Natterson Horowitz - ZoobiquityPUBLISHING YEAR: 2012

SUMMARY: An informal comparison of the medical problems of animals and humans. Written by a human cardiologist and psychiatrist in layman’s terms. Main focus on behavioural and psychiatric issues.

AUDIENCE: It won’t hurt the intellectually curious dog owner, but canine behaviourists will likely get the most out of it.

02 Professional


Author: You’d be forgiven for confusing Barbara Natterson Horowitz with these ladies:

In contrast with Alexandra/Debra, Barbara Horowitz was not trained in animal behaviour. Well actually that’s just the thing. Once you’re done reading the book, you might see her Psychiatry degree as just another behaviourist specialization – only one focusing on humans instead of dogs or horses.

Attending a cardiac operation on a marmouset triggered her interest in comparative medicine. This unleashed an obsessive question for her: “Why don’t vets and doctors learn more from each other?” So she started to ask veterinarians the same question over and over: “Do animals also get…?” She emerged with a wave of human and animal conditions that were only different in name.

She has taken the concept so far that she now teaches comparative cardiology at the UCLA. If you’d like to find out more about her, here is a nice interview.


The book’s brilliant title says it all: “Zoobiquity”: how many medical conditions can be found throughout the animal kindgom and not just in humans.

It was written in an easy, funny, unpretentious prose and is reasonably jargon-free. Here are some nuggets:

  • p. 51 (talking of cows) “… like the professional lactators who rarely get breast cancer.”
  • p. 105 “Successful dog training creates a learning addiction.”

She organizes the book into neat chapters; each broadly exploring an aspect of human medicine and its lesser-known equivalents in animals. You’ll find these sections on animal compulsions, sexuality, addiction, self-harm or eating disorders to name but a few.

Pearls of wisdom

She often reflects about the absurdity of medical doctors being perceived as ‘superior’ to vets. The book is one long (and well-deserved) ode to the breadth and depth of knowledge of veterinary doctors.

And now onto the core idea of the book: comparative medicine. This extract says it all: “The smartest human cancer researchers never talk about naturally occurring animal cancers.” The book made me grasp how isolated human and veterinary research were from each other. I don’t need to tell you we’re just another animal right? So why on earth do we split knowledge from human and animal research so much? Can you begin to imagine the wasted knowledge that never crossed the human-animal barrier? Because no one bothers looking over the wall, researchers and clinicians are constantly re-inventing the wheel and wasting valid treatments for the animal patients concerned – humans and otherwise.

Suggestions for improvement

The book was a little chaotic and the choice of problems covered appeared haphazard but hey, it does not pretend to be a systematic review so just relax and enjoy the read.

You will be disappointed if you’re after a systematic and thorough, peer-reviewed and fully cited survey of comparative medicine. But then again, you’d need about five million and a half textbooks to do justice to even a fraction of the topic. Am guessing writing these five million and a half textbooks as an add-on is my suggestion but it may fall on deaf ears. I hear lecturing in medicine and practicing as a cardiologist doesn’t leave you much spare time.


I would definitely recommend it. It won’t give you definitive answers about anything but hopefully it’ll plant a seed and you will start seeing parallels between human and canine behavioural abnormalities and perhaps borrow clinical tips from ‘the other side.’ You will start approaching behavioural disorders in a new light and, if you’re anything like me, start digging into the DSM (major reference for human psychiatric diagnoses) with renewed interest. Worst case scenario is the book does not profoundly resonate in you and you’ll have been thoroughly entertained for 250 pages.

So chop chop then. Off to the bookstore you go.

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Author: Bowers Kathryn, Natterson Horowitz Barbara
Genre: pop science
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One Trackback

  • By Latest dog book review: Zoobiquity | Canis bonus on 5 September 2014 at 09:13

    […] Zoobiquity was written by a cardiologist and psychiatrist with a growing obsession for comparative medicine: Alexandra Natterson Horowitz. The central question is: “Do animals also get…?” (fill in the blank with every imaginable human disorder). The resounding answer to that question is yes again and again. So pick this one up if you’re curious about sexual problems and addiction in animals, or breast cancer in cows or post traumatic stress in apes. […]

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