The Dog’s Nose
Using The Dog’s Nose
The dog’s sense of smell is vital and an important part of its world. A dog will interpret a lot about its world by scent. A large area of the dog’s brain is dedicated to analysing scent. Dogs have been used by humans to hunt, find truffles, search for missing people, or people lost after disasters, to detect money, drugs, or certain illegal items, with police, customs and the military. The dogs amazing sense of smell can assist with medical conditions too.
The dog’s enhanced sense of smell can help them detect a medical condition. ‘Alert dogs’ support people with life threatening medical conditions. The dogs can detect biochemical odour changes that may indicate a present or imminent change in their owners medical status. For example detecting a seizure before an epileptic person does, so the person can take action to stay safe, or control their condition. Hypoglycemia or diabetes are other examples of medical conditions an alert dog will help assist with.
Medical Detection Dogs can detect medical conditions from bio samples too. These dogs work for just a few hours at the centre. Dogs can be trained to detect conditions such diabetes, Addison’s disease or malaria. When the odour that the dog is trained to detect is found the dog will sniff twice as long and more deeply. The disease may cause tiny odour changes of perhaps 1 part per trillion, that a dog can detect in a sample of blood, breath or urine. Medical detection dogs are being been trained to sniff out cancers such as breast and urological cancer.
At present in the detection of prostate cancer a PSA test (prostate specific antigen) test, looks at the amount of PSA protein in urine. PSA in urine increases with age, but increased PSA present may be influenced by a tumour. There is believed to be room for improvement, a reliable alternative to PSA would be desirable. Dr Guest of the Medical Detection Dogs is presently involved in a trial to detect prostate cancer. Dogs can detect a change in the biochemistry of the urine. Results so far indicate that dogs have proved 93% accurate in trials. . Loughlin (2009), medical detection dogs, TCBTS.
The dog’s sense of smell is a fascinating subject that has been studied and utilised in many ways. Scent work can also be employed if appropriate for that individual dog, as part of behaviour modification work too.
Ref medical detection dogs.org.uk TCBTS.co.uk, Kevin R. Loughlin (2009) http://www.harvardprostateknowledge.org/is-psa-reliable