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3 Ways to cope with holiday burnout
should annual performance evaluations be a thing of the past?
diet and its effects on the gut microbiome
Dr scarlett magda saving the world by saving animals
December 2023 / January 2024
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december 23 / january 24
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Copyright December 2023. PetVet Magazine is published bimonthly by Barkleigh Productions, Inc, 970 West Trindle Road, Mechanicsburg PA 17055. Postmaster: Send change of address to Pet Vet Magazine c/o Barkleigh Productions, Inc., 970 West Trindle Road, Mechanicsburg PA 17055. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher. Editorial offices: 970 West Trindle Road, Mechanicsburg PA 17055. (717) 691–3388 FAX (717) 691–3381 Email:
Saving the World by Saving Animals
A Plan-Ahead Prescription for Recovering From A Cybersecurity Attack
PetVet’s advisory board is here to help ensure quality content to motivate & educate Veterinarians and their staff.
Picture of Courtney Campbell
Courtney A. Campbell
“My passions ultimately drove me towards becoming a veterinarian, but when I was growing up I briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a magician. As a veterinarian, the ability to save lives, keep animals healthy, and strengthen the human–animal bond makes me realize there’s nothing more magical than that.”
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Jenifer Chatfield
DVM, Dipl. ACZM, Dipl. ACVPM

“People should be so lucky as to get to be a veterinarian. The broad-based education empowers us to be successful in multiple fields and affords us the opportunity to choose how we spend our professional time.”
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Julie Legred
“I have worked in many areas of veterinary medicine and veterinary technology over the last thirty five years, and it is amazing how far our profession has grown and paved the way for the betterment of animals’ lives and happiness, as well as improving public health issues. It is an honor for me to be a part of this advisory board to offer additional education and opportunities to grow in our profession.”
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Lisa Powell
“I have had the privilege of working with a variety of animals in my career and my passion has allowed me to be involved in teaching veterinary students, interns, residents and other veterinarians. I continue to enjoy going to work every day to help critically ill dogs and cats, and love the client interactions as well. I am proud to be a part of this advisory board to help teach and spread my love for this profession to others in the veterinary community.”
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Kathryn Primm,
“Animals mean so much to the human condition. It is my privilege to make lives better every day! I cannot imagine myself in any other career.”
You are only able to serve to the level you serve yourself.
By putting your own health and well-being above all else, you create a sense of pride and honor which will reverberate in every aspect of your life in limitless ways.”
– Dr. Scarlett Magda,

Founder & President of Veterinarians International
Making Sense of a Great Client Visit typography
By Kathryn Primm, DVM

e all have wonderful clients that make our days brighter; clients that take our advice and do their best to take excellent care of their pets. These are the names that make us happy when we see them on our schedule. These are the clients that make us cookies and send us Christmas cards. Wouldn’t it be great if all of our clients would be like our favorite ones?

Now, people are people and they are all different, so making 100% of clients happy 100% of the time is never going to be possible. But, we can make more of our clients happy more of the time, and it is not hard. It boils down to addressing all of the ways in which clients perceive us. Let’s examine this closer…

We all have five senses that we use to gain information about our world: Sight, Smell, Hearing, Touch and Taste. Here are some ways that we can leverage all our clients’ senses to take in the positive messages that we want to spread:

open eye iconLove at First Sight

Walk through your clinic with the eyes of a client. Even conscript a family member or friend to come along. We know that people make judgements quickly based on visual perception, which is a phenomenon called the “Halo Effect.” According to Psychology Today, the Halo Effect is “cognitive bias that occurs when an initial positive judgment about a person unconsciously colors the perception of the individual as a whole.” We can use this bias to help make sure that our clients view us in the best possible light.

Do you have a front sign with a message board? Could you show your personality on the board with regular messages? People will start to associate you with a smile and will see that you love your job. Human beings are drawn to others who are happy and fun. For the most part, veterinary professionals are fun and our patients bring out the best in us, so let people know! Be a place that people walking into and driving by will feel good vibes about.

Is your parking lot ample and clean? Is there something that you could do that would be easy and affordable that would make your parking lot better? A poop bag dispenser? A cute outdoor sign welcoming clients and listing which species you treat might be a nice addition. An easel with a chalkboard could be easily changed by your team with a personal message. A personal touch goes a long way, and veterinary teams are jam-packed with creative and artistic people that are happy to share their talent.

When clients (or potential clients) come in your door, they should see friendly, happy, confident people. Train your team to smile even when they are answering the phone (people can tell). Write scripts that you like to answer your most frequent phone questions and go over them at team meetings. Ask your team for input. When the team helps write the script, it is more authentic and from the heart (and easier to remember). Some areas that might be addressed include questions about price or product recommendations. Make sure your team feels confident in your pricing strategy so they can explain things well.

What about the items they see? Make sure that pictures and posters are framed and hanging straight. Any retail items should be displayed in a pleasing, symmetrical way. Remove any expired products. Clients might think that you don’t care if they see expired, damaged or dust-covered products in your clinic. (And we all know that veterinary professionals do care. We are just very busy and might overlook something.)

nose profile iconWhat is That Smell?

We may not think about it very much, but smell is an important sense. Venkatesh Murthy, PhD, studies smell (or olfaction) and he believes that smell and memory are closely related. He believes that the direct link between what we smell and how we feel relates to the anatomy of our brain. He says that odor is processed by our olfactory bulb which lies at the front of our brains so the signals can go directly to the amygdala and hippocampus (emotion and memory).

According to Feng Shui for Real Life :

vanilla flower icon

Vanilla scent is great for your front door, as it evokes a sense of well-being.

lavender flower icon

Lavender scent is also a good choice because it has been suggested for relaxation.

There are definitely odors associated with our work, and they are usually noteworthy. Anal glands or disinfectant smells can certainly evoke emotion in all of us. Make sure that the smells your clients perceive when they step through your door are the ones you want them to. If there is an odor accident, remove it quickly. You can also take advantage of the Halo Effect here. Consider adding a positive scent to your environment. According to Feng Shui for Real Life, vanilla scent is great for your front door, as it evokes a sense of well-being. Lavender scent is also a good choice because it has been suggested for relaxation (and according to Fear Free™ tenets, it relaxes pets too).

ear iconThe Sound of Silence

We know that silence is not possible in a veterinary hospital, but we can address those sounds that evoke negative emotions (like the crying dog recovering from surgery) and we can replace or lessen them by adding better sounds of our choosing. Obviously we want to address the reasons for the negative sounds—perhaps considering a recovery protocol of anesthetic drugs to dampen the excitement phase or eliminate post-operative pain/anxiety—but we can also proactively add better sounds.

A study published in 2021 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at the health benefits of natural sounds, like birds and running water, on human beings. The scientists found that natural sounds reduced blood pressure, decreased pain and improved cognitive performance.1 Although this study was based on findings in national parks, we can use what they learned to create a better experience for our clients. It is fairly easy and inexpensive to install small speakers around our clinic to project nature sounds. Science tells us that it will create a better experience for the people and the pets.

hand iconMagic Touch

Touch is a harder sense to address with our clients, but with a little creativity, we can consider this sense as well. Psychologist Sidney Jourard published a pilot study in which he found that people in the U.S. and the UK were more likely to experience touch alienation.2 Even without physically touching our clients, we can still address the sense of touch by expanding our definition of touch to encompass how our clients feel when they are with us.

According to the principles of Feng Shui, our feelings are impacted by the things around us. If our clients can sit in comfortable chairs, it improves their impressions and feelings about us. The artwork on the walls should depict happy people and loveable pets to evoke positive feelings. All the furnishings should be in good repair, because shabbiness can send the wrong message and imply that you don’t provide the highest standard of care.

mouth iconTaste of Success

While veterinary clinics are not generally associated with human food, we can garner inspiration from those favorite clients of ours who bring us goodies. Why not spread that good cheer in return? Keep it simple by offering a self-serve coffee station and maybe some locally made (human) treats, but be sure it is clearly noted they are not for pet consumption, and avoid stocking any that contain ingredients that may be toxic to pets. Of course it’s a good idea to have some treats out for pets, too!

Creating a more pleasant veterinary visit starts with a walkthrough of your clinic with new eyes. See, smell, hear, touch and taste what your clients do, and then take it all to the next level. And don’t forget, your team and your patients will also benefit from these changes!

  1. Buxton RT, Pearson AL, Allou C, et. al. (2021, April 6). A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 118(14): e2013097118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2013097118. PMID: 33753555; PMCID: PMC8040792.
  2. Jourard, S. M., & Rubin, J. E. (1968). Self-Disclosure and Touching: A Study of Two Modes of Interpersonal Encounter and Their Inter-Relation. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 8(1), 39–48.
headshot of Kathryn Primm
Kathryn Primm, DVM, CVPM is the owner and founder of Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, Tennessee. She sees patients, manages a busy small animal practice, and enjoys writing for and speaking to veterinary professionals and pet lovers. She has written and contributed content to many outlets, including magazines like Woman’s Day, Prevention and Health as well as veterinary-focused press.
Diet and its Effects on the Gut Microbiome
By Tonya Cooksey, DVM & Holly Ganz, PhD


ood nutrition is foundational for overall health. Eating a healthful diet helps prevent common illnesses, supports and boosts the immune system, and positively influences the composition and function of bacteria that live in the gut microbiome.

The gut microbiome is a community of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes that live in a pet’s digestive tract and are essential for good health. The prenatal environment is essentially sterile and the development of the microbiome begins during birth. Much like in humans, the initial gut microbiome of a cat or dog reflects the microbiome of their mother due to the ingestion and inhalation of her native bacteria during birth and nursing. These early life events are foundational. From there, the gut microbiome evolves over time with exposure to different environments, littermates and human caretakers. As a pet grows and matures, diet plays a key role in maintaining the environment necessary for the beneficial microbes of the gut to thrive.

There are many different kinds of microbes in a pet’s gut microbiome, and each kind requires certain nutrients to survive. Some specialize in digesting complex carbohydrates, others digest proteins and some thrive on sugar. As a result, the macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins and fibers) in the food that pets eat influence which bacteria thrive in their gut. When a diet is overabundant in one macronutrient versus another, this can shift the natural balance of the bacteria in the gut, leading to an imbalance or dysbiosis.

A gut microbiome is considered imbalanced when it is missing beneficial bacteria, has too many harmful bacteria or does not have enough different types of bacteria. When a pet’s gut is out of balance, some of the gut’s important functions don’t work as well and can affect the overall health of a pet. Much like an improper diet, factors like disease, age and medications—especially antibiotics—can contribute to the development of an imbalance in a cat or dog’s gut.

Many clients are surprised to find that their pet’s symptoms are often associated with imbalances in the gut microbiome. The majority of clients correctly assume that common conditions like diarrhea and vomiting are related to the gut, but few realize that health issues like constipation, itchy skin and bad breath can also be associated with an imbalance in a pet’s gut microbiome as well.

If the nutrition in a pet’s diet is balanced, yet he or she still has symptoms of digestive health issues, a food intolerance or allergy may be a factor. Food sensitivities are quite common, and a change in diet may resolve the symptoms if the pet is sensitive to a particular ingredient in the diet.

The State of the Gut Report1 presents the results of a survey of more than 2,000 cat and dog parents who were asked what they think about gut health in general, how various factors impact their pet’s health, and what they can do to support and improve a pet’s gut health. The findings reveal that many pet parents are unaware that the use of antibiotics can contribute to significant, long-lasting imbalances in the microbiome. Regular microbiome testing can help bring those imbalances to light, allowing pet owners to address them before they begin causing troublesome symptoms.

In the survey, it was found that one in six dogs and one in seven cats has undergone antibiotic treatment within the last year. Using effective alternatives to antibiotics, such as Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT), can help to rebalance the gut without the risk of harmful side effects. A conservative approach to antibiotic use is an important way to maintain the pet’s gut microbiome.

In the survey, it was found that one in six dogs and one in seven cats has undergone antibiotic treatment within the last year.

In the survey, pet owners were asked to report any exposure to risk factors that could have detrimentally impacted their pet’s microbiome over a 12-month period. Not surprisingly, exposure to antibiotics was one of the two top risk factors reported for both cat and dog owners. A change in diet was the other top risk factor associated with a gut imbalance.

When diet changes occur, shifts occur in the microbiome as well. Depending on the type of diet, these shifts in the microbiome can be beneficial or detrimental, as certain bacteria will thrive under different conditions.

For example, Fusobacterium is a group of bacteria that help dogs and cats digest protein in their diet, but if a diet is too high in protein content and lacks a sufficient amount of fiber, Fusobacterium will overgrow and can cause diarrhea and other signs of GI distress.

On the other hand, the Prevotella genus is fundamental for the breakdown of carbohydrates in the diet. However, if a pet’s diet is too high in carbs and has insufficient protein, Prevotella can overgrow and trigger inflammation. Again, elevated levels of this beneficial genus can lead to GI distress and has been linked to patients with inflammatory bowel syndrome.

This survey has helped reveal that clients do truly care about the gut health of their pets, but navigating the world of diets and nutrition can be tricky. With extra guidance on the importance of a properly balanced diet and how it affects the microbiome, clients can make an informed decision that will help improve gut health and the overall health of their pet.


  1. 2022 State of the Gut™ Report presented by
Photo of Tonya Cooksey, DVM

Tonya Cooksey, DVM, is Director of Veterinary Relations at AnimalBiome. Dr. Cooksey received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from Auburn University in 2006, with an interest in small animal medicine and soft tissue surgery. She continues her passion for patient advocacy in her new role, improving veterinary understanding of the gut microbiome and its influence on the health of pets.

Photo of Holly Ganz, PhD

Holly Ganz, PhD, is Chief Science Officer and co-founder of AnimalBiome. Holly received her PhD from the University of California, Davis and was a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley. Her efforts to translate academic research into solutions for companion animals began in 2015 when she launched KittyBiome, a citizen science project, which revealed that imbalances in the gut microbiome are common in pets and there was a pressing need for better approaches to maintain and restore gut health.

Dr. Scarlett Magda Saving the World by Saving the Animals typographic title; woman cuddling with a baby elephant
By Jen Phillips April

Photos provided by Dr. Scarlett Magda


e are here to be advocates for the animals and to ensure that their health and safety is our top priority. And by keeping them healthy, we can help improve the health of humans. Since an estimated 75% of new or emerging infectious diseases originate in wildlife, advocating for their health and well-being keeps us all healthy,” states Dr. Scarlett Magda, winner of the 2023 AVMA “Global Veterinary Service Award.”

Dr. Magda was recognized for her work with global animal welfare organizations, including Veterinarians International (VI), of which she is the co-founder. The organization helps build infrastructure within communities and provides immediate aid and veterinarian training. She also spent five years on the board of Veterinarians Without Borders Canada during vet school, an experience which helped her understand global health and gave her a foundational framework for helping.

Photo by JP Pacca
woman standing next an elephant with her hand on the bottom side of its head
“It was evident at the time that the United States was lacking an organization that could unite and empower the profession globally,” Dr. Magda shares, “So in 2014, world-renowned wildlife veterinarian Dr. William Karesh and I founded Veterinarians International.

“Dr. William Karesh coined the term ‘One Health,’ and it is an honor to co-create VI with him,” she continues. “The work he does with the DOD, CDC, and WHO, amongst many others, beautifully demonstrates the awareness and implementation of One Health at the level of the world’s leading authorities.

“There are also entire institutions dedicated to One Health, and it’s exciting to see One Health implemented in every veterinary school globally. We are in the process of working with the University of Nairobi and Egerton University to develop a One Health program for final-year veterinary students so they are more prepared upon graduation,” Dr. Magda adds.

Veterinarians International logo
Dr. Magda was recognized for her work with global animal welfare organizations, including Veterinarians International (VI), of which she is the co-founder.
Veterinarians who work with zoonotic populations are in a unique position to control and prevent the spread of disease. And even with the use of simple technology, lives can be saved.

“The many wins, whether they are big or small, are what keep us going,” Dr. Magda states. “Knowing that a simple piece of equipment like an X-ray machine can save countless lives by assisting doctors with making important decisions is a rewarding feeling that propels us through the most challenging of times.”

Aside from the gratification of contributing to the greater animal welfare, Dr. Magda acknowledges the veterinary profession’s current mental health challenge.

Dr. Scarlett Magda holding an award
Photo by Don Toothman
Dr. Magda standing next to a baby elephant while holding its trunk
Photo by Don Toothman
“Our vision is to further unite and uplift the veterinary profession by connecting thousands of veterinarians in North America and globally to support mental health, well-being, and revitalization programs,” she says. “We are in a challenging moment in time where our profession is suffering globally from burnout and suicide. These services are much needed, as well as opportunities to connect veterinarians with one another through our program called ‘Vet Angels’ which allows veterinarians in remote areas to receive guidance on challenging cases through telemedicine.”

Another way that VI supports the mental health of veterinarians is through their well-being revitalization retreats. In addition, Dr. Magda emphasizes the importance of veterinary healthcare professionals taking care of themselves first.

“You are only able to serve to the level that you serve yourself,” she says. “By putting your own health and well-being above all else, you create a sense of pride and honor which will reverberate in every aspect of your life in limitless ways. Self-care equals care of all. No cause is worth your suffering, but any cause will be optimally enhanced when you are optimally aligned with yourself.

“Ensuring I make time to practice yoga outside and meditate barefoot by the trees or in nature is vital for me; this allows everything else to function optimally for me,” Dr. Magda adds. “By caring for my body, mind, and spirit, I am able to show up in my highest self and serve.”

By filling her own cup, Dr. Magda says she can give her full attention to her varied workdays, where no two days are the same.

silhouette of an elephant
Dr. Magda with a nurses kit standing next to a car
Photo by Dell Cullum
Dr. Magda petting a baby elephant
Photo by Dell Cullum
Self-care equals care of all.
No cause is worth your suffering, but any cause will be optimally enhanced when you are optimally aligned with yourself.
- Dr. Scarlett Magda
“I could be in the Pet ER treating whatever animal can fit through the door, and then have a call with our team in Sri Lanka whilst driving back home learning about a certain situation that may benefit from our help,” she explains. “A lot happens while driving in my jeep or waiting for planes to take off! If I am in the field, I could be helping with an anesthesia workshop or meeting with government officials to understand current challenges and what we can do to help.”

Dr. Magda concludes by offering this advice for those considering a career in the veterinary field:

“I recommend they know that they are the voice for those who cannot be heard by the majority of today’s society,” she says. “By being an advocate, they have tremendous power to heal and influence. The values they hold dear should be honored and practiced even in the most difficult times. This is how positive change happens.”

For more information about Veterinarians International, visit
Jen Phillips April headshot
A web writer since 2005, Jen’s written over 1,000 articles on pet-related topics. She works with veterinarians and pet professionals around the world to help them attract and retain customers through effective content marketing practices. Passionate about both pets and digital marketing, you can find out more at When not working with her fabulous clients, you can find her eating tacos and practicing her Spanish in her adopted home of the Riviera Maya.
Clinic Life Not For You?
How to Diversify Your Income as a Veterinary Professional
By Dr. Megan Kelly
woman on laptop in kitchen

or a lot of us, becoming a veterinarian was a calling; something we always knew we wanted to do. We had this idea of what a vet’s life would be like—helping animals all day long, of course. We barely thought about the hours, the admin, the business side or the time spent away from family.

Fast forward 15 years after qualifying, married with a family, and the choices we made when we were younger don’t always fit into our lifestyles anymore. We still want to help animals—but we are swamped! We can barely manage to meet one set of demands on our attention, never mind all the others.

When my three kids were little, I was determined this would not be me. I wanted to be present for my children; to attend those midweek sports days and galas; to be there when they were doing homework, needed a lift or wanted to chat. Yet I still wanted to earn an income.

Eventually, I found a way to use my professional knowledge while working flexible hours from home. It can be done, and without financial sacrifice! Anyone with professional skills can do it, simply by packaging their skills for an online world.

A New World of Work
Most professions now allow for some way of earning an income while working online from home, whether through consulting for an online company or running your own business. But for vets, what are the options?

The most obvious first option is teleconsulting. Companies have sprung up all over the world offering online consultations. Vets consult for them, making themselves available for shifts during the day or night. It’s the closest you are going to get to consulting from the comfort of your home. This is especially valuable to vets who have mobility issues or health problems which prevent them from being able to operate and handle animals.

Then there’s the option I took: running your own online animal-related business. This is where I found my niche, and I now have several income streams from the online courses, conferences and membership groups I run, plus product affiliations (and I only affiliate with products I believe in).

How I Got Started
Getting to where I am now started with the realization that I had pretty much hit the ceiling as far as earning potential for a vet goes. There are only so many hours in a day in which you can work! It made sense to have something on the side. So, I began exploring options.
I dabbled in creating my own product line of harnesses for dogs, built an online shop, imported specialist veterinary rehabilitation products, and even rented out wheelchairs for dogs. All of these businesses were stepping stones that got me one step closer to my goal.

My ceiling for earning potential rose drastically. The sideline businesses took up a lot of time at first, but eventually I could employ people to run them and, unlike my veterinary practice, they didn’t always need me. But I was looking for a business that allowed me to be completely flexible; I wanted to work from home, but also from anywhere in the world. As a family we love to travel, so this flexibility was important to me.

The idea of starting a different kind of online business arose when I recognized a real need among my clients, some of whom were driving three to four hours to see me for animal rehabilitation. What they wanted was information and basic skills—something they could use to help their dogs between visits. So, I developed an online, 12-week course designed for arthritic dogs. It gave owners a schedule of basic therapeutic exercises that would strengthen muscles, correct compensation issues and drastically improve their dog’s quality of life.

Pet owners from all over the world began buying my online course. I was worried that I would miss the one-on-one contact, but helping people online was just as rewarding, if not more so. I was suddenly able to have a positive impact on so many more pets than I could ever have physically treated with my own hands.

The best part about creating an online course is that, after the initial hard work of developing and marketing, your income becomes more passive. Your earning potential has no ceiling and you are able to work when it suits you.

Today I have a number-one online businesses, work four to five hours a day, four days a week, from anywhere I happen to be. I fetch my kids from school, take them horseback riding and never miss a gala or sports day.

The online world of business for animal professionals holds huge potential—and there is room for many more of us. Why not diversify your income?

Here are some ideas to get you started:
stethoscope icon
1. Telemedicine.
Working as a consultant online allows you to work from home flexibly. You may need to work night shifts, weekends and holidays, but the flexibility is worth it for some.
book and download icon
2. Write an e-book or PDF and sell it online.
This could be a six-pager or a full-length exploration of a topic sold on Amazon—either way, an e-book is a great way to start earning passive income. Put in the initial work and reap the benefits from royalties on sales forever.
microphone icon
3. Start a podcast.
It takes a while before you can monetize a podcast, but if you have a great topic and an engaging style, your following will grow quickly. The bigger your following, the more you can earn through monetizing.
money and upward icons
4. Become an affiliate.
Many of the products you already mention on your podcast might have referral systems in place. And you can also plug these into your emails and social media bios. I earn affiliate commissions on a monthly basis and it’s always a nice surprise to receive that income.
webpage icon
5. Create an online course.
Selling your knowledge online has never been easier. Everyone has something to share, and if you have a solution to someone’s problem, they will be prepared to pay you for it. Online courses usually consist of video training, worksheets and information sheets.
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6. Build a membership group.
Membership models are great because they are based on subscription fees. With these, you always know how much money to expect each month. It’s a reassuring way of running a business because, once you’re at the profit-making stage, you can focus on serving your members, constantly adding value in one way or another.

We’re professionals, but that does not preclude being astute business people, too! As digital processes move more and more into the world of work, we need to ride that wave to our own advantage. There is really no limit to our earning potential if we think creatively and learn a few good tech skills (which can easily be learned online).

I hope these ideas have inspired you to diversify your income while benefitting more animals!

Dr. Megan Kelly headshot with dog
Dr. Megan Kelly has been a veterinarian for 19 years. After completing a Post Graduate Certificate in Veterinary Rehabilitation at the University of Tennessee, she opened her own practice, Holisticvet, in Diep River, Cape Town. In 2014 she decided to take a sabbatical from practising and has since been swept up into the online world of veterinary education. She owns and runs Onlinepethealth, an international continuing education site for veterinary rehabilitation therapists. Every day she pushes the boundaries on what is considered the norm for professional education, creating, innovating, and providing solutions and outstanding customer experiences through webinars and online conferences for vets and veterinary rehabilitation therapists.
A plan-ahead prescription for recovering from a cybersecurity attack

By Eder Ribeiro


magine coming to work on a Monday morning with a full slate of patients awaiting care, yet none of your computer systems work and all your files are encrypted. Sadly, this is becoming a common occurrence among even the most cyber-cautious veterinary clinics.

The pervasive misperception that some businesses are too small or do the kind of work that won’t attract cybercrime continues to stun vet clinics when they fall victim to a cyberattack. The value of the average clinic’s digital assets—from the doctor’s personal finances to its client contact and payment information—is often too tempting for cybercriminals to ignore.

When cybercriminals find their way into your systems, it becomes difficult (if not impossible) to offer the same level of care for patients while trying to mitigate the fallout of a cyber incident. Whether ransomware, social engineering or breaching of one of your vendors, the schemes deployed by today’s digital thieves have far-reaching impact for clinic owners, staff, vendors and clients.

Thankfully, most cyber incidents can be resolved with the help of professional cyber incident response teams. How difficult or lengthy that resolution becomes depends largely on a clinic’s preparation and the quality of the contingency plan that’s prepared in advance.

Let’s review some of common cyber incidence response tactics and the steps for planning ahead that make them easier to deploy following a cyber intrusion.

1. Vet Your Vendors and Set Up External Connection Permissions.

Recovery Instructions: As soon as they are notified of a cyberattack, an incident response team typically will launch a forensic investigation to identify the criminal’s point of entry. As mentioned above, third-party vendors pose a high penetration risk to vet clinics. IT-managed services can be particularly popular targets for cybercriminals because they hold the keys to the digital kingdoms of many individual clients. Breaking into a single-managed services provider may give threat actors access to hundreds of external systems, all for the effort of one.

The Plan-Ahead Prescription: Understand which third-party providers have access to your systems and ask how they secure those connections. Insist on connection requests being a regular part of your engagement. No one should be able to log into your local network without an authorized staff member pressing a button to let them in every single time.

2. Prepare a Cyberattack Contingency Plan.

Recovery Instructions: When ransomware is in play, your clinic may be contacted by the threat actor directly. They will ask for payment in return for unlocking systems they’ve locked or not exposing the data they’ve stolen on the dark web. You may want to ask your incident response team to step in, communicating with the threat actors on your behalf. Specialized expertise, experience in negotiating with ransomware threat actors and sometimes even specific knowledge of the actor or actors behind the attack equips these professionals for such negotiations.

The Plan-Ahead Prescription: Designate a single point of contact (with a backup, should that person be unavailable) who has the authority to pay or decline a demand for ransom. Formalize this authority by including the individuals’ names or positions in a written cyberattack contingency plan. Be sure to keep a hard copy in the office, as digital-only plans could be locked down during a cyberattack. Train staff regularly on the policies and procedures outlined in the contingency plan. If possible, perform an annual tabletop exercise on your plan.

Quote Illustration

No one should be able to log into your local network without an authorized staff member pressing a button to let them in every single time

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3. Look Out for Your Partners’ Security, Too.
Recovery Instructions: Depending on the extent of the attack, your network of vendor partners may be at risk. Attackers will often compromise your business email and go after other businesses in your ecosystem. They may, for instance, prepare look-alike invoices and direct the partner to pay your clinic via an untraceable wire transfer or ACH transaction to a mule account. An incident response team can look for this level of intrusion and step in before partners are victimized.

The Plan-Ahead Prescription: Keep a list, documented within your contingency plan, of your regular vendors and their contact information. Be exhaustive, including everyone from your landscaping crew to your patient management software provider.

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Consider a cyber insurance policy that includes services, such as call center support and identity theft protection memberships, for your clients following a covered incident

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4. Consider a Cyber Insurance Policy.

Recovery Instructions: Like all businesses, your reputation matters. Security incidents can sully even long-held client relationships. In fact, a recent survey showed 75% of consumers would shift to an alternate company following a ransomware attack1. Many incident response teams include public relations and legal professionals who can advise your clinic on how to communicate transparently and legally, mitigate further risks to clients and preserve your brand health following a cyber incident.

The Plan-Ahead Prescription: Maintain off-site backups of client lists so any who are impacted can be contacted as recommended by your incident response team. Consider a cyber insurance policy that includes services, such as call center support and identity theft protection memberships, for your clients following a covered incident. These policies should include access to specialists who are already vetted, eliminating the need for additional effort and pressure during an already stressful time.

5. Update and Validate Backups Regularly.

Recovery Instructions: Speaking of off-site backups, one of the most valuable contributions your internal team members can make—especially in preparing for ransomware—is to create backup files that can be used to rebuild your digital environment. The quality of your backups is one of the most significant factors in determining the amount of time, energy and cost that a rebuild will take.

The Plan-Ahead Prescription: Do not rely solely on your managed services provider for backups; after all, if they suffer a security incident, your backups may be locked down alongside theirs. In addition, make sure that your backup strategy checks two boxes. All files should be 1) regularly updated and 2) regularly validated. A corrupted backup is a worthless backup. A common mishap is running out of backup storage without realizing it. Depending on the level of backup automation and the way it’s configured, a vet clinic’s backups could be failing to upload for months before anyone realizes.

Veterinary clinic owners would not be blamed for believing their businesses are “too small to hack.” Yet that is simply not true. In fact, fraud rings often view smaller as better because small- and medium-sized businesses often lack adequate resources and expertise to fight back against a cyberattack. The main motivator for most threat actors is money. If your business generates revenue, it is a worthy target. Even small ransoms quicky add up over time.

By taking the above plan-ahead prescriptions, you can reduce the impact of a cyber incident. Doing so will help ensure you remain a reliable, trusted caregiver for pets and their families—no matter what is happening behind the screens.


1. Fileless attacks increase 1,400%, consumers ditch brands hit by ransomware. (2023, July 9). Help Net Security.
Eder Ribeiro

Eder Ribeiro is a senior cybersecurity program manager for TransUnion, leading the company’s cybersecurity incident response team. He can be reached at

By Louise Dunn

ccording to a survey by the Corporate Executive Board, 95% of Human Resource managers say they do not like their company’s performance review process.1 Would you agree? Sixty-five percent of employees say the performance review is not relevant to their jobs. Would your employees say the same?

Sabotaging Ourselves
What makes the dreaded performance evaluation so “dreaded?” The answer is not a single issue, but rather, multiple issues, which include the following:
1. Heavily focused on activity and not outcomes.
Focusing on the activity is the result of depending on the job description for the performance review. It says in the job description that a receptionist will “communicate with clients on the phone and in person.” That is the activity. The outcome is a little different—which is how happy the clients are with the contact.2 The technician job description says they will “collect and run lab samples.” Does the tech report and record the results? Can the tech obtain client compliance with their discussion of the lab test purpose and process? Actions are not always enough; there can be more involved than simply collecting and running. Does your performance review address outcomes?
2. Reviews what happened in the past.
Many evaluations review the most recent history more so than what happened in the 10 months prior. If you bring up past performance shortcomings at the annual evaluation, were they also discussed when they occurred? Should performance issues be discussed as they occur, or is it better to hold out for the annual evaluation?
3. Too expensive in “people hours” and time-consuming.
The expense associated with annual performance evaluations includes the manager’s time to gather the information, prepare the forms, conduct any interviews with supervisors, schedule the meeting and schedule the extra coverage for the shift. How much is paid out in wages for your performance review meetings and, more importantly, is there an ROI for this effort?
There are the ever-present, conscious or not, biases that play a role in performance reviews. The “Halo bias” is when a team member is rated very high because of one thing they do really well. The “Horn bias” is the exact opposite; rated poorly in all areas because of one thing they do not do well.
4. Lacks consistency from manager to manager, hampered by personal biases.
Often, the performance review can have different results if different managers evaluate the person. There are the ever-present, conscious or not, biases that play a role in performance reviews.3 The “Halo bias” is when a team member is rated very high in all areas because of one thing they do really well. The “Horn bias” is the exact opposite; rated poorly in all areas because of one thing they do not do well. And the “Recency bias” is just that—focusing on recent behavior patterns and assuming it will continue (be they positive or negative performance behaviors). Another common bias is personal biases, such as how the manager feels about the person they are evaluating (like or dislike). Has your management team been trained about these common biases so they know how to avoid their traps?
5. Creates awkward dynamic and competition between managers, employees and co-workers.
Finally, there is the awkward dynamic between everyone. What causes us to feel awkward? Perhaps it is the feeling that the process is inadequate. Maybe it is due to the uncomfortable rank-and-yank system in which managers rank the employees against each other. As a result, many performance reviews do not make sense—business sense, problem-solving sense or personal development sense. There is nothing like a feeling of inadequacy to cause an awkward meeting.

Now that you know what is sabotaging your performance evaluation proceSs, what are the options for changing it? It is possible to benefit patient care, client service, team member performance and business success with your evaluation process.

Fixing the Process
Instead of fighting the annual performance evaluation, stop doing it! At least stop doing the annual review and switch to a “real-time” process. Numerous companies have made the switch. General Electric, famous for terminating the bottom 10% of performance rankings, ditched the idea 10 years ago and switched to a process of coaching employees and using regular feedback. Adobe has found that regular check-ins have dropped employee turnover by 30%.4 And Texas Roadhouse replaced their process with what is called GPS: Growth, Plan, and Support.1 Still not convinced?

Consider this: How many of you with Fitbits or other tracking metrics would succeed in your weight-loss or exercise program if the apps only give you a yearly report? You are blindly performing exercises and entering diet data for an entire year without knowing if it has a positive effect on the goal you hoped to achieve. Then, at the end of the year, you receive the report only to find out you failed to perform on one aspect and did great on another. Now what? How do you map out your next step? Did the medical procedure you had that past year affect your numbers? What about the fact that you started yoga? How would the exercise and diet recommendations have changed if the app knew this?

Annual performance evaluations are essentially the same thing—blindly performing a job, experiencing changes in the economy or business goals and changing personal focus on skills all affect job performance. Simply talking about it once a year isn’t helping anyone, including the business.

Here are some steps to take to change the performance evaluation process:

Step #1) Base performance evaluations on outcomes linked to the business’s strategic plans.
The first step starts with the business; the goals of the business and the key practice indicators (KPIs). What key outcomes are necessary for the business to deliver exceptional medical care, great client service and solid business growth?

For instance, the practice discovers a problem with the wages paid as a percentage of income. The decision is made to put an end to all overtime hours. At the annual review, managers are told they failed to control the expense, and the team is told that raises cannot be given. How would this scenario change with ongoing feedback? At the end of the pay cycle, the numbers are reviewed, situations resulting in overtime scheduling are discussed, options are considered, certain team members are trained to perform new tasks so as to prevent overtime, and managers are now aware and able to respond appropriately to scheduling changes. Linking performance to the strategic plans of the business is a good thing.

Blindly performing a job, experiencing changes in the economy or business goals and changing personal focus on skills all affect job performance. Simply talking about it once a year isn’t helping anyone, including the business.
Step #2) Provide ongoing feedback to the team.
Educate your managers on how to coach and communicate what is expected of team members. Managers need to assist their team with performance growth and development, and what outcomes are expected.2 Consider each person’s strengths and how they impact your client care, then develop a plan to improve their performance effectiveness and growth. Establish what steps are being taken to reach these goals; steps that are relevant to the employee’s job and personal growth.

For example, your practice heard about Fear Free and has decided to move forward with certification. None of this was discussed last year at any of the performance evaluations. Do you wait until the annual evaluations this year? Of course not! You need to get moving on this so you inform the team about the plan and map out the modules that everyone needs to take. Now, do you wait until the annual review to see how everyone is doing? No! You organize regular updates, training sessions and reviews, and you monitor how the implementation process is coming along and confirm what resources different team members need to complete the goals.

What is important to understand is that real-time feedback is fluid, much like what is going on in the industry. Changes in the economy and medical developments can occur quickly. You need to be able to respond to these changes, and you will be able to shift employee goals throughout the year as needed. Waiting until the annual evaluation does not allow you to do this and instead puts the business at risk of delivering poor service, in addition to conducting irrelevant performance discussions based on goals set almost a year ago.5

Developing an Action Plan
To get started with real-time feedback, you need to be organized. It can be as simple as an excel sheet, or it can be as extensive as a program purchased from a vendor specializing in tracking employee performance. Many performance metrics can easily be reviewed by checking in with team members every quarter, or more frequently based on the goal.

How many times have managers filled out lengthy forms only to have them filed and forgotten? The real-time feedback process enables smaller segments to be discussed more frequently, progress noted and roadblocks removed.3 Does this real-time feedback remove the “dread” from dreaded performance evaluations? Let’s review…

  • Focus has been shifted to outcomes.
  • What is happening now is reviewed, which is part of business strategy and personal improvement.
  • It’s not as time-consuming to conduct quick updates.
  • Consistency is improved, as everyone knows what is expected.
  • Communication between managers and team members is improved.

Do not be one of those companies that spends time on inadequate annual evaluations; instead, spend time on developing the skills and knowledge of your team in real time.

  1. Meinert, D. (2015, April 1) Is It Time to Put the Performance Review on a PIP? SHRM.
  2. Kenny, G. (2016, February 2). Fixing Performance Appraisal is About More than Ditching Annual Reviews. Harvard Business Review.
  3. Wilkie, D. (2015, December). If the Annual Performance Review is on Its Way Out, What Can Replace It? SHRM.
  4. Duggan, K. (2015, December 15). Six Companies that are Redefining Performance Management. Fast Company.
  5. Zillman, C. (2016, February 1). IBM is Blowing Up Its Annual Performance Review. Fortune.
Louise Dunn
Louise Dunn is a renowned award-winning speaker, writer and consultant. She brings over 40 years of in-the-trenches experience and her business education to veterinary management. Louise is founder and CEO of Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting. SVMC works with veterinarians who want to develop a strategic plan that consistently produces results. Most recently Louise received many awards including the WVC Educator of the Year numerous times and VetPartner’s The Life Time achievement Award in January 2016.
3 Ways to Cope with Holiday Burnout & Put the "Care" Back in Pet Healthcare

By Renee Machel


ou may be familiar with the common signs of burnout, such as an overall sense of exhaustion, reduced enthusiasm or lower productivity. Even your moods can lean toward cynicism, irritability, emotional outbursts and, at times, feeling helpless or defeated. But one uncommon sign of burnout may be displaced conflict.

Displaced conflict means you may find yourself arguing more frequently about things that are not important or not really the issue. It can also happen with people who you genuinely care about, but they are not the true source of your dissatisfaction, yet they get the brunt end of your dismay about life.

Caregivers of any type are at higher risk of burnout and compassion fatigue, especially during busy times like around the holidays, which are chock-full of distractions and attention–grabbers. Below I will share with you some simple tips to help you fully enjoy your holiday season and feel rejuvenated and realigned as we all individually and collectively move into the new year!

Show up as your best self
By becoming more aware of your thoughts and feelings about yourself, you can identify burnout signs and symptoms that may be unique to you. Shame, denial and low self-worth are other symptoms of burnout, but these are often less talked about because we hold that stuff in, away from the light and from those who care about us. However, it’s important to bring these feelings into the light and aim to make them disappear, thus increasing your confidence and sense of connection with yourself and with others.
Start by defining how you want to experience the holidays, because we each have a different definition of success. What does it look like and how does it feel to show up as your best self? What qualities or characteristics represent you when you show up as your best self? With whom do you see yourself around for those positive experiences?

Now is a great time to give yourself credit for the times you already have shown up as your best self this year—you don’t have to wait for others to give you the recognition you deserve!

Improve client communication
One of the biggest areas of distress for pet healthcare providers is client communication. Now, there is a lot involved with the ins and outs of mastering client communication—especially when emotions are running high around the holidays—but a couple of tweaks can greatly improve the quality of your interactions.

For one, use every medium available to educate your clients. This saves a ton of time and mental bandwidth because clients will get the same message across the board, and a lot of those clients will get it the first time. Any changes in schedules or hours, current or future price changes or specials, and policy or procedure changes all can be addressed via email, text, social media, phone, in exam rooms (verbally or on corkboards) and on invoices at checkout.

Using the awareness you have honed in the first exercise, write out your most stressful conversations of the past month. Chances are, this is not the first or the last time that you’ll have that conversation. How could you have handled it differently? Is there a sense of calm or level-headedness that would have eased things? Light joking can prove useful with the right client if you already have a rapport with them.

What are new ways you can establish trust with your clients to ethically influence their decision-making and behavior toward you or your team? Ask your teammates if they’ve been encountering similar situations. If you find that it’s a pattern, policies may need to be changed. And if not, you can share best practices and try them on for size during your next interaction.

Define your needs
Shine some light in the darker corners of your being and admit what your needs are; to yourself for starters, and to others later. Communicating your needs mindfully with care and respect is a sure way to bring this all together and realign yourself to a state of well-being, leaving burnout in the past.
You’ve already gained some self-awareness through the above exercises, which you can use to build your personal roadmap out a bit. Maybe it’s changing your wish-list items/the gifts you’d like to start receiving. Maybe it’s reallocating a budget line to begin investing in your own personal and professional development. Perhaps you start by shifting your time management and reading a book or listening to a podcast. Maybe you’ll lighten up on yourself. Maybe it’s quiet time after the family dinner and before games or movies start. Maybe it’s something totally different. But by asking yourself, you can start making the moves necessary to incrementally experience a different reality.

As you pull these levers, others will switch off, and it will become much easier to put yourself first. Yes, I know it is not how we caregivers have been conditioned to operate, but being kind and compassionate to fill your cup first allows you to effortlessly radiate compassion for the pets and others you care for.

We can often lose ourselves in the commotion of the holidays, with the feeling of “I need a vacation from my vacation.” Set aside time for you this holiday season. Your days at work and days off should meet your now conscious needs, whatever they may be. Set yourself and the ones you care about up for success. But first, define it.

Renee Machel Head Shot
Renee Machel is a nationally recognized wellbeing speaker, certified life coach, CYT 200 yoga instructor, mindfulness, and meditation guide. As the co-founder of Get MotiVETed she aims to provide a positive impact on people’s wellbeing and enhance the culture within organizations of vetmed. She has spent nearly 20 years in the veterinary industry as a hospital leader and technician. She shares her personal story of overcoming wellbeing struggles along with key teachings in managing both personal and professional development.
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This organization provides comprehensive therapeutic lifestyle solutions to support veterinary professionals with improving well-being, enhancing resilience, and optimizing performance through positive changes in mindset, lifestyle, and behavior.
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Taking place January 13-17 in Orlando, FL, VMX 2024 will become a world’s fair—veterinary style—featuring exhibits, culture, innovation, and the diffusion of knowledge, plus entertainment and thrills designed to surprise and delight around every corner.

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Instead of decking the halls to perfection, focus on adding thoughtful, personal touches throughout your home that create feelings of nostalgia.
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Tatum from, one of TikTok and Instagram’s most beloved “talking” dogs, stars in this heartfelt and humorous story about a charismatic canine’s journey home.

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This program is designed to harness the expertise and creativity of individuals, startups, and organizations to address key issues in animal health and develop groundbreaking solutions to benefit companion animals worldwide.

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With more people cutting out sugar and artificial sugar substitutes, dates are gaining in popularity because of their incredibly high naturally derived sugar content and the variety of ways in which they can be utilized, such as date syrup and date spreads.
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This easy-to-use cheek-swab kit provides accurate age prediction backed by science.

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Their mission is to be a strong and impactful voice by supporting women and allies seeking leadership positions, providing professional development and educational content, developing student leaders, and engaging in social media discussion.

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Declutter your social media following! The accounts that you feel are no longer relevant to you or that bring a feeling of dissatisfaction with life should be unfollowed, as they can subconsciously affect your mindset.
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Learn from two experts in veterinary medicine and expand your knowledge on Neurology and Infectious Disease/Preventive Medicine January 25-27 in St. Kitts West Indies.

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