RVC experts explain human and animal health links on BBC

RVC experts explain human and animal health links on BBC

Last updated 28 March 2014

The RVC has long been at the forefront of the One Health/One Medicine debate, which focuses on the relationship between human health and animal health accelerating scientific progress.  Humans benefit from developments in veterinary science as these help medicine to progress.


A recent BBC news piece, followed by a feature on the BBC website - drew on the example of a dog suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) to explain how research can shed light on the human form of the condition. 


The dog would jump and bite the air repeatedly - a behaviour known as 'fly-catching'. OCD symptoms in humans include repetitive hand-washing, hoarding and obsessive cleaning, whereas dogs chase their tails and shadows and groom excessively. As the underlying causes of the condition in different species are related, advances in the veterinary field have relevance for human neuroscience and vice versa. 


Other conditions that both humans and dogs develop include epilepsy, narcolepsy, haemophilia, cancer, muscular dystrophy and retinal degeneration.


As well as having genetic similarities, because humans and domestic dogs share the same environment, it makes them a better model for disease than laboratory rodents.   


RVC behavioural consultant Jon Bowen told the BBC: "Dogs are exposed to many of the same stressors that contribute to health problems. Their diet often contains the leftovers from meals, they are exposed to family arguments and are relatively socially isolated from members of their own species."


RVC professor of veterinary neurology and neurosurgery Holger Volk said: "Naturally occurring diseases in animals are a lot more complex. In a rodent you simplify a lot of things. When you look at certain diseases in humans, there are so many factors involved.."


Commenting on the potential for veterinary science to improve human health and medicine, Professor Volk added: "The driver behind my research is to improve animal health. And by doing that I can also help humans; it's a win-win situation for both species."


To see the BBC footage click here.