Weekly companion animal news: June 10, 2024

Groups offer $10 million prize for researchers to develop interspecies communication

A group of scientists is being offered a $10 million prize to create real conversations with animals, The Guardian reports. The Coller Dolittle Challenge for Interspecies Two-Way Communication has been launched by the Jeremy Coller Foundation and Tel Aviv University. While the use of artificial intelligence isn’t obligatory, the team says the technology can boost almost all proposals. They say the idea of interspecies conversation has precedence: Researchers have recently developed machine-learning algorithms to translate bat squeaks, allowing them to identify the subject of squabbles. Other efforts in the field have included algorithms to decode the emotions of pigs from their grunts, as well as the squeaks of rodents to identify when they are stressed.

IDEXX launches pancreatitis diagnostic test for cats and dogs

IDEXX Laboratories announced the launch of the Catalyst Pancreatic Lipase Test, a single-slide solution for canine and feline patients suspected of having pancreatitis. According to the company, veterinarians can receive results from the test in under 10 minutes during the patient visit, allowing for immediate treatment. It will be available in the United States and Canada this September, with a global rollout planned to begin in the fourth quarter of 2024. IDEXX says the Catalyst Pancreatic Lipase Test, coupled with VetConnect PLUS software, aids in the long-term management of pancreatitis patients.

Pennsylvania group helps pet owners in need

Since its establishment last year, the Companion Animal Coalition has been working to ensure pet owners in need in Erie, Pennsylvania, can afford care for their animal so they can stay together. “We just last week helped out a cat with their dental surgery so they can stay in their home with their parent, and we’ve helped dogs get masses removed, and so on,” said Lea Lanham, the group’s president. Since it was established, the nonprofit has given away more than $9,000 for pets in need, YourErie reports.

Pennsylvania bill would allow for special consideration of pets during divorce proceedings

A Pennsylvania bill would change the procedure for determining pets’ future during divorce proceedings. The bill, which passed the state’s House last June, defines a pet as a “companion animal,” categorizing it as a subset of personal property that excludes inanimate personal property. Upon request of either party during a divorce, a court can determine possession or care of a companion animal, considering several factors, such as which person generally facilitates veterinary care and social interaction for the animal, and who can financially support it, JD Supra reports.

Neighborhood Pets helps Cleveland seniors care for dogs and cats

A new program called PALS—Pet Assistance Linking Support—will assign volunteers to work with Cleveland seniors who live alone but own a dog or cat. Every week, they will visit that person to care for the animal, walk the dog, clean the cat’s litter box, wash the bedding, bring food or other supplies—whatever the animal needs. PALS is a collaboration between Neighborhood Pets, which provides free and low-cost services for dogs and cats in Cleveland and East Cleveland, and Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, which serves aging adults and their caregivers in Greater Cleveland. The program is the first of its kind in the nation, Signal Cleveland reports.

As cats get bird flu, what’s the risk for their people?

Cats are getting—and dying of—avian flu, and raw milk, raw meat and dead birds may all be sources of infection. That’s sparking worries about the risk that the ongoing outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza poses for these felines and their owners. When bird flu viruses infect mammals, the viruses can undergo mutations that help them replicate better in mammalian cells. That raises the possibility that the avian influenza could adapt to spread easily in people. There’s no sign the virus has developed the type of changes needed to transmit easily from person to person yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people who have gotten infected so far have had close contact with poultry or cattle, Science News reports.

Zoetis report shows progress on sustainability goals

Zoetis has published its 2023 sustainability report, which the company says highlights its progress achieving long-term sustainability goals and provides disclosure on environmental, social and governance topics. The company says it invested $7 million in communities through corporate giving initiatives in 2023. New diagnostic, vaccine and parasiticide solutions for livestock producers aim to support the health and productivity of their animals, and the company says it continues to progress toward carbon neutrality in its operations by 2030.

Upcoming conference connects animal hospitals and vendors

Representatives from the country’s premier animal hospitals and the vendors who assist veterinary practices will convene at Vet Together, a business development conference to be held November 18-20 in Las Vegas. According to the announcement, Vet Together aims to streamline operations and enhance economic efficiency for animal hospitals and vendors. The conference will pay for travel and accommodation for attending animal hospitals with confirmed buying power, and the Vet Together team will curate pre-scheduled one-on-one appointments between hospitals and vendors that have mutual business goals. Aaron Pugh, president of Vet Together and former COO of Veterinary Growth Partners, and Scott Johnson, chief development officer of Vet Together and former national accounts director of Clipper Distributing, serve as the event’s executive team.