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Weekly News Roundup 10/9 to 10/15

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After 3,000 years, Tasmanian devils return to mainland Australia

The pitter-patter of Tasmanian devil feet was heard in the wild of mainland Australia for the first time in 3,000 years after a group of devils was released in Barrington Tops, a protected national park about 120 miles north of Sydney. Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii), the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, have been long gone from most of the Australian continent, and until now, the only remaining wild populations were on the island of Tasmania. Mainland devils were likely outcompeted by dingos, the wild dogs who were introduced to Australia at least 3,500 years ago, and who are now considered a pest species. . . . more

Study confirms “slow blinks” help build a bond with cats

If you find your feline clients a little hard to bond with, maybe you just need to smile at them more. Not the human way, by baring your teeth, but the cat way, by narrowing your eyes and blinking slowly. By observing cat-human interactions, scientists were able to confirm that this expression makes cats—both familiar and strange—approach and be receptive to humans. You know that “partially closed eye” facial expression cats get, accompanied by slow blinking? Turns out it’s similar to how human eyes narrow when smiling, and usually occurs when cats are relaxed and content. Anecdotal evidence from cat owners has hinted that humans can copy this expression to signal to cats that we are friendly and open to interaction. So, a team of psychologists designed two experiments to determine whether cats behaved differently toward slow-blinking humans. . . . more

Dog food trials soothe gastrointestinal illness

An ongoing study at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine looks at the efficacy of treating dogs who have persistent gastrointestinal problems, or chronic enteropathy, with changes in their diets. The results so far have been remarkable—some patients have returned to healthy weights and others have regained glossy coats after being nearly hairless. Most dogs with these kinds of persistent gastrointestinal problems have a form of inflammatory bowel disease called lymphocytic plasmacytic enteritis. Up to 80% of dogs with the disease respond well to changes in the food they eat, says Kenneth Simpson, BVMS, DACVIM, DECVIM, PhD, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Clinical Sciences and lead investigator for the study. “But no one really knows why or how these diets work or why the original diet caused clinical signs,” Simpson says. . . . more

Sorry, but dogs may prefer the faces of other dogs to those of humans

Humans rely on facial cues to gather information, and we have a special area of our brains that activates when we view a face. But a new study shows that dogs don’t quite process human faces in the same way. “They read emotions from faces and they can recognize people from the face alone, but other bodily signals seem to be similarly informative to them,” Attila Andics, PhD , a dog behavior researcher at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary and coauthor of the study. Andics’ group also found that dogs prefer gazing at other dogs’ faces instead of other faces, human or otherwise. . . . more

UC Davis’ new veterinary hospital halfway to $500 million goal

A decade-long campaign to raise more than $500 million dollars to build a new veterinary hospital is part of an ambitious $2 billion fundraising goal by the University of California, Davis. Davis’s School of Veterinary Medicine is taking a lead role in the new campaign, titled “Expect Greater: From UC Davis, For the World.” It is the largest philanthropic endeavor in the university’s history, and the new veterinary hospital makes up 25% of the goal. Since the campaign’s quiet phase began in July 2016, the university’s closest donors and friends have given $1.2 billion toward the goal, with more than $250 million of that raised by the veterinary school. Now UC Davis is reaching out to the entire university community and beyond. . . . more