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Species-Spanning Medicine
When it comes to remedying diseases and disorders, dogs and people are in it together
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Call it a movement, a philosophy, a revelation or a revolution.

Call it “one medicine,” “one health” or “zoobiquity.”

Call it something new, or—given that the “aha” moment on which the concept is based came in the 19th century—call it something old that’s been remembered and repackaged amidst the growing awareness that solving the mysteries of animal diseases and disorders, from injured spinal cords to cancer, can lead to possibly curing our own.

Over at least the past five years, there has been a rekindled recognition of the species-spanning nature of diseases, and of the value of species-spanning research. About 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases that affect humans have their origins in animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

On a theoretical level, the concept of “zoobiquity,” a term coined in the 2012 book of the same name, suggests that, no matter our species, we’re all in this together, subject to most of the same infirmities, capable of passing a lot of them back and forth, and more likely to find cures and treatments if we look at the big picture—at the earth and all its creatures —as opposed to focusing solely on humans.

On a practical level, species-spanning thinking—referred to by various monikers—has led in recent years to veterinary schools reinventing themselves; to a heightened spirit of cooperation between doctors and veterinarians; to new sources of funding for research; and to the realization that, when it comes to diseases shared by humans and animals, the latter may provide a quicker and less expensive route to a cure for all.

Where do dogs fit in? Right at the top. No other animal—if not physiologically, at least in terms of sharing our genetic markers and our home environment—is as close to us.

That’s why Texas A&M veterinarians and University of California, San Francisco, medical researchers have teamed up to study spinal problems in Dachshunds and other dwarf breeds and to test a new drug that blocks secondary infections. The research, which is funded by the Department of Defense, has potential application to battlefield injuries

That’s why, in New York, veterinarians with the Animal Medical Center have joined forces with physicians and researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to set up trials in which electrical impulses are used to treat tumors of the urinary tract in canines, with an eye toward possible human application.

That’s why the Mayo Clinic has partnered with two veterinary schools, a medical school and a private corporation to study the effectiveness of a device aimed at predicting and controlling epileptic seizures in both dogs and humans. While traditionally, research into canine epilepsy has been funded primarily by the American Kennel Club’s Canine Health Foundation and breed clubs, the Mayo Clinic collaboration received a $7.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

That’s why Tobi, a paralyzed Golden Retriever, is getting stem-cell treatments that may help him walk again as part of a clinical trial headed by Dr. Natasha Olby, veterinarian and neurologist at North Carolina State University’s (NCSU) College of Veterinary Medicine. The trial will involve as many as 30 dogs over three years.

And that’s why Peggy, a Chihuahua from Albuquerque who was born with three legs, is being outfitted with a “bionic” paw at NCSU. Implanting the prosthetic device, which will have electrodes that connect to her nerves, will allow her to run and scratch, and could add to the growing use of comparable technology in humans.

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Submitted by Anonymous | April 26 2013 |

Dear John Woestendiek, I don't wish to offend you but I don't want my dog to be used as an experiment though I realize the benefit of the medical community to enhance the life of my dog so I agree what you have written on page 1 of your article to some extent, but I've lost too many cats to experiments. There seems to be a conflict of interest what the National Center for Infectious Diseases says about dogs, which doesn't refer to the same link that you provide in your article.

I have a dog and a cat. I am their Mother. They think I am their Mother and I agree with them.:) I've had them since they both were around 2 weeks old:) I've invested a lot of love and energy into their health and welfare. Please consider they are my children since I was never able to have children.

Page 2 of your article John states, “Dogs, long our antidote for loneliness, may hold the most promise of all animals when it comes to solving medical mysteries and curing what ails us.”

My comment from the National Center from Infectious Diseases states:
Pets can decrease your:
Blood pressure
Cholesterol levels
Triglyceride levels
Feelings of loneliness

Pets can increase your:
Opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
Opportunities for socialization
http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health_benefits.htm

Regarding page 5 and 6 of the article by John Woestendiek, my comment from the National Center from Infectious Diseases:
Diseases from Dogs
Although dogs can pass germs to people, you are not likely to get sick from touching or owning dogs. To best protect yourself from getting sick, thoroughly wash your hands with running water and soap after contact with dogs, dog saliva, or dog feces (stool).
Dogs can carry a variety of germs that can make people sick. Some of these germs are common and some are rare. For example, puppies may pass the bacterium Campylobacter in their feces (stool). This germ can cause diarrhea in people. Puppies and some adult dogs often carry a variety of parasites that can cause rashes or illness in people. Less often, dogs in urban or rural areas can carry the bacterium Leptospira (lep-TO-spy-ruh). This germ causes the disease leptospirosis (lep-to-spi-roh-sis) in people and animals. Dogs can also carry rabies, a deadly viral disease. Rabies from dogs is rare in the United States.
Some people are more likely than others to get diseases from dogs. A person's age and health status may affect his or her immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick. People who are more likely to get diseases from dogs include infants, children younger than 5 years old, organ transplant patients, people with HIV/AIDS, and people being treated for cancer.
http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/animals/dogs.htm

I understand the importance of scientific research since I too am a researcher. Thank you for your consideration in this matter. Best wishes to you.

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