I just finished (flew through, really) a fascinating book called “Zoobiquity.”
Co-writers Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, M.D., and Kathryn Bowers coined the term to denote the many surprising places where human and non-human health and disease meet and even overlap.
These places are far more numerous than I could have ever imagined.
But even more intriguingly, it would seem that in some ways, animal medicine is years if not decades ahead of our own.
For instance, veterinarians knew about “broken heart syndrome,” a stress-induced condition in animals that mimics cardiac arrest in humans, a full few decades before their human medicine counterparts (vets call it “takotsubo cardiomyopathy“) discovered it.
As well, from fainting to foreplay, drug abuse to eating disorders, self-injury to STDs, adolescent risk-taking to social bullying, a Zoobiquitous approach (another phrase coined by the co-authors) shows that we have a lot more in common with our fellow species than just our DNA.
According to National Geographic, I share 24 percent of my DNA with the average wine grape (’nuff said). And my family’s dachshund puppy and I share 84 percent of our DNA in common…for chimps and bonobos that percentage climbs to a jaw-dropping 99 percent.
In terms of verifying a shared genome, little more proof is needed than the fact that we can catch, carry and transmit many of the same pathogens (albeit sometimes in different forms depending on species) as our non-human peers. Of the six global killers listed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), five are “zoonotic,” which means they can be transmitted, morphed and mutated back and forth from human to non-human hosts. In fact, all five first infected humans from an animal host.
However, perhaps the most astonishing aspect of reading “Zoobiquity” for me is how many of the behaviors humans find socially unmentionable at best and abhorrent at worst are absolutely natural and unremarked-upon in our non-human relatives.
From adolescent risk-taking to promiscuity, war-mongering to wagering, homicide to suicide, pretty much anything animals do, we do too…and vice versa.
The authors make no particular case for the continuation of any of these activities or behaviors, save one of survival and gene pool diversity.
But they DO make the case that we could learn so much from fostering a greater medical community build on collaborating and information-sharing that ventures across species lines – and in fact, such a partnership just might one day save us all.
Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever felt like you and your pet have more in common than you and some of your closest human companions? Do you regularly learn new things from watching nature’s natural cycles? (I know I do!) Have you ever wondered if animals (fill-in-the-blanks) like you do?