Zoobiquity by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers, is about using our veterinary knowledge to help medical doctors treat humans better. A wonderful premise that delivers lots of science and interesting stories.
In the chapter about eating disorders the authors talk about some of the recent science that has been done and what it shows about eating behaviors. It seems that when animals and people are stressed they reach for high fat high sugar foods and when they are less stressed they reach for food that are less calorie dense. This is hard wired so that when an animal activates the fight or flight response they have the immediate energy they need to fight or run away from danger. I immediately thought about all those women in therapy being told that they are seeking love in food. If part of why people are unable to stop eating high calorie foods is because they are living stressful lives then perhaps some changes in environment might help more than drugs or therapy.
Zoobiquity covers a lot of behaviors that manifest in humans and animals that in humans are seen as signs of mental illness; self mutilation, suicide, depression. They show the research that has been happening in the fields of veterinary science where because vets can’t communicate with their patents they have to look for treatments without knowing what the patents think and feel. Often times veterinarians have been very successful in treating animals with simple diet and environmental changes by looking at these factors and determining how the illness was caused. They often resort to drugs only in extreme cases. The authors point out that these same problems are being treated less successfully in humans with drugs or therapy.
They cover other illnesses that cross the species divide as well. The chapter about cancer was particularly interesting. I thought it was pretty funny when the veterinarian gets done with his talk about cancer in dogs and how the information pertained to cancer in humans only to be approached by a doctor asking “How did you get all these dog owners to let you give their dogs cancer?” He clearly didn’t understand that dogs get cancer too.
The book makes a good case for the two medical disciplines to share more information and research.
A really enjoyable read.