Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing
Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, Kathryn Bowers
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In the spring of 2005, cardiologist Barbara Natterson-Horowitz was called to consult on an unusual patient: an Emperor tamarin at the Los Angeles Zoo. While examining the tiny monkey’s sick heart, she learned that wild animals can die of a form of cardiac arrest brought on by extreme emotional stress. It was a syndrome identical to a human condition but one that veterinarians called by a different name—and treated in innovative ways.
This remarkable medical parallel launched Natterson-Horowitz on a journey of discovery that reshaped her entire approach to medicine. She began to search for other connections between the human and animal worlds: Do animals get breast cancer, anxiety-induced fainting spells, sexually transmitted diseases? Do they suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia, addiction?
The answers were astonishing. Dinosaurs suffered from brain cancer. Koalas catch chlamydia. Reindeer seek narcotic escape in hallucinogenic mushrooms. Stallions self-mutilate. Gorillas experience clinical depression.
Joining forces with science journalist Kathryn Bowers, Natterson-Horowitz employs fascinating case studies and meticulous scholarship to present a revelatory understanding of what animals can teach us about the human body and mind. “Zoobiquity” is the term the authors have coined to refer to a new, species-spanning approach to health. Delving into evolution, anthropology, sociology, biology, veterinary science, and zoology, they break down the walls between disciplines, redefining the boundaries of medicine.
Zoobiquity explores how animal and human commonality can be used to diagnose, treat, and heal patients of all species. Both authoritative and accessible, offering cutting-edge research through captivating narratives, this provocative book encourages us to see our essential connection to all living beings.
sort of medical mystery physicians enjoy as much as reading a chapter in an Atul Gawande book or watching a good episode of House, M.D. But in this case, the patient was a rottweiler mix named Shakespeare. The diagnostic strategy we arrived at—from lab tests to medications—for the four-legged patient was all but identical to one we’d recommend to a human patient with a similar disorder. Along with faculty from the U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the veterinarians at the Los Angeles
of cancer at the sites of these injuries. Even tattooing may be associated with a rare form of skin cancer. Cancer strikes across ecosystems and throughout the animal kingdom. Osteosarcoma, the cancer that forced Ted Kennedy’s son, Ted Junior, to undergo an amputation in the early 1970s, attacks the bones of wolves, grizzly bears, camels, and polar bears. Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, successfully battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Sadly, a killer whale from Iceland succumbed to this cancer
coming from (although sadly one in seven still does). Yet as we increasingly outsource where and what we eat to agribusinesses, supermarkets, and restaurant chains, we hand over not just the inconvenience of food gathering and preparation but also the challenge, the puzzle, and even the excitement of eating. Like that of captive animals, modern human eating has become more and more detached from the complex physiological and behavior-based impulses and decisions around food that natural selection
disorders and evidence of past traumas. We might start by looking for a history of sexual abuse or features of borderline personality disorder. But our veterinary colleagues have a more direct approach. Lacking the ability to talk to their patients (and perhaps aided by this as well), they have identified the three most common triggers of self-injury: stress, isolation, and boredom.‖ Call a veterinarian to treat a flank biter and she may inquire about the patient’s upbringing. (In a canine
(tachycardia), it plummets (bradycardia). Instead of blood pressure surging, it plunges. Detecting low-pressure, slow-moving blood, sensors throughout the body signal to the brain that something is terribly wrong: a failing heart or a catastrophic loss of blood. In a protective response, the brain shuts the system down by fainting. For anyone who’s had a racing pulse after being scared, this slowing of the heart seems counterintuitive. But you’ve felt it. Imagine that wave of intense nausea you