Book Review: Zoobiquity, The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health

One sentence synopsis:

A thorough and easy-to-read book on comparative medicine from a psychiatrist and cardiologist, including topics on heart attacks, cancer, orgasms, erectile dysfunction, sexual orientation, drug addiction, weight management, self-harm, anorexia, adolescence and zoonotic-turned-human diseases.

The good:

This book discusses what all of us animal-lovers and veterinary professionals have wondered in our lifetime - is the animal world and human world all that different?  This book has plenty of first-hand health stories.  I highly recommend Zoobiquity.

In a world where information seems easy to come by, the medical and veterinary fields apparently don't talk - until recently.   Due to the work of Dr. Natterson-Horowitz and a few others, since 2011 there is now an annual conference where comparative medicine is discussed openly to the benefit of animals and humans.  

The bad:

Literally, nothing.  Even if you don't like to read science books, you would still probably enjoy the book because it very easy to read with lots of stories.  Don't you want to know how long a titanosaur's male member is?

Photo from

Photo from

Photo from

Photo from

What I learned:

Where do I start? 

  • Heart attacks as a result of emotional stress are a real thing - species can indeed die of a broken heart or of fear.  
  • Animals freezing is comparable to humans fainting.  
  • Dinosaurs had cancer.
  • Larger species seem to get cancer less than smaller species, called Peto's paradox.  
  • Orangutans self-stimulate using tools they make.  
  • Frog necrophilia is real.  
  • Wallabies are often freeloading opium addicts.  
  • Emotions have a biological basis, and can be retained or rejected by natural selection.   
  • Lean humans have more Bacteroidetes than Firmicutes in their intestines.
  • Cats who obsessively lick themselves alone (aka "closet licker" or psychogenic alopecia) are compared to human cutters.  Release followed by relief.
  • Self-Injury, getting tattoos and grooming may all have something in common.
  • Pathogens, that can induce miscarriages or prevent conception, are likely to enjoy benefits of increased mating attempts.  Yes, that means STDs.
  • Adolescent animals and teens alike all make large risk-taking behaviors and altercate for a top spot in social hierarchy.

Why should you care?

If you are looking for a fascinating read that opens your eyes to the possibilities when comparing human and animal health, then this is your book.  You will understand better how diseases spread, what sex means, if disorders exist cross-species, and more.  

...human feelings could have evolutionary roots.
— Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD
Underappreciating our own animal natures may be the greater limitation.
— Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD
Studying a variety of animals could help pinpoint which combination of genes and triggers leads to cancer.
— Barbara Natterson-Horowitz MD
Dr. Barabara Natterson-Horowitz correctly identified the 1999 arrival of the West Nile Virus in the United States, when the CDC shunned her for suggesting that their public diagnosis of St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) was wrong. It started with cases in cows and birds, then humans. It’s possible she saved hundreds of American (animal and human) lives.
Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz.  Photo from  Photo Credit to Joanna Brooks.

Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz.  Photo from  Photo Credit to Joanna Brooks.