Doctors and vets join forces for Australian-first Zoobiquity conference

3 February 2015

While animals and humans suffer from similar diseases, it is rare that physicians and veterinarians share their wealth of knowledge with one another. To bridge this gap, the University of Sydney will host an Australian-first conference on 27 February featuring world leaders in nutrition and metabolic diseases.

The first Zoobiquity conference ever to be held outside North America will host zoologists, molecular biologists and human and veterinary physicians as they adopt an interdisciplinary approach to nutrition and disease in humans and animals.

Leading researchers and clinicians will draw on the latest research from medical and veterinary science to explore how an integrated approach can help to better diagnose, treat and heal both human and animal patients.

Speakers will tackle difficult questions on diverse topics ranging from which macronutrients make for good nutritional health, how much salt, water and exercise we need, and why our companion animals are sharing a load of the obesity epidemic. Adjunct Professor Richard Malik, from the University's Centre for Veterinary Education, will bring his international expertise on small animal medicine to provide an evolutionary perspective on the health issues facing humans and animals alike.

"We'll explore what makes a good diet for our pets, including the impact of commercial diets on teeth and gum health, and also obesity and the predisposition to develop osteoarthritis," said Adjunct Professor Malik.

"Dogs and cats are carnivores that evolved to eat the flesh and bones of prey animals, so it seems sensible for their diet to reflect this. Zoo vets and their nutritionists work with this logic and feed a lot of raw meat on the bone.

"Many pet owners are being increasingly persuaded to only feed their cats and dogs premium dry food. However, exclusively feeding your cat or dog this cereal-based high carbohydrate diet may not be in their best interests. There are high levels of obesity in areas such as the United States, where animals are almost exclusively fed these diets."

Other key topics up for debate include unexpected dietary dangers for both humans and animals, which organisers believe will be an eye opener to many people. There will be many opportunities for discussion and debate.

Founder of the Zoobiquity Conferences, Dr Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, a human cardiologist from University of California, will open the conference via video with an overview of the Zoobiquity journey to date.

The idea that ignited Zoobiquity came when Dr Natterson-Horowitz saw a sub-human primate at the Los Angeles Zoo. After realising the advantages of studying comparative medicine, she wrote a book on the subject and has since run three Zoobiquity conferences in the US. The conferences have garnered much attention for facilitating discussion between human physicians and veterinarians.

Zoobiquity will be jointly hosted by the Centre for Veterinary Education, Sydney Medical School and the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney.

Event details:

What: Zoobiquity Conference: Nutrition and Disease in Man and Companion Animals

When: Friday 27 February 2015

Time: 8.30am - 5.30pm

Where: The Charles Perkins Centre research and education hub (Johns Hopkins Drive, The University of Sydney)

Bookings and enquiries: T: +61 2 9351 7979, E:,

Media passes are available for journalists wishing to attend Zoobiquity.

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Media enquiries: Katie Szittner, 02 9351 2261, 0478 316 809,