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Zoobiquity, by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, M.D. and Kathryn Bowers: A Review by Anne-Elizabeth Straub, LCSW, GCFT®

Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, M.D. and Kathryn Bowers, begin Zoobiquity with a story of a consultation by Dr. Natterson-Horowitz in her capacity as an expert in the field of cardiology. She had been called to consult at the Los Angeles Zoo, which reportedly happened from time to time. The patient on this call was a tamarin monkey. In the course of her exam she began to look into his eyes, in an attempt to provide assurance. She was cautioned by the zoo veterinarian that such eye contact could cause “capture myopathy”.

Upon researching that diagnosis, she found that it had much in common with a human syndrome, “takotsubo cardiomyopathy”, which presents as a classic heart attack, but looks very different in angiography. It is brought about by the experience of seeing a loved one die.

The key insight for the author and for me was that the key was not the overlap of the two conditions, but the time lag between the recognition by veterinarians of the animal version of the syndrome and recognition of the human version by medical doctors.

This anecdote provide a jumping off point for a collection of absorbing, entertaining and revealing anecdotes that illustrate the myriad ways in which animals and humans share both maladies and ways of coping. Chapters deal with such wide ranging issues as addiction, adolescence, cancer, eating disorders, heart attacks, self-injury, sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases.

The individual chapters are fascinating as individual pieces but their function is to point out and to assist discussion of the ways in which we have ignored similarities and focused on differences, to the detriment of both species and the disciplines that study and treat both species.

One outcome which is clearly espoused by the authors is more sharing of knowledge by vets, doctors and biologists and naturalists.

The mere fact that animals and humans are subject to similar, and in some cases, identical maladies, did not seem to me, to be particularly surprising, nor were some of the individual examples discussed. Others were not as well known.

However, the skillful way all the facts and stories were organized, the fascinating details which abound in each one, and the connections and insights that were drawn from them, more than amply illustrate the other major portion of the central thesis; that examining these similarities is, perhaps, more useful than focusing on differences, between the species, and that research on these and treatment protocols developed from such research will prove useful to all.

Two major Conferences have already been held in Los Angeles in 2011 and 2012. Another is planned for November of 2013 in New York Cty. The hope is that this is the beginning of sustained, systematic collaboration by practitioners of many related disciplines.

I found this book not only important, but enjoyable, primarily due to its first person, conversational style, which makes not only for enjoyable reading, but assists in recall of the information. It was highly entertaining and enlightening. It inspired me to look for more opportunities to collaborate and make connections rather than to specialize and fractionalize knowledge.

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Comments on this entry

  1. Anne-Elizabeth Straub

    I re-posted this because I couldn’t find it when I came back to the site and searched.

    Anne-Elizabeth Straub, the author

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    Replying to Anne-Elizabeth Straub

  2. Anne-Elizabeth Straub

    I re-posted this because I couldn’t find it when I came back to the site and searched.

    Anne-Elizabeth Straub, the author

    Reply Report abuse

    Replying to Anne-Elizabeth Straub

  3. Myrna Milani

    You’re now live Anne-Elizabeth and it’s a very helpful review. Like you, I’m also surprised at the nature of the similarities between humans and animals that surprise some people. It seems like either they must not spend much time with animals, or their expectations regarding animals are such that they simply can’t see these. So if your starting point is that humans are physiologically and behaviorally unique, then the idea that we could share conditions in common with members of other species could be quite alien. It reminds me of something a veterinary pathologist said in a seminar I attended: “A good observer is one who doesn’t see what should be there when it isn’t, and does see what shouldn’t be there when it is.”

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