Canines have been praised for their amazing abilities to comfort when it comes to crises, but their ability to detect diseases in humans is even more astonishing. Our four-legged friends serve as much more than great companions, as it is now being discovered that they are more and more useful when it comes to the detection of diseases in humans.
Angus, a cocker-spaniel working at the Vancouver General Hospital has turned into a local celebrity thanks to his ability to sniff out a bacteria found in the hospital’s long-term care facilities, called Clostridium difficile. Clostridium difficile is a bacteria that attacks the digestive system, causing symptoms that can be mild to extremely harmful. In non-hospital settings this can be easily contained, but when contracted in an already weakened immune-system, the results can be extremely damaging to patients. The dog has been trained to sniff out the bacteria as quickly as possible, faster than the previously used ultraviolet light.
Angus isn’t the only dog with such specific abilities though. Lucy, a Labrador retriever from the U.K. is also somewhat of a talented detector herself. According to her owner, she always had an overwhelming affinity to sniff everything she came into contact with, sometimes leading her into troublesome situations. Not long after, it was discovered that her sense of smell could be used for good, instead of getting her into her usual sticky situations. Lucy is now trained to detect prostate, kidney and bladder cancer by smelling the urine of patients. She is accurate 95 per cent of the time and is a key asset to the medical team “Medical Detection Dogs,” located in the U.K.
Even low blood sugar is one of the detectable ailments of properly trained dogs. D.A.D.s are Diabetes Alert Dogs, and a special Black Labrador named Jedi was able to detect extremely low blood sugar in young diabetes patients. Dogs are natural-born scent-detectors with 300 million sensors in their noses, compared to humans, who are only born with 5-6 million of these sensors. These dogs are able to detect the smell of organic volatile compounds, chemicals which can only be detected in liquid and gaseous states, key indicators of cancer that can be found in the breath or urine.
Although these dogs may not be certified doctors, their unique abilities allow for a much less invasive diagnosis process. With proper training, the future of early detection may be located in the sensory receptors of a canine.