Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Medical Detection Dogs

I was planning a post on health benefits of dogs, but I'd have to write a book. In fact, Marty Becker already has. http://www.drmartybecker.com/
Dogs, it turns out, are better for you than dark green vegetables, an apple a day, or blood pressure medicine.

Today I'll share some of what I've learned about their ability to detect cancer.
Their noses are 100,000 times better than ours (for which I'm grateful, especially when you consider the sorts of things they like to sniff.) A 2006 report claimed 99% accuracy in detection of lung and breast cancer.

A British charity, Medical Detection Dogs, is training dogs, mostly rescue dogs, to detect early stage prostate cancer from urine samples. The dogs work in the lab 3 days a week, but otherwise live normal doggy lives with a loving family.
Ozzy in His Uniform
Cancerous cells release volatile organic compounds, which dogs can sniff out at a very early stage. Researchers hope, with the dogs' help, to develop more reliable detection tests than those currently available. These talented canine noses have already produced promising results in the detection of prostate and bladder cancer, the current focus of the charity's work. http://medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk/cancer_history.html

In November of 2011, British journalist Jenny Stocks accompanied a labrador retriever named Daisy as she sniffed vials of urine donated by local hospitals. Given the command, "Seek!" she quickly identified the cancerous sample on every attempt. Now all the researchers have to do is figure out what it is in the urine that Daisy can detect.

Stocks wrote, "Having spent a day at the centre, there’s no disputing the incredible talent of these dogs and their trainers. So will they be the key to identifying cancers earlier than any doctor can? ...It’s early days yet. But so far, the signs are that man’s best friend could turn out to be an even greater asset to mankind."