Notebook: April 2020

News briefs and advice from around the industry. Headlines this month include: 5 Things All Vets Need to Know About Blue-Green Algae, Banned Racehorse Therapy Exposed, 100-Year-Old Terms, Spring Cleaning, Banned Racehorse Therapy Exposed; and How To Stop Interrupting.


States that report a harmful
algal  bloom every year
in freshwater


Coastal states that report
harmful algal blooms
in marine waters


Cyanobacterial blooms,
as a percentage of all
reported algal blooms
in Ontario, Canada

Source: Super Genes: Unlock the Astonishing Power of Your DNA for Optimum Health and Well-Being, by Deepak Chopra, MD, and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

5 Things All Vets Need to Know About
Blue-Green Algae

With summer swimming season starting, be prepared for an unusual but growing threat.

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) grow in all aquatic environments, from oceans to bogs to rivers. They thrive in warm, sunny weather. Despite the name, the algae may appear as bright green, pea-green, or even reddish-brown water, and they can create a “paint” or colorful scum on the surface of the water.

More than 30 species of cyanobacteria emit neurotoxins or hepatotoxins that can be deadly to pets who drink contaminated water or eat the algal mats. Dogs are especially vulnerable to algal poisoning because they like to swim in the dense algal blooms and are especially sensitive to the neurotoxins.

If a dog ingests neurotoxins, symptoms may appear within minutes, and the animal may die within minutes or hours as a result of respiratory failure. If the animal ingests hepatotoxins, death may occur from liver failure in days or weeks.

Diagnosis is usually based on whether the dog has recently swum in contaminated water. There may also be a greenish stain on the mouth, nose, legs, and feet.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, “Although therapies for cyanobacterial poisonings have not been investigated in detail, activated charcoal slurry is likely to be of benefit.” Animals who live may fully recover.

Stop Interrupting!

How to Get People to Stop Interrupting You

Be direct. “Be quiet and let me talk!” is not going to get you anywhere. You can be direct and polite at the same time. Try this: “John, I would like to hear your ideas, but please let me finish my thoughts first. Thank you.”

Go with the flow. Not every interruption is bad. Set your point aside for the moment and follow your interrupter’s train of thought. Ask questions and respond thoughtfully. Let the interrupter feel listened to. Then, if your point is still relevant, return to it.

Keep calm and carry on. When someone talks over you, continue to speak. Don’t pause or rush. Raise your voice just enough to be heard. Outlast your interrupter.

Worst case: Practice diplomacy. Look the interrupter firmly in the eye, raise one finger, and say, “One moment.” Don’t apologize. Diplomacy is about negotiating.

How to Make Yourself Stop Interrupting

The two-second rule. Sometimes we jump in when the other person has simply paused to take a breath or to choose a word. Wait two seconds before you start speaking.

Write down your thoughts. This is great for meetings and phone calls. If you’re afraid you’ll forget what you want to say, make a quick note.

Catch a bubble. A kindergarten teacher silences her class by telling them to “catch a bubble!” Then she puffs out her cheeks as if she’s trapped one in there. OK, you’re not five years old. Choose your own physical cue and use it.

Self-correct. If you record yourself on the phone or in the exam room, review the recording. Take notes about when you interrupt and the consequences. You might note, “Mrs. Jones was telling me about Buster’s poop when I interrupted to repeat my feeding directions. I need to call her to find out what she meant to tell me.”

Stop yourself. When you hear yourself interrupting, stop and apologize, and ask the person to continue what they were saying. Do that often enough, and you may be able to stop yourself before you start.

Sources: Kat Boogaard, “5 Polite Ways to Deal with People Who Not-So-Politely Keep Interrupting You,”; Aja Frost, “5 Effective Ways to Stop Interrupting,”

From Manager to Coach: Performance Management

Ben Wigert and Annamarie Mann, blogging for Gallup, describe this finding from recent Gallup research. “[O]nly about one in four employees ‘strongly agree’ that their manager provides meaningful feedback to them—or that the feedback they receive helps them do better work. Even more alarming is that a mere 21% of employees ‘strongly agree’ that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.”

Many organizations, recognizing a problem with performance management, encourage managers to have frequent conversations with employees about their performance, beyond annual or semiannual reviews. Gallup found that such conversations often pose a problem for the managers. Some are uncomfortable about fulfilling this expectation without detailed guidance; others see the task as outside their job description.

In “Re-Engineering Performance Management,” Gallup reports on a new approach, “performance development,” that shifts a manager’s role from boss to coach. Coaching requires that managers be taught how to conduct performance conversations with their employees in which the needs and unique skills of the employees are recognized.

Wigert and Mann identify three key elements of effective coaching:

  1. Establish expectations and make a connection. In the first conversation with each employee, clarify performance needs and set clear objectives. Make sure the employee understands that coaching does not mean micromanaging. Convey your commitment to making sure the employee has what’s needed to be successful.
  2. Keep every conversation focused and future-oriented. Conversations that include critical feedback can and should still achieve the goal of inspiring and energizing employees going forward.
  3. Incorporate recognition and goals in performance reviews. When discussing an employee’s work, team contributions, and client interactions, be accurate and recognize achievements. Incorporate developmental goals into this conversation.

First Spotted in 1920

New discoveries need new words. These terms were first used exactly 100 years ago.

Appaloosa: A breed of rugged saddle horses developed in western North America and usually having a white or solid-colored coat with small spots.

B vitamin: Any of the B vitamins; A and C also made their debut this year.

End-stage: Occurring in the final stage of a terminal disease or condition.

Lymphadenopathy: Enlarged lymph nodes.

Luteal: A phase of the menstrual cycle associated with carb craving.1

Oligophagous: Eating only a few specific kinds of foods (see luteal).

Universal donor: A blood type that can donate to any recipient (also refers to the donor). Dogs who are negative for DEA 1.1 and the majority of other blood types are considered universal blood donors. There are no universal donors among cats.2

  1. “Many studies show that women in their luteal phase crave more carbohydrates compared to during their follicular phase.” Sara Twogood, “The Science Behind Why You Crave Carbs When You’re on Your Period,” Quartz, August 7, 2019.
  2. For dogs: Washington State University Teaching Hospital Transfusion Program, For cats: Merck Veterinary Manual,

Banned Racehorse Therapy Exposed

The Triple Crown. Three high-stakes races in five weeks. Beginning May 2, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes will pit thoroughbred horses against a grueling schedule as well as each other.

Competitors are tested for doping, of course. But not all performance-enhancing measures are as easily traced as drugs.

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) uses high-pressure sonic waves to speed healing of tendons and ligaments in humans and horses. The therapy is believed to increase blood flow to the treated area, reducing pain over the short term, Katherine Unger Baillie writes for the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet). (Note: Studies posted on NCBI show mixed results.)

The therapy can be dangerous for racehorses, because “masking pain can come with a cost: overworked minor injuries could lead to major ones—or even pose a life-threatening risk to both horse and rider,” Baillie reports.

Horseracing authorities have banned use of ESWT within 10 days of a race (or other sporting event). But how do you enforce a ban for a therapy that leaves no trace?

“Because it’s not a drug—it’s applied to the surface of the skin—it’s just not an easy thing to detect,” Mary Robinson, director of Penn Vet’s Equine Pharmacology Laboratory, told Baillie.

That may be about to change. After a 10-year effort at the laboratory, Robinson and lab member Jinwen Chen have found potential biomarkers of ESWT, Penn Vet reports.

The researchers measured changes in levels of five inflammatory factors, and some of the changes could be detected up to three weeks after the shockwave therapy.

More study is necessary before these biomarkers may be used to assess inappropriate use of ESWT in racehorses.

Photo credits: ©, © Productions, ©, © Kirby Photography



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