Dogs have taken on an increasing number of service roles in recent years. We’re all familiar with the traditional “seeing-eye dog” role dogs perform to assist visually impaired persons in living independent lives, but fewer of us are aware that dogs can also help victims of PTSD, and some dogs are trained to “sniff out” certain kinds of diseases. So how does your dog know when you’re sick?
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Dogs Detecting Diseases
Research into whether or not dogs can sense diseases in their companions dates back decades, but one of the first projects that uncovered real proof of a dog’s ability to “smell” a specific sickness – in this case, cancer – was published in the British Journal of Medicine back in 2004. The discoveries made during this research project paved the way to help improve disease detection training for dogs, although many questions still remain unanswered.
What Does Disease Smell Like?
One of the questions left unanswered by the research discussed above was which compounds dogs can smell when they sense illness in humans, and which diseases produce which compounds. New research from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge shows that dogs smell a specific substance called isoprene when detecting low blood sugar in diabetes patients, which suggests that there are different “smellable” compounds associated with different diseases.
How Many Diseases Can Dogs Smell?
At present, there are at least six major maladies that canines can smell in their human companions, ranging from cancer to impending seizures, but there may be even more. Some dog owners report that their furry friends can sense worry or anger as well as stress or fatigue, which means we might soon have dogs trained to address a wide range of human problems.
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