 hours a night despite being a dad to two young kids and following an intense training schedule.

We asked Potts about his methods and ran some of his answers by Dr. Charles Samuels, medical director at the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary.

  1. My wife and I share a king-size bed. I’m not a spooning type of guy. All couples should sleep in beds big enough that they won’t wake each other. If your spouse snores, have him or her sleep in another room. —Dr. Samuels
  2. Serta mattress; medium-hard, no pillow top. I like two nice hard pillows. The soft ones drive me crazy, because I want my head to be elevated. Firmness of mattress and pillows is totally personal. Go with what works for you.
  3. A bolster pillow between my knees aligns my back and makes for a more comfortable rest.
  4. I always untuck the sheets. I like unrestricted movement, so that when I roll over during the night it doesn’t wake me up.
  5. I need pitch black to sleep, so we installed blackout curtains, which also reduce street noise.
  6. I use a humidifier, which prevents dry throat and nose, two things that used to interrupt my sleep. Upper-airway discomfort is a common cause of poor sleep. Any kind of humidifier will help. Also try a saline nasal wash, like Ocean Nasal Saline Spray.
  7. I prefer to sleep in 65 to 68 degrees. I’d rather be too cold than too hot. An athlete’s resting core temperature can vary dramatically with training intensity.
  8. Ever since my kids were born, I sleep with earplugs. They’re only noise dampening, so I can still hear the major cries, but the little things no longer wake me.
  9. I set my alarm clock to an easy-listening station so that I don’t wake up to that annoying blast, which instantly puts me in a bad mood. People use all kinds of systems and sophisticated gadgets to wake up happier. Some athletes use bio-alarms, which are sup-posed to wake you at your lightest stage of sleep during a 30-minute window. But there really are no rules about what works best.

How to Exercise Better

There is no reasonable argument for paying $3,000-plus for a road bike but not a couple hundred bucks to have it fit perfectly to your body and riding style. In the past few years, bike brands have invested heavily in fit technology that precisely records your ideal position and then compares it with a database of bikes and components to suggest the best combination. The result: you’re faster (a fit can boost power output by 10 percent) and more comfortable.

How to Fit Your Bike to Your Body

  1. Tron-style fit bikes like the Retül Müve Dynamic and the Guru Experience allow assessment and adjustment of every measurement without the rider ever having to dismount.
  2. Video is displayed as you pedal, and fitters can compare footage of different fits. In some systems, bikes are set on a 360-degree turntable. Others, like 3D Bike Fit, add a second camera.
  3. The Retül harness attaches sensors to your flex points that transmit fit angles to a computer to capture static positions and patterns, like how your knee tracks through a pedal stroke.
  4. Power meters test how a position affects rider output. Small tweaks can make a significant difference.
  5. Your contact points with the bike matter most. Many fitters offer custom footbeds and pedals with varying spindle widths. The Specialized Body Geometry sit-bone tool measures hip width, so you can choose the ideal saddle.

Find the Right Bike

  • Retül: Get fit on the Müve Dynamic at one of 280 U.S. sites. From $300.
  • Guru: Some 60 retailers run the Experience system. From $100.
  • 3D Bike Fit: This San Francisco shop ­offers the greatest number of custom options. From $195.
  • Specialized Body Geometry Fit: The largest selection of components and some 200 fit centers. From $250.

Eating Healthy During the Week But Bingeing on Weekends is Not OK for Your Gut

A relatively healthy but complex community is living together peacefully, until an unruly mob of hooligans begins unsettling the community’s residents and disturbing the peace every weekend. This scenario could be playing out in the human gut every time you go on a junk food binge. Yo-yoing between eating well during the week and bingeing on junk food over the weekend is likely to be just as bad for your gut health as a consistent diet of junk.

Our study, recently published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, examined the impact of yo-yo dieting on the gut microbiota (the mix of organisms) of rats. This was the first study to compare how continuous or irregular exposure to an unhealthy diet can impact the composition of the gut microbiota. The findings were illuminating – but first, back to the microbiota.

Why microbiota matters

While the actual number of microbial cells has been the subject of recent debate, up to 100 trillion are thought to inhabit the human gut. These cells influence metabolism, nutrition and immune function. Growing evidence shows they are also important for our mental health. On the flip side, disruption to the gut’s microbiota has been linked with gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.

In addition to diet, we know that our genetic makeup, antibiotic use, and hygiene also likely shape the microbiome. Recent work in chimpanzees indicates that who you live with can have as much as influence on the makeup of microbiome as who your parents are. Exercise has also been suggested to impact the diversity and types of bacteria found in the gut.

Junk food changes the microbiome

The role that biota plays in obesity is certainly controversial – as it’s difficult to demonstrate cause-and-effect. It’s also challenging to study in humans. However, one study showed that transferring biota from an obese human into a lean recipient mouse induced obesity in the mouse.

Our laboratory recently showed that a chronic high-fat diet in rats saw major shifts in gut biota. These changes were associated not only with weight gain and additional fat mass, but also changes to key hormones that regulate metabolism, such as insulin.

Weekend food binges

Armed with this knowledge, our next question was to find out what would happen in animals eating a low-fat diet four days a week, followed by a ‘binge’ of palatable, high-fat foods for three days every week – just like a long feast weekend.

We compared the abundance of microbiota in rats given continuous access to either a healthy diet or junk food (cake, biscuits, meat pies, dim sim, chips) with a group cycled between the two diets – healthy for four days and junk for three – over 16 weeks.

Cycled rats showed large swings in food intake, consuming 30 percent more energy than those maintained on the healthy diet only. When cycled rats switched back to a healthy diet, they consumed half as much nutritious food as those maintained on a healthy diet only.

At the end of the study, the cycled rats had gained less weight than rats consuming junk diet continuously, but were still 18 percent heavier than rats on a healthy diet only. Their measures of key metabolic hormones such as leptin and insulin were in-between the rates for rats fed junk or healthy food.

However, the gut biota profiles showed a different pattern – any exposure to the junk food was sufficient to shift the gut biota profile. In other words, the microbiota of cycled rats was almost indistinguishable from rats fed a constant diet of junk.

The junk food diet also reduced the abundance of microbial species capable of metabolising flavonoids, which have been suggested to not only assist in weight loss but also exert protective functions within the brain.

What does this mean for people?

If this same phenomenon occurs in humans, those who are strict with their diet during the week may have all that good work undone by hitting the junk food over the weekend.

The good news is the gut biota profile can change relatively quickly, so we have the capacity to introduce healthy lifestyle measures in order to improve intestinal health. Eating a healthy diet of unprocessed foods, including adequate fibre, avoiding excess alcohol and getting enough exercise are key.

This article was written by Margaret Morris from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia, and was originally published by The Conversation.