Animals can have many of the same illnesses and disorders that humans do, sometimes called by different names. The author (a cardiologist) was surprised when she found out that primates can die of stress-induced heart conditions, and started looking for other examples of maladies that are common in both human and animal species. There’s tons. She started to wonder why veterinarians and human doctors didn’t consult with each other, especially because she saw that in many cases treatment and techniques from one discipline could inform the other. So this book was the result. A bit disappointingly, it didn’t go into a lot of detail on any of the examples, but on the other hand, I really blazed through the pages in a short time. Horses with skin cancer. Gorillas in a zoo with eating disorders. Parrots that self-mutilate. Dogs, rats, monkeys, bighorn sheep and other animals that seek out mind-altering substances and consume them over and over. Pigs that aren’t ill per se, but refuse food to the point of starving. Obese pets and zoo animals (and how their caretakers get them to loose weight). And so many more examples I can’t mention. There’s a whole chapter on animal sexual behavior, and another on diseases transmitted that way (a real problem among wild koalas). For some reason I first had the assumption that this book would be mostly about diseases that cross over from animals to humans, and while it’s not, it does mention viruses like Ebola, West Nile, rabies, lyme disease, toxoplasmosis, etc etc. I can only imagine what it would have to say about covid, had it been written just eight or nine years later! Like The Ancestor’s Tale, this book reminded me how very closely related we really are, to all the other living creatures on this planet.
Borrowed from the public library.