The dogs are taught to identify the odour changes that are associated with life threatening medical events. Training dogs to help people with life threatening health conditions gives greater independence and above all saves lives on a daily basis.
Here are four key areas where medical detection dogs can help save lives:
The avoidance of dangerously low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) is an acute daily problem for people with diabetes. When accompanied by loss of warnings it has a dramatic effect on the lives of both the person with diabetes and their families.
Low blood sugar levels are very dangerous if left untreated. symptoms vary from confusion to seizures to comas and become life threatening.
Causes of hypo unawareness can include:
• brittle diabetes – unpredictable, rapidly fluctuating blood sugar levels
An inability to detect a hypo is common in young children and adolescents as a result of their stage of growth and development. Recurring hypos can contribute to memory and concentration problems.
For some people with diabetes deliberately raising their blood sugar levels was the only way to prevent severe hypos. We know that high blood sugars over a period of time are likely to cause disasterous consequences ncluding; amputations, sight loss, heart disease, strokes and renal failure.
With their amazing sense of smell Medical Detection Dogs are trained to detect sensitive changes in blood sugar levels. When these levels fall or rise outside the normal range they will warn their owner, get help and fetch any vital medical supplies.
The charity provides alert dogs for those with other very dangerous health conditions including addisonian crisis which causes severe pain, convulsions and unconsciousness; pain seizures which lead to collapse and hospitalisation; severe allergic responses and narcolepsy a malfunction of the sleep/wake regulating system which causes sleep attacks and paralysis.
We continue to investigate other debilitating and potentially fatal conditions which our dogs may have the ability to help.
The video below - shot for the 2011 Crufts Friends for Life - shows Medical Detection dog Shirley, the Labrador which detects low blood sugar levels in seven-year old Rebecca from Northampton, who has aggressive type 1 diabetes. She is the first Blood Sugar Detection Dog in the UK to be allowed into a main stream primary school and performs the potentially life saving task of detecting a possible hypoglycaemic attack which could leave Rebecca in a coma. Now, school is much less of a worry and Rebecca's mother, Claire has had the fear taken out of night-times, as Shirley keeps a bedside vigil.
Our first study in 2004 showed that dogs can be trained to detect bladder cancer volatiles in urine.
We are now carrying out a studies into whether dogs can detect aggressive prostate cancer from both urine and breath samples.
Our work will assist in the development of a cost effective, non-invasive and early cancer detection screening system, which GPs will be able to use quickly and easily in their surgeries.
This video tells the story of Casper the Spaniel, in training to become a Cancer Detection Dog.
The existing test for prostate cancer is very poor and we all know the earlier the detection of cancer the greater the chance of survival.
If dogs can sniff prostate cancer from a urine or breath sample the chances are high that from the results of the dogs’ sniffing research, a test can be developed that is far superior to the Psa test. The results would indicate the existence of a potential odour signature of prostate cancer.
We are convinced that this research would be of huge value and has the potential to answer questions that could lead to a significant improvement in the screening and early diagnosis of prostate cancer.
There is also a growing evidence that dogs may be able to detect early stage breast cancer from a breath sample. a number of preliminary studies have shown positive results. We intend to further investigate this in the future using our cancer detection dogs once we have raised sufficient funds. The findings could revolutionise breast screening in the future.
The cost of a research project is £50,000 and funding support is badly needed.
Everything you could want to know about the charity and its work is on the excellent website at medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk; apart from being highly informative, we'll bet it will bring a tear to your eye if you're a dog lover, and probably even if you aren't...
May 4, 2012