Notebook: September 2020

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s topics include: personality isn’t permanent, identifying burnout at work, dogs can detect heat with their noses, pig ears and Salmonella risk, why cats are better at surviving snakebites, canine and human brain cancer similarities, and racial equity in action.

Personality Isn’t Permanent

In his new book, Personality Isn’t Permanent: Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story, psychologist and author Benjamin Hardy, PhD, debunks myths about personality and provides strategies for personal transformation.

In an excerpt from his book, Hardy says that according to Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do.” More directly, we are what we say yes to. Every second of every day, you’re saying yes to something. Every time you do something, you say yes to that thing.

Every time you hop on Facebook and begin scrolling, you’re saying yes. Every piece of food you put in your body, you’re saying yes. Right now, as you read this article, you’re saying yes. When you say yes to anything, you say no to almost everything else. Every choice has an embedded opportunity cost. Every choice is costly. Saying yes isn’t free, Hardy says.

Pig Ears and Salmonella Risk

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), investigated a link between pig ear treats and human cases of salmonellosis and reported that as of October 30, 2019, the outbreak appeared to be over. During the outbreak, there were 154 cases of human infection tied to exposure to pig ear pet treats with Salmonella in 34 states. The CDC reported that 35 people were hospitalized, and 27 illnesses were among children younger than five years.

The FDA has traced back some of the pig ear treats associated with cases of illness to sources in Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia, and three US firms associated with cases in the outbreak have recalled their products. Some of these treats have tested positive for Salmonella.

Based on the slowed rate of human illness reports, the FDA and CDC are no longer recommending that people avoid purchasing or feeding pig ear pet treats entirely. If pet owners choose to feed pig ear pet treats, the CDC recommends exercising caution and practicing good hygiene to prevent human exposure by monitoring pets while they have the treat, picking up the treat when they are done with it, keeping treats away from small children, cleaning the areas the treat contacted, and washing hands.


“If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else.”

—Marvin Gaye

Why Cats Are Better at Surviving Snakebites

Cats are twice as likely to survive a venomous snakebite as dogs, and the reasons behind this phenomenon have been revealed by research from Australia’s University of Queensland, published in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology.

The research team, led by PhD student Christina Zdenek and Associate Professor Bryan Fry, compared the effects of snake venoms on the blood-clotting agents in dogs and cats. In Australia, the eastern brown snake alone is responsible for an estimated 76% of reported domestic pet snakebites each year. Fry reports that while only 31% of dogs survive being bitten by an eastern brown snake without antivenom, cats are twice as likely to survive—at 66%.

Cats also have a significantly higher survival rate if given antivenom treatment, and until now, he says, the reasons behind this disparity were unknown. Fry and his team used a coagulation analyzer to test the effects of eastern brown snake venom—as well as 10 additional venoms found around the world—on dog and cat plasma in the lab.

“All venoms acted faster on dog plasma than cat or human,” says Zdenek. “This indicates that dogs would likely enter a state where blood clotting fails sooner and are therefore more vulnerable to these snake venoms. The spontaneous clotting time of the blood—even without venom—was dramatically faster in dogs than in cats.” She says that this suggests that the naturally faster-clotting blood of dogs makes them more vulnerable to these types of snake venoms, and is consistent with clinical records showing more rapid onset of symptoms and lethal effects in dogs than cats.

The study reports that several behavioral differences between cats and dogs are also highly likely to increase the chances of dogs dying from venomous snakebites. “Dogs typically investigate with their nose and mouth, which are highly vascularized areas, whereas cats often swat with their paws,” Fry says. “And dogs are usually more active than cats, which is not great after a bite has taken place because the best practice is to remain as still as possible to slow the spread of venom through the body.”

The researchers hope their insights can lead to a better awareness of the critically short period of time to get treatment for dogs envenomed by snakes.

Identifying Burnout at Work

Burnout is nothing new in the workplace, but recently, organizations as large as the World Health Organization (WHO) have begun to identify and address the harmful effects of the condition.

In May 2019, the WHO’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems included an updated entry on burnout, classifying it as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The syndrome is more than a normal stress response, and it warrants attention.

The Mayo Clinic offers a list of burnout symptoms, and tips on how to get help. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be feeling burnout.

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with coworkers, customers, or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

The Clinic offers the following tips to handle burnout:

Evaluate your options: Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Maybe you can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait.

Seek support: Whether you reach out to coworkers, friends, or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope. If you have access to an employee-assistance program, take advantage of relevant services.

Try a relaxing activity: Explore activities that can help with stress, such as yoga, meditation, or tai chi.

Get some exercise: Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work.

Get some sleep: Sleep restores wellbeing and helps protect your health.

Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment.

Canine and Human Brain Cancer Similarities

John Rossmeisl Jr., DVM, DACVIM, of the Dr. and Mrs. Dorsey Taylor Mahin Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Virginia–Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine

Humans and dogs share many aspects of their lives: food, homes, and a deep bond of mutual affection. Although these common bonds bring joy and comfort, one connection between the two species is decidedly not positive. Both dogs and humans are uniquely susceptible to a devastating, aggressive brain tumor referred to as a glioma.

Companion dogs develop glioma brain tumors spontaneously at about the same rate as people. The cancer is rare in both humans and animals, but upon its appearance, it tends to be swift-moving and notoriously resistant to treatment. A group of researchers, including John Rossmeisl Jr., DVM, DACVIM, the Dr. and Mrs. Dorsey Taylor Mahin Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Virginia–Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, recently set out to determine the depth of the commonalities between canine and human gliomas—a connection that has major implications for treating these intractable tumors.

The team, led by computational biologist Roel Verhaak of The Jackson Laboratory, a nonprofit biomedical research institution, analyzed tumor samples from dozens of gliomas in adults, children, and dogs to compare their molecular profiles.

The researchers found a remarkable degree of similarity, particularly between pediatric and canine tumors. The locations of genetic mutations were often the same, as were disease processes, such as the way gliomas alter DNA’s ability to repair itself and the timing of when the mutations themselves arise.

The findings are published as “Comparative Molecular Life History of Spontaneous Canine and Human Gliomas” in the journal Cancer Cell.

“The paper demonstrates that changes that are critical for brain tumor formation, including genetic mutations and acquired modifications in gene activity, are similar between human and canine brain cancers,” Rossmeisl said. “Understanding these complex changes is a fundamental first step.”

Smart Tips to Grow Your Small Business Using Social Media

Veterinary practices face the eternal challenge of maintaining a connection with clients. With ongoing social distancing guidelines that create fewer face-to-face interactions, a digital connection can be more important than ever. Customer relationship management platform SalesForce offers this list of tips to grow your small business and stay connected with clients.

Curate if You Can’t Create

Posting content consistently and frequently increases engagement. If creating fresh content is not feasible, use tools like Pocket, Flipboard, and Feedly to curate (and provide appropriate credit) for useful, relevant content.

Go Visual

A majority (72%) of consumers prefer videos over manuals to decide on a purchasing decision. Translating this to a veterinary practice might mean creating educational videos for pet owners. Products like Adobe Premier Pro, Filmora, and Vimeo Create can help you craft videos your clients will engage with.

Involve Your Customers

Optimize engagement through user-generated content. Use formats like quizzes, polls, giveaways, calculators, and contests.

Schedule Seasonal Posts

Create interest around holidays and other veterinary-specific days. Create and schedule topical posts in advance using social media scheduling tools.

Use the Right Hashtags

Improve searchability with the right hashtags. Go beyond creating a hashtag out of your practice name and find trending hashtags pertinent to your business. Think of tags for subject matter you are posting about, your industry, and your audience.

Infrared photo taken during an experiment to test the heat-sensing capabilities of cold, wet dog noses

Dogs Can Detect Heat with Noses, Study Finds

An international research team from Sweden and Hungary has discovered a new sense in dogs: Using their cold, wet nose tips, dogs can sense the heat from other animals or a human. “It has taken a rather long time to discover this, given that dog and man have lived side by side for 15,000 years, and we have remained unaware of this ability,” says Ronald Kröger, PhD, professor at Sweden’s Lund University.

The research consisted of two different studies. In behavioral experiments in Lund, the team found that dogs chose an object with the surface temperature of a small, furry animal over a neutral object at a distance of about five feet. In Budapest, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to look at the response to heat radiation—at about the same temperatures as the previous experiment. The heat stimuli triggered a response in the part of the brain that processes sensory information from the skin, probably the rhinarium.

Professor Ronald Kröger, PhD, with his golden retriever Kevin

According to the researchers, the study is another piece of the puzzle of why certain predators, such as wolves, are such skilled hunters. In addition to smell, sight, and hearing, it seems that they can detect the heat from prey at a distance. The animals being hunted, on the other hand, would not benefit from emitting a lot of heat radiation, perhaps explaining why rabbits have thick fur, for instance.

The study also provides guidance on which dog breeds should be chosen for hunting and rescue operations, such as those that take place after earthquakes and avalanches.

“The dog’s nose must be cold to be able to find a warm human body. Our results indicate that you shouldn’t choose dogs [who] cannot cool their nose because of breeding. Also, training dogs could be more effective if heat was used in addition to smell,” says Kröger. The dogs who took part in the study have been trained using low heat radiation. Kröger’s own golden retriever, Kevin, participated. The researchers have only used a reward system to train the dogs, and never any type of punishment.

Photo credits: © Kovarzh; ©; © Korn; ©; photo by Olivia Coleman, Virginia Tech; photos courtesy of Lund University



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