Feel dog tired? How we share remarkable similarities with animals and doctors can learn about human illnesses from vets
Cancer, drug abuse and self-harm are often seen as being the ills of modern society.
In some cases, they can be portrayed as signs of human weakness.
But the remarkable research of a heart expert in the U.S. has discovered that these conditions are not exclusive to humans.
They are also prevalent in the animal world and have been for millions of years.
Now, through the work of Barbara Natterson-Horowitz it is hoped that we can learn more from animals about the human condition.
Perhaps most interestingly, the cardiologist believes that doctors can learn more from vets.
Ms Natterson-Horowitz's research started about seven years ago when she was asked to help with an emperor tamarin at Los Angeles zoo.
It was suffering from heart failure.
But what she discovered changed her life. She was told that by looking into the monkey's eyes, she could give it capture myopathy which could trigger massive heart problems.
After 20 years in the medical world, she had never heard of the condition.
It also resonated with a condition discovered at the time by Japanese doctors which proved that people could die of a broken heart.
But what fascinated her more was that - despite it being heralded as a breakthrough among cardiologists - veterinarians had known about it for decades.
She then began to look at what else vets knew about illness which doctors didn't.
And it led her to discover the huge similarities between human and animal illness.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, she said: 'It became a kind of hobby: if I saw a disease in a human, I looked for an animal correlations. I started asking, 'Do animals get breast cancer or melanoma? Do animals get brain tumours? Do they get syphilis or erectile dysfunction? Do animals faint? And the answer was 'Yes, yes, yes, they do.'
One of the most feared illnesses of modern life is cancer, which is often linked to toxic chemicals and other feature of our hectic modern lives.
But through her research Ms Natterson-Horowitz found that it also affects the animals world and has done for millions of years.
Greek doctors used the term Karkinos when writing of cancers and ancient Egyptian doctors described breasts with bulging tumours.
Wild sea turtles are also dying from cancerous tumours and horses are susceptible to skin cancer.
Remarkably, Ms Natterson-Horowitz also found that, like many drug-addicted humans, animals are also fond of getting high.
She cites a pet cocker spaniel in America which constantly licked the skin of a toad which turned out to give off a hallucinogenic toxin.
There are also wallabies close to a farm in Tasmania which are permanently stoned - the farm grows opium for medical purposes.
'I was blown away to discover substance abuse in the wild, she said. 'I have a couple of friends who have struggled with substance abuse, one a recovering heroin addict and she really resonated with the idea that there's this neurobiology that connects to her addiction.'
Self harm is often seen as a modern disorder but this too is seen in the animal world.
Birds are known to have pecking disorders, when they strip themselves of feathers.
Many dogs, including golden retrievers, will gnaw and lick at their bodies obsessively.
Now, Ms Natterson-Horowitz has come up with the name Zoobiquity to describe the work to advance knowledge of medicine through research in the animal and human world.
She will host a special conference in September which will bring together experts from the veterinary and medical worlds were they will look at a number of conditions and illnesses.
Zoobiquity is also the title of a book which Ms Natterson-Horowitz has written with American science writer Kathryn Bowers which looks at the similarities between human and animal illnesses.
Source: Daily Mail