Human, animal doctors comparing notes

The attributes may be different — fur, claws, scales, antlers, feathers, vs. the hairless, upright opposing thumb-type — but there is a lot of common ground too.

Even though us humans are quick to notice the differences between species we have a lot more in common with other critters than we probably realize.

We already share our world with animals but take it further — bringing them into our homes and integrating them into our lives at every opportunity from keeping them as pets and workers to building zoos, and wildlife preserves.

Therefore it should be no surprise that in addition to sharing homes, land and food with critters, we may just share our doctors too.

According to the big screen, all the good crime families have a veterinarian on call to remove bullets and stitch up fugitives — but don’t be surprised if, at your next appointment, your dermatologist pats your hand reassuringly and tells you his prescribed treatment course worked like a charm on the itchy lemur family he prescribed it to last week.

Don’t fret, it doesn’t mean you confused your appointment with the dog’s and landed in the wrong office, but it may mean he was one of a few hundred medical professionals gathered in New York for the Zoobiquity conference a week ago.

For a third year, Zoobiquity, a collaboration between the David Geffen School of Medicine and UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, brought veterinarians and wildlife specialists together with human providers including doctors, psychologists, dentists and an array of researchers and specialists in an effort to bridge the gap between their disciplines.

Such a gathering led to discussion of topics such as “Anxiety Disorder in a 2-Year-Old Yorkshire Terrier and 21-Year-Old Barista,” and, “Lyme Disease in a 6-Year-Old Bull Terrier and 41-Year-Old Tax Attorney,” and a field trip to the Bronx Zoo gave an attendees an opportunity to see animals suffering from conditions they encounter in their human patients.

Breast cancer in golden retrievers, jaguars, and beluga wales, koalas and rabbits with STD’s, reindeer addicted to grazing on hallucinogenic mushrooms, depressed gorillas and Doberman pinschers with OCD — all examples of cross-species ailments that are being dealt with on each side of the medical coin.

Looking beyond fur and feathers, experts hope that by starting a dialogue between doctors and veterinarians and encouraging them to compare notes, an exchange of ideas and solutions will emerge.

Take, for instance, a Philadelphia veterinarian who found a creative solution to eye infections in kittens that often render them blind or lead to the loss of an eye. Obtaining partially used tubes of antibiotic ointment from a local hospital’s labor and delivery ward, where they use ointment in newborn babies eyes, she and a team of students have begun treating kittens to prevent infection and increase their chances for adoption.

Of course there will always be inherent differences between the two fields — it will never be OK for oncologists to go into a local supermarket and tranq-dart, treat, tag and release patients, psychiatrists will rarely if ever have opportunity to muzzle their patients, and dentists will spend their careers surrounded by wide-eyed, white-knuckled, drooling people because they can’t use tranquilizer darts either.

But then again, with the exception of pediatricians, most doctors won’t have to worry about their charges biting them, hiding under the exam table or chewing off bandages.

Luckily, however, there are professionals devoted to making sure all us animals feel better, even if it means that what’s good for the goose, just might be good for the gander.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: or on the web at: