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Unformatted text preview: is w ‘ Animals and Your Health: Dogs as Disease Detectors byS e Schulte MS NEPH __ . _| . W‘ _ z There is no question that dogs can provide companionship, protection, and other services.
B could there be another use ﬂ7r our canine ﬁiends? Some anecdotal evidence and a sprinkling of scientiﬁc
studies suggest thatdogs can detect seizures and cancers (like skin melanoma and prostate cancer); fhough the
research is still in its infancy, preliminary results have already provided insight on developing new medical technologies. Detecting Seizures Though many anecdotal stories suggest dogs Can alert their owners before a seizure, there has been little research
on how dogs might detect seizures before they happen. Some theorize that the dogs may smell a chemical or other
scent that is released just prior to a seizure. Others believe the dog’s attachment to his or her owner helps in
detecting subtle scent and behavioral changes before a seizure. Only a very small percentage of these service dogs
are currently able to reliably warn their owners before a seizure. Some researchers have studied whether these
skills could be taught. Researchers in the UK reported in the January 1999 and January 2001 issues of Seizure on dogs they had trained
that could detect seizures 15—45 minutes prior to the episode’s beginning. In addition, the researchers found that
the people using these dogs actually reported fewer seizures. Though these results are promising; in most cases it
still seems that this skill is inherent in a dog’s personality, rather than something that can be taught. Future
research may reveal what these dogs are detecting and how this information can be applied in the hospital setting. There is no doubt that trained seizure alert dogs can alert help, help prevent injury and watch over someone when
they are having a seizure. However, the Epilepsy Foundation cautions people against rushing into spending
thousands of dollars for a dog said to have skills of prior seizure detection, at least until the research supports a speciﬁc training regimen. Detecting Cancer There has also been anecdotal evidence of dogs being able to sniff out cancer and warn their owners. A brief
repert in a 1989 issue of the Lancet describes how one dog discovered a cancerous skin tumor on her owner’s leg.
Researchers have been able to teach bomb~snifﬁng dogs how to detect cancerusing similar training techniques.
Other research supports the theory that dogs have the ability to smell cancer. But the real promise may be in
learning how dogs can do this and possibly developing medical technology to do the same. The Future of Dogs as Doctors Dogs may never be used in the physician’s ofﬁce. However, studying how animals can detect disease conditions
in humans could lead to future advancements in medicine and medical technology. For instance, by learning
about the ways dogs “smell” a seizure or cancer. cells, we can develop technologies to detect those same
molecules. Medical “sniffing machines” have already been developed and are providing insight into the smells of
disease for disease detection. ' RESOURCES: Page 1 of 2
Copyright © 2005 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved. 1) What are some theories to how dogs can detect as seizure before it happens? 2) In January 1999 and January 2001 the UK reported that dogs could detect a seizure
how long before it happens? 3) There is no doubt that trained seizure alert dogs can do what?
4) Bomb snifﬁng dogs have been taught to do what? 5) Studying how animals can detect diseases can lead to advancements in what?...
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- Fall '14