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The Dog Ear: 'Zoobiquity': on people and animals

By Alyssa McDonagh
On February 24, 2014

As an aspiring veterinarian, I spend time reading about my ideal profession. I read the science section of "The New York Times," and I'm always looking for a good book about animals. I recently read a fantastic book titled, "Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health" by Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers. This book is all about the "One Health" approach that has become a frequent topic of discussion in the medical world. "One Health" is the collaboration between various medical professions and scientists to tackle problems that affect the health of humans, animals and the environment.
"Zoobiquity" is Horowitz and Bower's term, and it means the same thing as "One Health" but focusing more focused on animals helping human's problems. I find it extremely interesting that it has taken us so long to realize that animals and humans can greatly help each other and learn from one another. Veterinarians and medical doctors have received extensive education in their field. You would think it would be natural for them to join forces to help all species, including humans. Luckily, this teamwork is becoming more prevalent. "The New York Times" published an article a few months ago about a human medical doctor operating on a gorilla. Humans may look drastically different from animals but on the inside, similarities abound.
This book was filled with fascinating stories about animals sharing the same diseases as humans - diseases I had never realized the two shared. When I think about it, why wouldn't there be shared diseases? Take cancer as an example. What would ever make us think that animals wouldn't get cancer? They have DNA, just like us, that is always at risk for mutation due to faulty proofreading. Animals live in the same world as we do, a world unfortunately filled with carcinogens. Even without carcinogens, we both spend time in the sun with its melanoma-causing rays.
Horowitz and Bowers show readers that solutions exist that can potentially help both animals and humans. In regards to melanoma, a vaccine was developed for use in dogs which shrank tumors, giving them the ability to survive the cancer. With the success of this vaccine, a vaccine for humans is in the works. By examining problems in animals, we can discover solutions to our own maladies. The answer may already exist in one species, but it may not have crossed over to another.
Cancer is not the only topic "Zoobiquity" covers. Heart problems, drug addictions, STDs, fainting eating disorders are all examples of dilemmas the book discusses. If you aren't familiar with medical terminology or diseases, this book is still readable. Horowitz and Bowers' explanations are very simple and appear to be designed so anyone with or without a scientific background can read and understand their research. It is rare that a science book is such a smooth, entertaining and amusing read. The facts will stand out and you'll enjoy learning new information about our furry, scaly or feathery companions. We are all living in the same place so it is important that we work together to make the best of our survival.

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