Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How do animals have better immune systems than humans?

  1. Jul 8, 2016 #1
    Animals get wet in the rain and still dont fall sick, how is that?. Lets take a stray dog. I have noticed that a dogs nose keeps running and he has to breathe though the mouth. So his immune system has some flaws. Can a human being become so immune just like animals? Tarzan had good imunity. So can we develop immunity similar to an animal?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2016 #2

    phinds

    User Avatar
    Gold Member
    2016 Award

    You do realize that Tarzan was/is a fictional character and has zero relationship to your question?
     
  4. Jul 8, 2016 #3
    Some diseases are species specific.
    Influenza, which may be to what you are referring, is one example.
    http://www.who.int/zoonoses/diseases/animal_influenza/en/

    Dog influenza is more specific to only them, and not to humans.

    What makes you think that animals do not suffer when ill?
    Is it because they cannot speak to say how "down in the dumps" they feel?
     
  5. Jul 8, 2016 #4

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    The basic premise of your question is wrong. You seem to be focused on mammals.

    Mammals do in fact get all sorts of diseases: parasitic diseases, microbial infections, environmentally induced diseases. That is why people who raise animals for various reasons require the services of veterinarians to keep their animals as healthy as possible. Animal Husbandry is very focused on health issues related to genetic diseases - e.g., hip dysplasia is some dog breeds.
     
  6. Jul 9, 2016 #5

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    As an aside, animal diseases transferring to humans has profoundly shaped human history. The animals can act as disease vectors as the the 14th-17th century bubonic plagues in Europe. Or the disease can transfer and become endemic: dairy cattle -> smallpox, pigs->cholera. Western animal derived diseases when first introduced into North America decimated major civilizations there - See the mound builders (Adena people) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mound_Builders

    Overall see:
    'Rats, Lice, and History' Hans Zinsser
    'Guns, Germs, and Steel' Jared Diamond
     
  7. Jul 11, 2016 #6

    Fervent Freyja

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Why do you think animals have better immunity? Can they tell you when they have the sniffles or ask you to drive them to the vet for every ache they get?
     
  8. Jul 13, 2016 #7
    I think I know what the OP is getting at, but I am just talking about pets... I had one cat for 19 years, and have had dogs all my life. They very rarely get "sick" the way we get sick (coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, etc). Whenever they do, it seems to be because they "got in to something" they shouldn't have. I think there are a few main reasons for this... 1) Lack of exposure to "the outside world" reduces the opportunity to "catch" something. People are "out in the world" touching objects that hundreds of people have touched in just the past 24 hours. We are within a few feet of ten or twenty people per day, maybe even 100-200 people if you work in a retail/hospitality industry or take mass transit daily. 2) Diet. Most pets eat the same food every day. They eat processed food that was prepared under controlled conditions and not handled by people, rather than prepared in small kitchens at restaurants and handled by multiple people, and they don't eat raw fruits and vegetables from fields like we do. 3) We also "let them die" more often, possibly causing evolution to "work better" than it has in humans, since (in the developed world) we save people at virtually any cost, people with weak immune systems are able to grow up and reproduce... Pets definitely get things like cancer though, quite frequently I think...

    I am by no means an expert in this field, I'm just throwing a few ideas out there - feel free to shoot it down! :)
     
  9. Jul 14, 2016 #8

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I was outside in the rain the other day and I am not sick. The fact that most animals you see in the rain do not end up sick is simply a sign that rain in and of itself does not cause sickness. That requires the presence of a pathogen and a failure of the animal's numerous defense mechanisms. Animals are most prone to suffering from disease when they are very young, very old, injured, or malnourished, all situations in which their immune systems and other defenses either haven't yet developed fully or have been degraded. Healthy adults, which form the overwhelming majority of animals you ever see, are the least likely to get sick.

    I wouldn't call the fact that a dog occasionally gets sick a flaw with their immune system. More like an inevitability.

    No, because animals are not immune to disease. Essentially all organisms are susceptible to hundreds if not thousands of possible diseases. Some, like rabies, are well known to humans, but most have not been documented (not surprising given that we haven't even come close to finishing documenting our own diseases yet). In fact, a not-so-insignificant portion of human diseases can also afflict animals, especially those closely related to us like primates and other mammals.
     
  10. Jul 14, 2016 #9
    On further reading: I found that a dog can have a runny nose because it has sweat glands in the nose. It opens its mouth to keep his body temperature low. It helps it cool its body. But yes a dog can have a cold but thats not the reason for it to pant. As dogs grow older their immunity decreases.
     
  11. Jul 14, 2016 #10

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Dogs of all ages get diseases. It's just less common in younger, healthy dogs.
     
  12. Jul 14, 2016 #11
    I've occasionally wondered if say, an ant, can get a headache........ or a honey bee perhaps feel a bit off-colour and take a day off, staying in the hive. I'm not being frivolous here....... it's a serious thought I sometimes have.
     
  13. Jul 14, 2016 #12
    Fun fact: The wet nose of dogs (and some other mammals that track smells) is called a rhinarium. It is wet to detect the direction of air currents (like when someone licks their finger and holds it up to figure out wind directions) and help figure out the direction a smell might be coming from. In addition to sweat and mucus glands, dogs will also lick their nose to maintain moisture for this purpose.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted



Similar Discussions: How do animals have better immune systems than humans?
Loading...