Dogs Can Detect Disease

We Reported Earlier on Cancer Sniffing Dogs. Dogs Are Involved In Many Other Medical and Caring Activities As Well.medical-dogs-stethoscope

Previously, we wrote a post titled,  Dogs Can Smell Prostate Cancer With Near 100% Accuracy. What many people may not know is that dogs play a role in medicine in more than just one way. For those that have dogs as pets, this may come as no surprise, but for those dogless folks, the idea that dogs can be used as medical tools may have never crossed their minds. The following are just some of the ways that dogs can be used as medical tools:

Guide Dogs

medical-dogs-guideA guide dog is one of the most common type of service dog. They are generally trained to assist visually impaired or blind people. They serve as their owner’s eyes, helping them through traffic, assisting in navigating stairs and sidewalks, and ensuring that their owner avoids any obstacle that may cause injury or harm. They will alert their owner to an intersection during a walk, making sure that they do not walk out into traffic. Guide dogs are a vital part of a visually impaired person’s ability to move around, not only in the home, but outside on sidewalks and in stores or other buildings. They are dedicated to their owner, and give them a quality of life that they may otherwise not experience.

Hearing Dogs

Also known as “signal” dogs, a hearing dog is trained to assist deaf and hearing impaired people. Normally, a hearing dog is trained to alert to sounds by approaching their owner, and then they will go back to the source of the sound. The amazing thing about hearing dogs is that they can be trained to signal a wide variety of sounds, such as smoke alarms, crying babies, doorbells, phones and even tea kettles. Because they are recognized in the same way as guide dogs, they receive the same privileges, and are permitted in all private and public facilities.

Seizure Alert/Response Dog

These dogs are trained in a very specialized manner. The purpose of a seizure alert/response dog is to respond to a person’s seizures. They can be trained to either go and get help, or to stay with their handler through the seizure to ensure their safety. They have also been trained, at times, to remove dangerous objects from around their partner, revive their partner should they lose consciousness, and even sense an oncoming seizure before it even happens. Through modern technological advancements, some of these dogs are even trained to press a button on a console that will automatically dial 911. As soon as the dog hears the 911 operator’s voice over the speaker, it will start barking. These systems are pre-arranged so that all involved know that it is dog activated.

Mobility Assist Dogmedical-dogs-brandy

A mobility assist dog, like other service animals, acquires specialized training to assist those that are weak in the area of mobility. They are trained to pull a person’s wheelchair, and can carry a person’s personal items in a backpack. They can be trained to open and close doors, and can pick up things that their owner drops. They can even be trained to help their handler get dressed or undressed.

Ssig Dog

An Ssig Dog is trained to assist a person with autism. In a patient with autism, it is common for there to be different distracting and repetitive movements. An Ssig dog will alert its partner to those movements, allowing the person to stop. Hand flapping is one such movement an Ssig dog helps to stop. Autistic people also may have issues with sensory input, and therefore may need the same type of support that a blind or deaf person may need, such as alerting them to traffic in a roadway, or that the ringing sound they hear is the doorbell or telephone.

Psychiatric Service Dog

This type of service dog is becoming more mainstream as soldiers are returning home from war. These dogs are trained to assist a person with a mental disability, and while originally they were taught to help those with the inability to leave home because they are agoraphobic, they are now being used to assist those with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). These dogs are trained to soothe their partners nerves and keep them focused. They are trained to NEVER leave their partner’s side.

medical-dogs-atmOther Ways Dogs Have Made Medical Contributions

A dog can be trained to sniff out subtle changes in a diabetic’s body chemistry; when their blood sugar becomes too high or too low, for example. Both of these conditions can be serious and may cause not only seizures and convulsions, but diabetic coma and even death.

There are instances where service dogs were trained to recognize when their partner’s blood pressure changed and to respond when their partner suffered a heart attack.

One final note worth mentioning is the old adage that “laughter is the best medicine”. Anyone who has ever witnessed a dog’s silly antics and funny facial expressions knows that to consistently be around a dog leads to a good amount of laughter. High spirits lead to a bigger feeling of well-being. Studies have shown that dog owners have a tendency to be healthier and live longer than those people who don’t have a pet.

  2 comments for “Dogs Can Detect Disease

  1. SkiForever
    August 1, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    On arctic ski trips our guide always took a polar bear dog. The dog would detect a close polar bear long before we could. The task did not require the dog to fight the bear; most commonly the dog would jump into the tent! What a great early warning system!

    • August 5, 2015 at 11:13 am

      Almost like ‘the canary in the coal mine.’ Great story! Dr. Mike

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