One of the benefits of listening to NPR Science Podcasts is learning about interesting science books. From NPR recently I learned about Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers. The pair coined the term "zoobiquity" to name interspecies medical studies, which they think go deeper than simple comparative anatomy. Physician Natterson-Horowitz particularly believes that her medical colleagues are slower than veterinarians in recognizing the convergence of their disciplines. She does not go so far as to suggest that animals get better care, but she does say that vets are far ahead in some fields of treatment.
Of course, animal studies have long been conducted for the benefit of human medicine, but they have usually been limited to laboratory animals in sterile environments. The authors argue there is much also to be learned from the treatment of pets and from the lives of animals in the wild. They show how similarly animals and humans faint at times of danger, suffer from cancer, pursue sexual partners, abuse drugs, self-mutilate, and surrender to obesity. Almost any human trouble seems to have a corollary in the animal world that might provide insight.
Thanks to Bowers being a mainstream journalist, the text is kept from being too technical. Anyone with a pet will experience a few revelations. I recommend reading a chapter a date to not overdose on the fascinating detail. It will be in many public libraries.
Natterson-Horowitz, Barbara and Kathryn Bowers. Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. 308p. ISBN 9780307593481.