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Dogs As a Diagnostic Tool for Ill Health in Humans

Dogs As a Diagnostic Tool for Ill Health in Humans

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Researchers have long reported that dogs and cats improve the physical and psychological health of their human caregivers, and while it is still inconclusive, a substantial amount of research now lends support for the commonly held view that “pets are good for us.” Recently, studies have directed attention toward exploring the use of animals, most notably dogs, in the detection of disease and other types of health problems in people. This article reviews the evidence for dogs’ ability to detect ill health in humans, focusing specifically on the detection of cancer, epileptic seizures, and hypoglycemia. The author describes the research carried out in this area and evaluates it in an effort to determine whether dogs have a role to play in modern health care as an “alert” tool or screening system for ill health. Where necessary, the author has highlighted weaknesses in the work and proposed directions for future studies. (Altern Ther Health Med. 2012;18(2):12-17)
Researchers have long reported that dogs and cats improve the physical and psychological health of their human caregivers, and while it is still inconclusive, a substantial amount of research now lends support for the commonly held view that “pets are good for us.” Recently, studies have directed attention toward exploring the use of animals, most notably dogs, in the detection of disease and other types of health problems in people. This article reviews the evidence for dogs’ ability to detect ill health in humans, focusing specifically on the detection of cancer, epileptic seizures, and hypoglycemia. The author describes the research carried out in this area and evaluates it in an effort to determine whether dogs have a role to play in modern health care as an “alert” tool or screening system for ill health. Where necessary, the author has highlighted weaknesses in the work and proposed directions for future studies. (Altern Ther Health Med. 2012;18(2):12-17)

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Dogs As a Diagnostic Tool for Ill Health in Humans
Deborah L. Wells, PhD ABSTRACT Researchers have long reported that dogs and cats improve the physical and psychological health of their human caregivers, and while it is still inconclusive, a substantial amount of research now lends support for the commonly held view that “pets are good for us.” Recently, studies have directed attention toward exploring the use of animals, most notably dogs, in the detection of disease and other types of health problems in people. This article reviews the evidence for dogs’ ability to detect ill health in humans, focusing specifically on the detection of cancer, epileptic seizures, and hypoglycemia. The author describes the research carried out in this area and evaluates it in an effort to determine whether dogs have a role to play in modern health care as an “alert” tool or screening system for ill health. Where necessary, the author has highlighted weaknesses in the work and proposed directions for future studies. (Altern Ther Health Med. 2012;18(2):12-17)

Deborah L. Wells, PhD, is a senior lecturer at the Animal Behaviour Centre, School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. Corresponding Author E-mail: d.wells@qub.ac.uk


ompanies invest enormous sums of money every year in both preventive medicine and therapeutic treatment for people with a wide range of physical and mental health problems, sometimes to no avail. Although not without its methodological weaknesses and criticisms, mounting evidence now suggests that companion animals, such as dogs and cats, may be able to enhance the health of their human owners. Over the years, research has explored the value of animals for both our physical and psychological well-being and the ability of dogs and cats to aid the disabled and serve as “therapists” who assist humans in institutional settings.1 More recently, researchers have directed their attention toward evaluating the potential value of companion animals, especially dogs, in detecting certain types of underlying disease. This article reviews the evidence for dogs’ ability to detect ill health in people and examines whether or not dogs have a role to play in modern health care as an integrated form of therapy. The author highlights limitations of the studies in general terms throughout the article, and the table summarizes the weaknesses specific to each of the investigations. CANCER DETECTION Millions of people die from cancer every year, often because they notice symptoms of the disease too late for effective intervention. Traditional methods of cancer detection can be complicated, invasive, and in some cases, painful for the patient. Modern technologies designed to screen for cancerous tumors (eg, CT, PET, or MRI) also can be hugely expensive. Finding a reliable, inexpensive,

and noninvasive alert system for detecting cancer in its early stages is thus of utmost importance. Recently, researchers have suggested that the domestic dog may serve as a useful early warning or screening system for people with cancer. Interest in this area started just over 20 years ago, when Williams and Pembroke2 reported the case of a mongrel that persistently sniffed at a mole on its owner’s leg; the lesion later turned out to be malignant. Researchers have since published several similar case reports.3-5 While some dogs may have an innate ability to detect cancer, recent attention has shifted toward assessing whether or not people can train such animals to “sniff out” cancer. The domestic dog is well renowned for its olfactory acuity. For instance, the dog can use its sense of smell to discriminate between the odors of its own species6 and those of other species (eg, humans7-11) and can successfully match odors to samples.12 The dog’s remarkable sense of smell and ability to be trained easily have resulted in this species becoming widely employed by organizations around the world for purposes beneficial to humans that include tracking; search and rescue; cadaver recovery; and explosive, narcotic, mold, and gas detection. Tumors typically produce volatile compounds (eg, alkanes and benzene derivatives) that they release into the atmosphere through routes that include humans’ breath, sweat, and urine.13,14 With this fact in mind, researchers have started to explore whether they can train dogs to detect cancer in much the same way as they detect other odors using their sense of smell. The earliest work in this area produced promising, if somewhat modest, results. In the first published study of this kind, Willis and colleagues15 successfully clickertrained16 six mixed-breed dogs to identify bladder cancer samples in a seven-choice discrimination task. The dogs identified the correct urine samples on 22 out of 54 occasions, a mean success rate of 41%. Around the same time, Pickel and colleagues17 trained a male schnauzer and female Golden Retriever to detect reliably an
Dogs and Human Health

ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES, mar/apr 2012, VOL. 18, NO. 2

To share or copy this article. VOL. the authors demonstrated that the odor of ovarian cancers seems different from that of other gynecological malignancies. It is unclear. Analysts also have criticized some studies15 for the poor quality of their statistical analyses and conclusions drawn from the data. and delivery. Having to wear intracranial sensors designed to monitor brainwave activity is also unattractive to many sufferers of epilepsy. More recently. Most important. The families also reported that 9 dogs exhibited anticipatory behavior with a median sensitivity estimate of 80%.24 Despite the progress in this field. Dogs and Human Health SEIZURE DETECTION Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that affects roughly 50 million people around the world. and failure to use appropriately matched control samples. repeatable. showing 100% sensitivity and 97. differences in both the nature (eg. lip-smacking. please visit copyright. a study by Horvath et al19 highlighted the importance of odor specificity in the detection process. most likely using odor cues. To subscribe. using exhaled breath samples from patients with these diseases. Moser and McCulloch21 have argued that these poor results may be due to differences in the aggressiveness of the prostate cancer samples. The results were extremely impressive.com. the unpredictable onset of seizures is a greater problem than the seizures themselves. This situation can lead to perceptions of loss of control. barking and not allowing anyone to touch the woman). ultimately with the view of giving patients time to get themselves into a safe environment during a seizure and encourage a more independent lifestyle in general. The above studies hint at dogs being able to detect human cancer with appropriate training. The prospect of having a seizure when alone or asleep also can induce fear and extreme dependency on family and friends in some patients. Others have reported similar results. Kirton et al26 found that 42% of 48 dog-owning families reported that their dogs displayed specific behaviors in response to their children’s epileptic seizures. McCulloch and associates18 clicker-trained 3 Labrador Retrievers and 2 Portuguese Water Dogs to identify the odors of lung and breast cancers correctly and reliably. Di Vito et al27 described the case of a 10-year-old Yorkshire Terrier who displayed complex seizure-response behavior toward his 47-yearold female caregiver with epilepsy in the complete absence of any training. Researchers must note that most of the studies carried out to date are tinged with problems. They trained a female Riesenschnauzer to distinguish histopathological types and grades of ovarian cancers.7%.5% specificity for odor detection. calmed down and fell asleep. or generic enough to be used in real-life settings by different users. NO. indicating that specific cancers. and after the event. and others can perform the feat with relatively good success following intensive training. A dramatically less invasive system for detecting impending epileptic seizures might be the domestic dog. Dalziel and associates25 found that 9 out of 29 dog-owning patients with epilepsy reported that their pets responded to their seizures. This specificity has obvious implications for the training of dogs for cancer detection and needs further investigation. and different types of tumors—before researchers can draw firm conclusions on the utility of dogs as a diagnostic tool for cancer in humans. however. As in the case of cancer detection. breath vs skin vs urine) and mode of odor collection. 2 . whether dogs really can detect the smell of cancer per se or rather pick up on the scent of general ill health and malaise—eg. Researchers have made attempts over the years to develop alarm systems that can warn epilepsy sufferers of impending seizures.23 The most obvious symptom of the condition is the seizure. Use ISSN#10786791. Analysis revealed nonsignificant results with success rates of only 22% for the detection of breast cancer and 18% for prostate cancer. and changes in breathing. More recently. dizziness. Meanwhile.21 including low sample sizes (eg. a suggestion that again highlights the potential importance of odor specificity in relation to cancer detection. For example. The dog always remained close to its owner. the dogs correctly identified breast cancer samples with a specificity of 98% and a sensitivity of 88%. not all of the investigations have yielded positive results. to rely solely on this evidence as an argument for using dogs as a diagnostic tool for cancer detection. Gordon and associates20 recently clicker-trained 10 dogs of mixed breed to detect breast (n = 6 animals) and prostate (n = 4 animals) cancer from urine samples.com. Indeed. the range of signal-interpretation techniques proposed to date appears far from robust. leading to unconsciousness and injury in some cases. mar/apr 2012. The researchers reported that the dogs correctly identified the breath odors from the lung cancer patients with both a specificity and a sensitivity of 99%. strange feelings in the head. with 3 dogs apparently alerting to seizure onset. The researchers reported a combined success rate between 75% and 85. nausea.This article is protected by copyright. frustration. an ability that appears to develop over time in some animals living with both children and adults with the condition. For many patients. Most of the work in this area has concentrated on the off-line analysis of EEG signals. displays of protective behavior (ie. have their own individual scents. 18. odors arising from inflammation or metabolic products. and anxiety not only in patients with epilepsy but also in those around them. Taken together. n = 1 animal). It would be unwise at this stage. clicker training). the above studies suggest that some dogs may have an inherent ability to detect human cancer. trainers typically teach dogs to monitor their owners for outward signs of an 13 ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES. higher numbers of participants. Using a variety of methods (eg. visit alternative-therapies.22 The field needs considerably more work in this area—ideally using standardized methodologies. Many sufferers of the condition are unaware that they are about to have a seizure and may show no obvious symptoms that others can detect. differences in dog-training techniques. Reports of dogs being able to detect oncoming epileptic seizures spontaneously have led to the training of animals for the same purpose. Response behaviors included attempting to alert others by running toward them barking. researchers have reported that some dogs respond to their owners’ epileptic seizures without any formal assistance training. storage. unknown set of chemicals released by tissue samples from patients with malignant melanoma. for example. or at least subcutaneous ones. and attempts to stimulate the patient via gentle bites or licks. which can be relatively mild (perhaps resulting in lapses of attention or knee jerks) or more severe. although the work carried out thus far certainly provides a promising basis from which to start. The patients reported that the animals were more likely to exhibit alert behaviors if the patients suffered from complex partial seizures or migraines and experienced auras. While most studies in this area have been promising in their conclusions.

imminent seizure and to exhibit specific behaviors (eg. The rigorous. sat up. seizures. given the dog’s acute sense of smell (see previous section on cancer detection).com. barking. mar/apr 2012. As the body attempts to restore its glucose levels. and acting strangely) in response to a hypoglycemic episode in a 72-year-old nondiabetic man. with the animals displaying behaviors (eg. and presumably. licking.28 A recent survey of owners of untrained seizure-alert dogs in Canada pointed to beliefs that dogs use a unique extrasensory ability to detect seizures. postures. Strong et al31 reported successfully training 6 seizure-alert dogs. however. 14 ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES. or coma. Lim and colleagues41 discovered that 38% of 37 dog-owning diabetics reported behavioral changes in a pet during their hypoglycemic episodes. barking. More recently.38. Around the same time. Kirton et al32 more recently reported reliable seizureresponse dog behaviors (including activation of an emergencyresponse system in 27% of the cases) for 22 patients with epilepsy. Ortiz and Liporace34 evaluated the detection abilities of two trained seizure-alert dogs in an inpatient care unit while their owners were undergoing continuous EEG recordings. Interestingly. running in and out of the bedroom. Finding out exactly which cues dogs detect naturally may be a vital stepping stone in training dogs more successfully to perform the same feat. a variety of physiological and neurological effects (ie. please visit copyright. In concordance with Strong et al’s earlier work. Use ISSN#10786791. is still sorely lacking. The researchers reported that the animal. Most of the work in this area reports upon brief case studies. Perhaps the most obvious explanation. 26 Researchers must remember. Wells and others43 similarly found that almost two-thirds (65. tremor. Choi. symptoms) occur. How dogs anticipate seizures in people is still unclear. Stocks42 discovered that 72 out of 106 (67. The researchers considered the dogs’ ability to alert before a seizure to be “poor” for one of the patients and “misleading” for the other. sweating. with the animals providing overt warning signals to their owners with epilepsy anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes prior to the seizure’s onset. and in a smaller number of cases. VOL.43 The studies by Chen et al38 and Wells and associates43 reported that some dogs exhibited alert-response behavior when their owners became hypoglycemic while asleep. cannot be overlooked. possi- bly via reinforcement effects from licking its owner’s face. For example. or pawing). with relatively few owners (2 out of 9 families) believing that olfaction is important. NO.9%) dog-owning diabetics whose animals had witnessed a hypoglycemic event believed that their animals showed altered behavior in response to the episode. pawing) if the dogs predict a seizure. To share or copy this article. stared at his owner. Together. The researchers hypothesized that this reduction may be due to changes in the owners’ perceptions of self-control and self-efficacy. While it is unknown exactly how dogs detect hypoglycemia.28-31 A small number of studies have attempted to evaluate the efficacy of trained dogs to detect oncoming seizures. 18. facial expressions. Krauss. To subscribe.31 these researchers also reported decreases in the frequency of patients’ epileptic seizures. putting them at considerable risk of morbidity. is the detection of specific odor cues. visit alternative-therapies.1%) of people (n = 212) with type 1 diabetes reported that their dogs had on at least one occasion shown behavioral responses to their hypoglycemic episodes. without formal training) may be completely different from what trained animals detect. and a critical shortage of glucose in nervous tissue (neuroglycopenia) leading to behavioral changes. although individuals not actually involved in the dog-training process have conducted very few of these studies. Doherty and Haltiner35 found that one seizure-alert dog was more likely to respond to nonepileptic psychogenic seizures (PNES) than true epileptic episodes.com. many people with insulin-treated diabetes lose their ability to detect the early warning signs of hypoglycemia. Using a retrospectively applied questionnaire. More recently. Some dog trainers believe that seizure alerting is primarily based on visual signals—eg. recent reports suggest that researchers must take a cautious approach. O’Connor and colleagues40 reported the case of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel exhibiting attention-seeking. however. and Lesser36 reported the case of a dog inducing PNES.37 With advancing age. 2 Dogs and Human Health . although the authors pointed out the potential limitations in studying dogs in such a stimulating environment. which usually lay on the passenger’s seat. such as attracting the attention of others (“seizure-response dogs”). alert-type behavior (barking. and indeed. This point is important. This area clearly needs more controlled work before researchers can draw firm conclusions on the use of dogs as a reliable seizure-alert tool. barking) that attracted their caregivers’ attention and prompted them to take appropriate action. these studies raise questions over the neurological benefits of owning a seizure-alert dog.25 Other cues. These symptoms include fear. The other studies in this area have involved surveying larger numbers of dog-owning diabetics via questionnaire in a bid to establish what proportion of animals display hypoglycemia-alert behavior. Some owners have reported that their dogs have exhibited alert behavior when they are in separate rooms and thus when the owners presumably are incapable of emitting anything perceptible to the animals other than olfactory information. In all of these studies. the dogs behaved in a fashion interpreted by their owners as trying to attract attention (eg. all of the patients in both this and a subsequent investigation30 reported a decrease in the frequency of their seizures that they attributed to their dogs. nuzzling. HYPOGLYCEMIA DETECTION Hypoglycemia is a common and potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes. that what dogs detect spontaneously (ie. People now are training numerous dogs around the world33 at enormous cost to predict either seizure onset (“seizure-alert dogs”) or to provide assistance to people following seizures. independent study of the success of training dogs for these purposes. tachycardia. reductions in seizure intensity (n = 5) and duration (n = 3). More worryingly. Evidence now exists to suggest that dogs may be able to detect hypoglycemia in their human caregivers and as such might serve as a useful early warning system for those with an impaired ability to detect the symptomology of their conditions. Tauveron et al39 reported the case of a type 1 diabetic farmer whose dog repeatedly detected drops in his owner’s blood sugar levels while the owner was driving. researchers have proposed odor cues as the most plausible explanation. and general behavior. however. and barked continually until the man stopped the car and checked his glucose levels.This article is protected by copyright.30. Chen and others38 reported the case of 2 patients with type 2 diabetes and 1 individual with type 1 diabetes in possession of dogs that accurately sensed their owners’ hypoglycemic episodes. More recently.

To share or copy this article. 2 15 . Table 1. 18.Reports on only one training program Kirton et al (2004)26 Epileptic seizures 48 dog-owning families of children with epilepsy Di Vito et al (2010)27 Epileptic seizures 1 untrained pet dog and female epileptic owner Strong et al (2002)30 Epileptic seizures 10 adults suffering from tonic-clonic seizures Patients enrolled in 12-week training period with prospective seizure alert dog.Single-blinded study .Reliance on owners’ retrospective reports of dog behavior .Queries over statistics Pickel et al (2004)17 Skin cancer 2 highly trained Kennel Club dogs .Small sample . families reporting canine seizure anticipation completed phone interview Seizure response behavior in the dog recorded on video in owner’s home Dalziel et al (2003)25 Epileptic seizures 29 dog-owning adults with epilepsy . Use ISSN#10786791.Small sample .Control samples not matched for symptomology or other confounding factors .Control samples not matched for symptomology or other confounding factors .Blinding not introduced at the start of training Horvath et al (2008)19 Ovarian cancers 1 dog Gordon et al (2008)20 Breast cancer Prostate cancer 10 pet dogs of mixed breed Dogs clicker-trained to distinguish correct urinary sample from controls Participants completed qualitative survey designed to collect information on dogs’ reactions to oncoming seizures Participants completed screening survey.Reliance on owners’ retrospective reports of dog behavior . mar/apr 2012.Self-selected sample .Reliance on patients’ retrospective reports of seizure frequency .Small sample .Limited number of video sequences . Studies Designed to Explore Dogs’ Ability to Detect Underlying Disease and Ill Health in Humans Authors Willis et al (2004)15 Pathology Bladder cancer Participants 6 pet dogs of mixed breed Purpose of Study Dogs clicker-trained to distinguish correct urine sample from controls Dogs trained to distinguish correct tissue sample from “distractor” stimuli both in a box and on healthy people Dogs clicker-trained to discriminate correct breath/tissue samples from controls Dog trained to distinguish correct tumor sample from controls Limitations .Videos recorded by patient .Reports only 1 training regime Kirton et al (2008)32 Epileptic seizures 22 epileptic patients (18 adults) Dogs and Human Health ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES.This article is protected by copyright.Highly trained dogs McCulloch et al (2005)18 Lung cancer Breast cancer 5 pet dogs . visit alternative-therapies.Self-selected sample . patients recorded seizure frequency data in diaries Patients provided with trained seizure-response dogs Strong et al (1999)31 Epileptic seizures 6 epileptic patients (4 adults) . To subscribe.Single-blinded study .Reports on only one training program .com.com.Reliance on patients’ retrospective reports of dog efficacy .Reliance on patients’ retrospective reports of seizure frequency . seizure frequency data recorded each month of training and 24 weeks posttraining Patients enrolled in training program with prospective seizure-alert dog. VOL. please visit copyright.Wide range of disease severity and symptomology . NO.

Reliance on self-reported retrospective information . or having seizures).com. Researchers have noted increases in sweating in hypoglycemic individuals37. The field still requires research to explore the efficacy of these training programs and the impact of such animals on the lives of people suffering from diabetes. 1 untrained) 3 diabetic patients and their untrained pet dogs Case study reported Krauss et al (2007)36 Nonepileptic seizures Dogs’ behavior recorded during 3 of the patients’ visits to medical center Case studies reported . As in cancer detection.No empirical data collected Doherty and Haltiner (2007)35 Nonepileptic seizures 1 adult couple (both suffering seizures) and their untrained pet dog 4 patients and their dogs (3 trained.Small sample .Small sample .Reliance on self-reported retrospective information . NO. Table. Organizations are now successfully training dogs to alert their owners to the onset of hypoglycemia. many of the dogs slept in another room of the house. including subtle changes in their owners’ moods (with people often becoming 16 more irritable as their sugar levels drop) or visual signals related to the owners’ behavior (with some people trembling.Potentially stressful environment for dogs .Reliance on self-reported retrospective information .No empirical data collected .Self-selected sample . Dogs and Human Health ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES. losing consciousness. VOL. Use ISSN#10786791.Small sample .Small sample .Reliance on self-reported retrospective data were emitting no cues other than olfactory ones. the door of the owner’s bedroom was closed.Dogs’ behavior recorded only once . please visit copyright.This article is protected by copyright. 18. forcing the animal to scratch or paw at the obstacle.No empirical data collected . To subscribe. To share or copy this article.Small sample .Reliance on self-reported retrospective data Tauveron et al (2006)39 Hypoglycemia 1 diabetic man and his untrained pet dog Case study reported O’Connor et al (2008)40 Hypoglycemia 1 nondiabetic man and his untrained pet dog Case study reported Lim et al (1992)41 Hypoglycemia 50 pet-owning diabetics (37 dog owners) Participants interviewed to determine if their untrained pets reacted to their hypoglycemic episodes Participants surveyed to determine if their untrained pet dogs reacted to their hypoglycemic episodes Participants completed survey to provide information on their dogs’ reactions to their hypoglycemic episodes Stocks (2002)42 Hypoglycemia 462 adult diabetics (304 dog owners) . visit alternative-therapies.No empirical data presented Chen et al (2000)38 Hypoglycemia . and in some situations.Small sample . It is also possible that dogs may respond to other cues besides olfactory ones. 2 . mar/apr 2012. Researchers equally cannot dismiss the possibility that individual animals employ multiple signals or that different dogs use entirely different cues.No empirical data collected . In Wells et al’s study.com.Reliance on self-reported retrospective data Wells et al (2008)43 Hypoglycemia 212 adult diabetics with untrained dogs . becoming disoriented. it is possible that dogs can detect these changes in the chemical composition of their owners’ sweat using their acute sense of smell. Continued Authors Ortiz and Liporace (2005)34 Pathology Nonepileptic seizures Participants 2 adult patients with trained seizure-alert dogs Purpose of Study Dogs’ behavior recorded during hospital visit Limitations .

27(4):23-26. Zhang J. VOL. Schatz CB. Accessed March 3. PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF DOGS AS DETECTORS OF DISEASE Although the ultimate goal of illness-detection dogs is to detect specific physical ailments. 1994. A seizure response dog: video recording of reacting behaviour during repetitive prolonged seizures.14(1):61-67. Seizure-alert dogs—fact or fiction. Settle RH. In one of the few reported studies of this kind. Licchetta L.uk/news/uknews/1396081/Scientists-putsniffer-dogs-on-the-scent-of-men-with-cancer. Church J. 2003. Naldi I. Dalziel DJ. 21. 22. Järverud S. Seizure response dogs: evaluation of a formal training program. Anim Behav. 2001.14(10):1235-1241.33(1-2):3-14. Cataneo RN. The ability of dogs to recognize and cross-match human odours. For example. Dogs can sniff out first signs of men’s cancer. O’Connor MB. please visit copyright. ability to work. Dobson R. 2010.46(1):189-190. Human ovarian carcinomas detected by specific odor. 1989. 5.com.68(4):308-309. Appl Anim Behav Sci. Macagnano A. On the surface. 40. Wirrell E. Janecki T. J Altern Complement Med. Mcgorray SP. 36. 2010.9(6):427-430. Non-invasive detection of hypoglycaemia using a novel. Sunday Telegraph. The use of canines in the detection of human cancers.18(10):12091218. 2006. Deary IJ. feelings of safety/security. Broom DM. Haltiner AM. Di Natale C. 1994. 34. Moser E. Behav Proc. Ir J Med Sci. Fisher M. Brown SW. Should people with epilepsy have untrained dogs as pets? Seizure. Broom DM. Turner K. Frier BM.who. and disabled can bolster the mental well-being of their caregivers. Seizure. To subscribe. Scientists put sniffer dogs on the scent of men with cancer. 29.45:A79. Seizure. 2008. 2 17 . this opens the door to potentially using such animals as a diagnostic tool and integrated form of therapy. Manucy GP. Ditkoff BA. De Bruin JC.48(6):1443-1448. Delcourt I. 2001. Brown SW. Kirton et al 32 found improvements in the quality of life (QOL) scores of 22 patients with neurologist-confirmed epilepsy. Thiéblot P. little in the way of empirical investigation supports this belief. Pryor K. 14.3(1):25-31. Canine scent detection of human cancers: a review of methods and accuracy. and financial expenses. 1955.html. Use ISSN#10786791. particularly those employed to detect others types of ailments besides seizures.7(2):76-80. 23. 12. Williams G. April 27.177(2):155-157. Seizure-alert dogs: a review and preliminary study. Perception. 39. 2007. NY: Bantam Books. helping to reduce loneliness and depression and increase feelings of selfesteem and self-worth44.65(3):523-543. Forensic Sci Int. and greater independence.V. Researchers need to do additional work to explore the psychological merits of owning dogs trained to detect ill health in their human caregivers. 8. 2. 24. Neurology. 13. Seizure-alerting and -response behaviors in dogs living with epileptic children. Kirton A. 4. Gordon RT. Canine responses to hypoglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes. J Soc Issue. inflicting bites. decreased anxiety. Burns-Cox CI. Epilepsy Behav. Tauveron I. Evidence for canine olfactory detection of melanoma. Wilcox A. NO. Neurology.321(7276):1565-1566. The work conducted so far certainly hints that dogs have a potentially valuable role to play in future health care practices. Another sniffer dog for the clinic? Lancet. Epilepsy Behav. costly. 2008. visit alternative-therapies. Choi JS.329(7468):712-716.html. mar/apr 2012. 28. CONCLUSIONS The studies reviewed above provide fairly strong evidence to suggest that some dogs have an innate ability to detect some types of disease or underlying physical ailments in humans.5(3):145-152. decreases in poor mood or depression. Walker JC. Järverud GA. Lancet Neurol. Effect of trained Seizure Alert Dogs on frequency of tonic-clonic seizures.358(9285):930. et al.12(2):115-120. Church SM. Olfactory detection of human bladder cancer by dogs: cause or association? BMJ. 2004. if not identical. Strong V. Kirton A. the medical community most likely would welcome a system that offers an alternative method of diagnosis (or even screening). 1994.1(1):22-30. Williams C. Symptoms of hypoglycaemia in people with diabetes. 27. Dogs and Human Health REFERENCES 1. 2011. Walsh CH. Seizure. 2000. Pseudoseizure dogs.18(9):690-705. prostate cancer) are invasive. Brown S. 2003:5. Leiden. Diabetes Self Manag. but the field requires further work before researchers can establish firm conclusions regarding the utility of dogs as a diagnostic tool for disease in humans. Desbiez F. Sommerville BA. Somda F. Litt B. 15. Leahy M.13(3):499-504. 11. 2008. Winter A.9(Suppl 2):S3-S4. Di Vito L. Wirrell E. 1988. Doherty MJ.com. Epileptic Disord. McAulay V. 2002. Lawson SW. World Health Organization http://www. Coyle H. McCulloch M. No authors listed. Reep RL. 2001. 1992. New York. 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Accessed March 3. Diabet Med. and thus. Lung cancer identification by the analysis of breath by means of an array of non-selective gas sensors. The discrimination by the nose of the dog of individual human odours and in particular the odour of twins. Willis CM. Ortiz R.11(6):402-405.12(2):142-145. Olfactory detection of human bladder by dogs: proof of principle study. June 2. 1993. 1999. Williams S.8(1):62-65. Hall SB. Strong. The subjects also reported some minor negative effects. Many tests for chronic disease (eg.9(3):184-191. A dog’s detection of low blood sugar: a case report. 2008. Stocks AE.10(1):39-41. 2002. deaf. 25. Sniffer dogs in the melanoma clinic? Lancet. researchers must remember that animals have the potential to pose enormous threat to human health by spreading disease. Williams H. Myers LJ. 10. 1999.68(4):309. 6. Kalmus H. Pembroke A. Diabet Med. Echauz J. 2002. The effects of animals on human health and well-being.89(1-2):107-116. Seizure. 35. Hepper PG. O’Connor C.17(4):549-554. Prediction of epileptic seizures. Siriwardena N. 42. 17.62(12):2303-2305.12(Pt 1):145-156. 2011. 38. Martinelli E. 41.329(7477):1286. Walker DB. Wells DL. McCulloch M. The use of seizure-alert dogs. 18. in addition to enhancing QOL. et al. Available at: http://www. Huyton M. 2004. J Vet Behav. “Seizure-alert dogs”: observations from an inpatient video/EEG unit. Liporace J.23(3):335. 2006. Sunday Times. 33. 2007. J Altern Complement Med. fully biocompatible and patient friendly alarm system. 2002.co. 18. Hepper PG. Lim K. Wells DL. Increasing evidence also suggests that trainers can teach many dogs to perform the same type of feat successfully. 16. time considerations with respect to care of the animals. et al. Fraser L. Wells DL. 1997. 20. Br J Health Psychol. To share or copy this article. although unfortunately. Biosens Bioelectron. Tinuper P. Williams N. Mostacci B. research has shown repeatedly that assistance animals trained to aid the blind.1(8640):734. Horvath G. Anim Behav. 2003. BMJ. 2005.and late-stage lung and breast cancers. 2007. Br J Anim Behav. Leiden University. The Performance of Dogs in Identifying Humans by Scent [doctoral thesis]. Daly M. Integr Cancer Ther. Broffman M. animals trained and used for this goal also may offer psychological health benefits to their owners.69(2):111-118. 2004. Strong V. Can dogs help patients with hypoglycaemia? Diabetologia. Walker R. Breast J. Jezierski T. Snead OC. This review has highlighted many of the problems inherent in the studies conducted to date and the surprising paucity of investigations aimed at exploring the efficacy of training animals for the detection of human disease. 3. Domestic dogs and human health: an overview. 30. Lesser RP. Patients reported benefits arising from the ownership of a trained alert dog in areas that included improved interpersonal relationships. The discrimination of human odour by the dog. inducing allergies. and triggering psychological trauma. et al. Bisulli F. Strong V.This article is protected by copyright. BMJ. Diabet Med. It would be unwise at this stage to rely solely on the evidence provided by dogs in the diagnosis of chronic conditions. 2000.int/mediacentre/ factsheets/fs999/en/index. Chen M. Hubbard A. Epilepsy. Guest CM.telegraph.5(1):30-39. Uthman BM. Brown SW. Phillips M. ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES. Settle RH. 37.

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