Zoobiquity

Zoobiquity is a book written by Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers. Dr. Natterson-Horowitz was a physician who later came to appreciate veterinary medicine and learned from it in order to provide some new insight into the biology and behavior of animals. While she provided the medical perspective to the issues discussed in the book, Bowers provided the perspective of someone who was simply curious and who is not directly involved in medicine. Together, they provided a unique approach to medicine in their book and they discussed its content at the Chicago Humanities Festival.

The Zoobiquity discussion opened my eyes to the numerous similarities between physicians and veterinarians. As someone who plans on pursuing a career in medicine, it was extremely helpful to understand how closely humans resemble other animals. I am surprised that physicians and veterinarians do not collaborate very often because we most likely would have made more advances in medicine if that were the case. Since we exhibit many of the same diseases that other animals do, we can rule out causes of various medical conditions and find remedies more quickly by studying the differences that do exist between various animals. The physician told an interesting story about one of her encounters with an animal, during which she almost gave the animal “capture myopathy”, a condition that she had never heard of at the time. After some research, the physician found out it was very similar to a type of cardiomyopathy in humans during which the heart stops due to overwhelming amounts of adrenaline in the body. Similarly, an animal experiences capture myopathy when they are almost literally frightened to death because they fear being preyed upon. I think this a great example of how similarly our bodies and those of other animals respond to emotions such as fear. This story even suggests the possibility that other animals can experience the complex emotions we do.

I was also surprised to learn that other animals have been observed to exhibit symptoms of psychological illness such as self-injury, anxiety, and eating disorders. When discussing self-injury in animals, the physician even mentioned that she thought it was something uniquely human. I think ideas such as these are significant because they allow us to assess why we as humans often believe that we are superior to other animals. If the main reason for this type of thinking is that our brains function in more complex ways, then the observation that other animals also demonstrate complex psychological functioning could completely change the way we view other organisms. Overall, the ideas presented in this discussion support the theory that the human species is related to other animal species and they encourage future exploration into how unique humans really are.

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