The next time you go to your doctor, take a moment to imagine her/him as a dog. Then imagine that dog sniffing you for a while. Finally, imagine the dog giving you a diagnosis.
Now come back to the real world – but, hey, this is the new real world of medicine. Dogs are now taking on frontline work in the battle to detect cancer and to alert people with life-threatening conditions to changes that place them at risk.
A British charity is spearheading work to use dogs to assist the medical profession in their work with patients. Medical Detection Dogs http://medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk/index.html also known as Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs is “an organisation that trains dogs to identify human disease by odour... currently working on a number of pioneering research projects involving canine olfaction, including the training of dogs to detect cancer, blood sugar changes, Addison’s disease and narcolepsy”.
We are well accustomed by now to seeing guide dogs and to hearing about sniffer dogs assisting police and the Armed Forces. The introduction of cancer and bio-detection dogs adds further professional elements to these wonderful animals. If you are planning to donate to charity this Christmas, this might well be the charity for you.
Dr Claire Guest, a behavioral psychologist and founder of the charity, said her dog Daisy alerted her to her own breast cancer when they were working on the prostate cancer trial. Apparently, Daisy, a Labrador Retriever, jumped repeatedly at her chest. Guests then proceeded - based on her dog's persistence - to get further medical testing, which a tumor was discovered. Daisy has worked on 6,000 urine samples and has been found to be 93 per cent reliable in detecting prostate cancer. Early studies, published in medical literature, have suggested dogs can also detect bowel and lung cancer in breath samples.