How Super Sniffer Dogs Are Helping Detect Disease Around The World

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  one month ago  •  17 comments


How Super Sniffer Dogs Are Helping Detect Disease Around The World
Dogs' olfactory capacity — they can sniff in parts per trillion — primes them to detect disease.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

As the owner of a yellow lab named Gus, author Maria Goodavage has had many occasions to bathe her pooch when he rolls around in smelly muck at the park.

Nevertheless, her appreciation for his keen sense of smell has inspired her write best-selling books about dogs with special assignments in the military and the U.S. Secret Service.

Her latest,   Doctor Dogs: How Our Best Friends Are Becoming Our Best Medicine,   highlights a vast array of special medical tasks that dogs can perform — from the laboratory to the bedside, and everywhere else a dog can tag along and sniff.

Canines' incredible olfactory capacity — they can sniff in parts per trillion — primes them to detect disease, and their genius for observing our behavior helps them guide us physically and emotionally.

Goodavage spoke with NPR contributor John Henning Schumann, a doctor and host of Public Radio Tulsa's #MedicalMonday about what she has learned about dogs in medicine

What led you to look into dogs in medicine?

I've been reading and writing about military dogs and Secret Service dogs for many years now, and it was sort of a natural next step. These are dogs on the cutting edge of medicine. They're either working in research or right beside someone to save their life every day. And really, doctor dogs are, for the most part, using their incredible sense of smell to detect diseases. And if they're paired with a person, they bond with that person to tell them something that will save their life.

You reported on dogs doing this kind of work all over the world.

Yes, I did go around the world. The first doctor dogs I learned about were in Japan. There's a village about five hours north of Tokyo where scientists were doing some research among a population that has a very high level of stomach cancer. And I wanted to find the best of the best, cutting-edge medical dogs around the world. It was really fun to see these service and research dogs working with their people and how good they are. They're incredibly good at detecting disease.

You also report on dogs that can detect ovarian cancer, which is personal for you.

I do have skin in this game, actually, because unfortunately, we have ovarian cancer in the family. My mom died of it.

With ovarian cancer, there's not much great testing for early detection. I heard about these dogs at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Working Dog Center that are able to smell ovarian cancer. They're able to detect it as early as stage one. We're not even talking tumors here. They're able to detect ovarian cancer in one drop of plasma from a woman with ovarian cancer.

The fact that the dogs can do this is exciting to me, and I think for so many people who have hard-to-detect cancers in the family.

What the dogs are doing now is remarkable and it's because their sense of smell is so keen. They can sniff in   parts per trillion . They can detect a tablespoon of a substance, like a packet of sugar, in two Olympic-sized swimming pools. Humans have six million olfactory receptors and dogs have up to 300 million. So their noses are really primed.

Another area in which dogs excel in the clinical world is for patients with diabetes.

Yeah. It's amazing. We don't know what the dogs are smelling, but the trainers are training the dogs on the scent of hypoglycemia and also hyperglycemia. The dogs are somehow able to put it together and tell the person 15 or maybe 20 minutes before the person's devices even say, 'Hey, you're going into the low range!' because the dogs detect this in real time. So the person has an extra bit of time to do what they need to do, take glucose or whatever.

I was fascinated to learn that doctor dogs may also have a role in detecting so-called "superbugs," that is, antibiotic-resistant microbes.

Yes. Actually, there are three or four of these dogs working in a hospital in Vancouver who are sniffing out   C. diff , which is one of those superbugs that can easily spread in vulnerable populations in hospitals and manifests in diarrhea and all kinds of issues that can actually kill people. And these dogs are stopping it in its tracks. Researchers have found that where these dogs work, the rates of   C. diff   really diminish. I hung out at this hospital one day and I just watched one of the dogs do his rounds, and he found what seemed to be   C. diff --   and before I knew it, they had a whole cleaning team.

How do dogs help people suffering from PTSD?

There are people from the military, war veterans and active duty soldiers even who are suffering from PTSD and who have gotten service dogs who, again, have been game changers. They save lives.

One of the dogs I learned about was placed with a soldier who had been to Iraq twice. He had PTSD and his life was falling apart. His marriage, his health, everything. He was on a cocktail of drugs. It made him a zombie. He hated that feeling. And one day someone told him about doctor dogs for PTSD.

He ended up getting one. Now if he's feeling anxious, he'll say, like, "snuggle" and the dog will just come in for a big hug, or another of various commands. His life changed dramatically for the better. His marriage is really good now. He's a stable dad and he's working. He's down to only one or two meds.

You write about doctor dogs helping people with autism. Can you share an example?

Yeah, it's really beautiful. Sometimes these dogs may be using their nose. Sometimes they're just being highly observant. And dogs are. They watch our body language all the time. But there are now more dogs being used for children on the autism spectrum, and they are remarkable. They can usually tell ahead of time when a child is about to have a tremendous amount of anxiety, panic, meltdown or what have you. When there's too much stimulation for a child with autism and the dog is there, they'll lean into the child.

Dogs change lives not just of these children, but of the whole family.

There is a family I wrote about in Minnesota, with a sweet boy who waited for four years to get a service dog for his autism. He was not able to go to restaurants. The family, therefore, couldn't go to restaurants. He couldn't travel. He could barely leave the house. He did go to school, but that was tough, too. And so they waited four years. They tried to get a regular pet dog in the meantime, thinking, "Oh well, you know, it's a dog. It'll work." But it was a disaster. It did not work at all as a service dog.

So they got a service dog named Lloyd. He's a big black lab. As the boy met him, he started crying. His mother had never seen him cry. Tears of joy.

And right there, boom, everything changed. Lloyd is the super calming presence. He's able to be with the boy and change his behavior. The boy could not go to the barber and get a haircut before Lloyd. Now all he has to do is just have his hand on Lloyd's head.

And the boy and Lloyd like to have their own table at restaurants!

John Henning Schumann is an internal medicine doctor and serves as president of the University of Oklahoma's Tulsa campus. He also hosts   Studio Tulsa: Medical Monday   on KWGS Public Radio Tulsa. You can follow him on Twitter:   @GlassHospital .


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Buzz of the Orient
1  Buzz of the Orient    one month ago

How are they for detecting if a person has coronavirus?

Perrie Halpern R.A.
1.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    one month ago

Probably pretty good. They can smell other diseases. 

2  Kavika     one month ago

 I have a friend who's dog can detect when his blood sugar is too high and he is about to crash. I saw it happen one time with my own eyes. 

Dogs are amazing.

Great article.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
2.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Kavika @2    one month ago

I thought you might like it :)

Larry Hampton
3  Larry Hampton    one month ago

Great article. 

They love us unconditionally, Provide companionship, raise quality and quantity of life, AND save lives. Our co-evolution with Canids has contributed even more than that. 

Perrie Halpern R.A.
3.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Larry Hampton @3    one month ago

Dogs are amazing animals and we are only just beginning to tap into how amazing they can be. 

3.1.1  igknorantzrulz  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1    one month ago

a little off topic, but does the dog nose in seed not resemble ET, and it is practically Extra Terrestrial, as well as cold and wet till warm and freeze to tumble dry  

Buzz of the Orient
4  Buzz of the Orient    one month ago

I recently watched the movie "Max".  Has anyone else seen it - about a dog that DID save lives both doing its duty as a war dog and afterwards. 

5  Jasper2529    one month ago

As someone who feared dogs in my youth - I was bitten twice - I've learned to love and respect dogs. My grand pups are as precious to me as my own children are.

Dogs have a phenomenal sense of smell, and they can detect many illnesses, infections, diseases, and emotional conditions.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
5.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Jasper2529 @5    one month ago

Great links Jasper. I'm glad you got over your dog fear. 

5.1.1  Jasper2529  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @5.1    one month ago

Thanks, Perrie ... on both counts.

6  Tacos!    one month ago
What the dogs are doing now is remarkable and it's because their sense of smell is so keen. They can sniff in   parts per trillion .

I've had a lot of dogs in my life, but in recent years, we have had basset hounds. All dogs have a good sense of smell, but these things are on another level.

One of them once dragged me past half a dozen houses and across the street to find a dead squirrel behind a tree. It wasn't random. He knew it was there from hundreds of feet away.

One we have now gets walked every day and regularly (very nearly every day, sometimes more than once a day) finds some kind of nut (usually a peanut) in somebody's grass, a patch of ivy or even buried in dirt. And we're not talking about things directly in her path, or something she roots around and finds by luck. She goes after it like she can see it. It's amazing. Like magic or the Force, or something.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
7  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.    one month ago

I love basset hounds and beagles. I hear that being an owner though comes with its own challenges since they tend to eat everything and can be prone to being over weight due to their powerful sense of smell. Is that true?

As a kid, I used to walk a basset hound named Tippy. She was a great dog and super friendly and loving. She was even buddies with my cat. They would sleep together and share an ice cream cone! 

7.1  Kavika   replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @7    one month ago

The bloodhound is considered by most experts to have the best sense of smell of all the dogs. The Basset is always rated near the top. Hounds make up the majority of the top 10 smellers this includes the Dachshund. . The German Shepard, Belgium Malinois and Labrador Retriever are also among the top 10. 

7.2  igknorantzrulz  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @7    one month ago
They would sleep together and share an ice cream cone! 

Basking in the warm sun, a beleaguered blessed Basset Hounding a Baskin Robins flavored cone, yet not in silence, as getting smarter was snuggling with a puddy cat, he affectionately referred to 99 times out of a hundred, as Whiskers of the Frisky Buffet Whiskers, a Noble lurate line of nine

lives lived till Fred, the Basset Hound, was found

licking a Tabbey, and their relationship was scratched due to some bitch with a twitch to itch,  chasing another Tale from a fractured Fairy


yea Beagles smell so well they stink


but i prefer Jacqueline Bisset hounding me with soft ears  and a wet

knows          the warm dry feeling of unconditional love,

that our Dawg, in the White Dawg gone house of Misrepresentations gives , under the condition of know conditional luv he never new,

as he should have had a puppy as a child.

Possibly then he would know if you grab a pussy without consent, they'll scratch your eyes out, while crossed like teased hair groomed buy a close stolen steal sheer

willed,    AD   and after Will was well,  Read

after he and her were declawed in a close shave, as they licked the cream off the crop off the crispy cone throwing caution cones and tape to the wind while blowing up the recording, in order to not copy a cat


that had already done did that


all apologies, was board while i wait for the festering splinter to push out, i figured a Puss N Boots to occupy my muddled muddy pause, could pass out the time, no one wishes to shoulder, till broken, on the cuff,

of a short sleeved shirtless hitchhiker embedded in the shrubbery covering the dirt like Joe, mite have bin stored till he was bored 

into a tick   tock    without the time to clock in to bug the conversation not  heard by those herded by broken  cats  fixed-ated   into a cone

of ice, in  on the taken

Cake, battered from mixing    down with up, kitty with pup

as are the erie silencing the absurd herd allowed by all those that weren't,

heard allowed in the icy smooth cylinder fired for sparking combustion, 

while we hung our collective heads out the window

without power, to fight the wind through our Fare Hair, as we had EZ passed out  earlier, while catching the Basking worm earlier caught and brought to Baskin the sun as  Robins phished for worms,

kitty stalked the kitty hawk till flight taken, in a dog fight,

over the ice cream cone sickening the tolerant,

till Lactose caused a cat and dog fight, in which they fought like cats and dogs till it reigned ,  cats and dogs

all over the Land O Lakes Indian who planted the crop to a Maze Algernon , who had grown allergic to Flowers, but not Jennifer's Tulips

again, i due over apologize, as i told someone i would continue to blather till they washed the lather out of my empty head, heir cut short for my cuffed genes

8  Kavika     one month ago

American Humane take shelter dogs and trains them to be service dogs for disabled vets. The cost is around $50,000 per dog and once trained the dogs i awarded to a deserving vet. Many vets with PSTD receive the dogs. 

All of this is done by donations to American Humane. The program is called ''Pups for Patriots''...

The program was started in 2017 and the first dogs have been put together with their vets. 

Dogs have amazing ability that we, IMO, have just starting to understand their unique abilities. 

Two lives are saved by this wonderful program, the Vet and the shelter dog.

8.1  igknorantzrulz  replied to  Kavika @8    one month ago

Two lives are saved by this wonderful program, the Vet and the shelter dog.

a great effort with vast rewards


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