Do animals have the same medical problems that I do? What about psychological issues?
Our research has revealed vast similarities in the most common diseases of contemporary human beings and animals, both living and extinct. From obesity to influenza, strokes to STDs, Zoobiquity uncovers animal correlates to nearly every human health challenge. The research also reveals remarkable overlaps in the behavioral problems faced by humans and animals, from eating disorders and OCD to sexual dysfunction and self-injury.
Are there veterinary solutions to my medical problems?
Yes. Veterinarians and other animal experts use unique and highly effective ways of treating medical and psychological issues in their animal patients. Zoobiquity suggests that human practitioners and patients have much to learn from these animal authorities.
Did ancient animals suffer from the same diseases we humans do today?
Yes. The fossil record reveals evidence of “human diseases” like gout, arthritis, dental disease, and cancer in ancient animals, including pre-Ice Age species (such as dinosaurs).
What kind of research is being done in the field?
Collaborations between veterinarians and physicians have been rare in past decades. Recently, promising and exciting results have emerged through interdisciplinary projects. Excellent early examples of these include: limb-sparing techniques for dogs and teens with bone cancer (developed by physicians and veterinarians at Colorado State University); promising treatments for malignant melanoma (developed by oncologists at Memorial Sloan Kettering and the Animal Medical Center); organ regeneration and other cancer research (through partnerships between the National Cancer Center’s Comparative Oncology Program (COP) and veterinary cancer institutions in North America); and spinal cord injuries (a project between Texas A&M and UCSF).
I’m a physician. How do I use Zoobiquity in my practice?
A comparative perspective can help physicians practice better medicine. For example, as human medical practice becomes increasingly directed by algorithms, the risk of an automated, cookie-cutter approach to patients comes with it. A rote mentality can set in. On the other hand, veterinarians who treat many different species, of different ages, must consider each patient as an individual and tailor the approach and therapies accordingly. The comparative approach can, therefore, serve as a model of individualized care in the contemporary human clinical setting.
Also, many physicians are not aware that veterinarians apply the results of human clinical trials to the care of their animal patients. It’s possible that if human patients knew that the results of clinical trials could benefit not only future generations of humans, but animals as well, more would participate in these critical studies.
A comparative approach can also increase compassion and decrease stigma. Patients suffering from medical problems such as eating disorders, self-harm, obesity and even cancer often endure the added stressors of shame, guilt, and self-blame. Simply increasing awareness of the “species-spanning” nature of illness might help lighten the psychological burden associated with these disorders. That in turn can lead to better health outcomes.
I’m a veterinarian. What steps can I take to practice zoobiqitous medicine?
One very simple—yet potentially very effective—way to encourage collaboration is to reach out to family practice physicians in your community, starting with areas of obvious overlap like infectious disease. Even a simple introductory phone call could start conversations that have the ultimate result of improving the health of humans and animals.
Some veterinarians might not be aware of how valuable their comparative insights are for human medicine. For example, when an animal presents with behavioral disturbances, the first questions asked are about the animal’s environment, companions, and home/life situation. This perspective, looking at the environment first for help in understanding a patient’s behavior, could be highly useful for human physicians dealing with the vexing issues of obesity, addiction, self-injury, and eating disorders. Physicians tend to consider the individual first.
I’m a psychotherapist. Can zoobiquity help me in my practice?
Yes. Psychotherapists have much to learn from veterinary approaches to challenges such as: eating disorders, self-injury, anxiety, OCD, sexual dysfunction and bullying. In chapters including “Roar-gasm,” “Fear of Feeding,” “Grooming Gone Wild,” and “Leaving the Nest,” Zoobiquity considers key human psychological concerns through the lens of animal sufferers and veterinary care.
I’m a teacher. Can zoobiquity work in my classroom?
Yes. Using examples of wild and domestic animals with parallel health challenges can help facilitate discussions of sensitive but crucial topics including sexuality/STDs, substance abuse, eating disorders, cutting, gender stereotyping, and bullying.
Zoobiquity also offers students tangible and accessible examples of important principles of evolutionary biology, comparative physiology, and environmental and conservation ecology.
I’m a parent. Can zoobiquity help me?
Yes. Like teachers, parents sometimes find it easier to use examples of wild and domestic animals with parallel health challenges to open discussions with their children of sensitive but crucial topics including sexuality/STDs, substance abuse, eating disorders, cutting, gender stereotyping, and bullying.
What does the word “zoobiquity” mean?
We coined “zoobiquity” by combining the Greek for “animal,” zo, with the Latin for everywhere, ubique. The word encourages seeing ourselves in other animals, and finding the animal in ourselves.
How did Zoobiquity start?
Barbara Natterson-Horowitz had been a human cardiologist at UCLA for many years when the Los Angeles Zoo invited her to consult on some of their more difficult animal cases. Having never worked with veterinarians before, she discovered herself in a parallel world. The veterinarians provided the animals excellent quality of care, with multiple specialists, tremendous collaboration and concern for the patient—just like her colleagues in human medicine did for their patients. Barbara realized that the diagnoses the animal doctors made on a daily basis—a python with heart failure, a goat with asthma, a rhinoceros with leukemia—were the same diseases she saw in human patients. She began wondering why more physicians don’t collaborate with their medical counterparts on the animal side of the species divide.
Kathryn Bowers, a writer and journalist who met Barbara through a mutual friend, was struck by Barbara’s experience and what a species-spanning approach could mean not just for physicians and veterinarians, but for their patients. Together, the women began researching a range of human clinical health concerns, with the goal of finding animal correlates. It soon became clear that comparative medicine depended on evolutionary biology, and the interdisciplinary, zoobiquitous approach emerged.
How is Zoobiquity similar to other comparative approaches, such as One Health or One Medicine?
One Health’s extensive work especially in the areas of zoonoses, emerging infections, animal sentinels, and animal/human bonds informed the research for the book. But, while Zoobiquity is in accord with the goals of One Health, Zoobiquity is not a book about One Health. Instead, it explores how interdisciplinary collaborations across many related fields—including evolutionary biology, evolutionary medicine, wildlife biology, comparative physiology, neurobiology, zoology, sociology, and anthropology—create new knowledge and advance health across species.
Zoobiquity also encourages a comparative, species-spanning, global approach that goes beyond infectious and zoonotic diseases. The book reaches out to cardiologists, dermatologists, gastroenterologists, urologists, ophthalmologists, psychiatrists….as well as other healthcare professionals like dentists, nurses, therapists, and social workers. And of course, zoobiquity encourages patients to adopt a species-spanning perspective too.