By Fran Buell, APDT
Bare Paw Dog Obedience
Canines are being put to serious work throughout the world. We are all familiar with the Seeing Eye or Guide Dog to help the blind. During disasters, Search & Rescue Dogs find both the dead and alive. In addition to these helpful canines, we have Service Dogs to help the disabled, Hearing Ear Dogs to assist the deaf, Therapy Dogs to brighten the day of those people confined to Care Centers and Reading Assistance Education Dogs to help children to develop good reading habits. Added to this list we now have the Support Dog.
Last week we explored the phenomenon of canines able to detect the onset of epileptic seizures.
Cancer detection is another area being closely looked at by scientists as a potential area of work for canines.
In September of 2004, a small study was published in the British Medical Journal that examined the possibility of training dogs to detect urinary tract cancer. In the study, six dogs went through seven months of training to distinguish the difference between urine from bladder cancer patients and that from a healthy control group. The study determined that the dogs were accurate 41 percent of the time, more accurate than mere chance. One significant findings was that all six noses zeroed in on a urine sample from one of the healthy control group. Upon further testing of the healthy volunteer, an undiagnosed kidney cancer was discovered.
Interest in cancer sniffing dogs started in 1989 when a woman reportedly insisted her doctor examine a mole on her body that her dog kept sniffing. Additional tests on the mole came back positive for malignancy.
Studies have shown that a dog's sense of smell is so much more sensitive than ours, it makes perfect sense that they should be able to detect something with their noses before a human could see it.
Getting accurate scientific data and validation on cancer-sniffing dogs will take time, cost money and require careful study before being completely accepted by the medical community.
Meanwhile, we have to realize that if we can train canines to sniff out explosives, drugs, firearms and toxic chemicals, we most certainly should be able to teach them to sniff out cancer or other potentially fatal diseases.
Information for this column was obtained from the April 2005 issue of "Your Dog," the Newsletter of Tufts University School of Veterinarian Medicine.
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