Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Animal Crackers: Researchers in Veterinary Medicine and Epidemiology Have Long Demonstrated Key Connections between Animals and Humans in the Areas of Emerging Infections. "Zoobiguity" Looks at Connections That Are Closer to Home, Including Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Pediatrics, Oncology and Also Psychiatry

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Animal Crackers: Researchers in Veterinary Medicine and Epidemiology Have Long Demonstrated Key Connections between Animals and Humans in the Areas of Emerging Infections. "Zoobiguity" Looks at Connections That Are Closer to Home, Including Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Pediatrics, Oncology and Also Psychiatry

Article excerpt

A man rushes his limp dog to the veterinarian. The doctor pronounces the dog dead. The agitated man demands a second opinion.

The vet goes into the back room and comes out with a cat. The cat sniffs the body and meows. The vet says, "I'm sorry, but the cat thinks that your dog is dead, too."

The man is still unwilling to accept that his dog is dead.

The vet brings in a black Labrador. The lab sniffs the body and barks. The vet says, "I'm sorry, but the lab thinks your dog is dead, too."

The man finally resigns to the diagnosis and asks how much he owes.

The vet answers, "$650."

"$650 to tell me my dog is dead?," exclaims the man.

"Well," the vet replies, "I would only have charged you $50 for my initial diagnosis. The additional $600 is for the 'cat scan' and 'lab tests.'"

My apologies for starting this column with such a lame joke; but the point is there is obviously a cross-over between human and animal medicine. Veterinarians do indeed employ CAT scans and lab tests in the diagnosis and treatment of animals and with good reason--both are significant and valid assessment tools. The methodologies from human medicine, from psychiatric intervention to organ transplantation, are available to veterinarians and are, indeed, employed with similar outcomes.

The American humorist Will Rogers made the early observation that, "The best doctor in the world is a veterinarian. He can't ask his patients what is the matter--he's got to just know." There is an obvious connection between the veterinarian who interacts with non-verbal patients and the developmental medicine clinician who also interacts with non-verbal patients. And while both sides of the clinical aisle "got to just know," the question of the day remains, "How do you just know?"

It seems there are pockets of clinicians who see the wisdom of exploring healthcare from both sides of the leash. A.A. Milne the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh remarked, "Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem." So what exactly can we learn about treating humans for diseases by listening to the animals?

Zoobiguity is a movement that "presents comparative medicine as a new translational science, bringing knowledge from veterinary and evolutionary medicine to the human bedside." Researchers in veterinary medicine and epidemiology have long demonstrated key connections between animals and humans in the areas of emerging infections; "zoobiguity" looks at connections that are closer to home, including cardiology, gastroenterology, pediatrics, oncology and also psychiatry. They are actively exploring how animal and human commonality can be used to diagnose, treat, and heal patients of all species.

The "zoobiguity" movement got its start when a UCLA cardiologist (Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz) was invited by the Los Angeles Zoo to consult on some of their most difficult cases. While she never collaborated with veterinarians, she quickly appreciated that she worked in a parallel world. She questioned why human physicians didn't interact more with their animal counterparts. …

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