Growing up with an affectionate animal is one of the sweeter memories of childhood. Now I am told by scientists, what I knew all along – that children who grow up with animal companions are smarter, more compassionate, loving and disciplined than those that never came into any contact with them. Dogs work in myriad ways to protect you - guard homes, smell out bombs and drugs, guide the blind -- now scientists say that a dog can avert or help you through illness, both physical and psychological.
Scientists from the University of Maine are conducting research for detecting ovarian cancer using dogs. In 2006, the medical journal ‘Integrative Cancer Therapies’ reported how ordinary dogs could identify breast and lung cancer patients by smelling their breath. Other forms of cancer that have been successfully smelt out by dogs using urine samples include prostrate and bladder cancer. Results showed that dogs had a 95 percent accuracy – more than biopsy confirmed diagnosis.
In one case, a dog detected cancer that had been missed by a doctor. According to Dr. Donald Broom of Cambridge University Veterinary School,, one of the three breast cancers, which they had picked up by dogs, turned out to be a very, very small focus of malignancy, undetectable unless screened. When this was removed from a lady, the dog immediately lost interest, but three months later, it began sniffing, snuffling and becoming agitated again when sitting on her lap. This aroused her curiosity and she went to the hospital, the doctors found, they had missed a tiny bit of cancer! A British journal reported that in their study in Britain, where the dog in one case, indicated a positive response to one sample, from a supposed non-cancer patient. The researcher in the case was surprised that the dog identified a non-cancerous sample. That subject was tested again, and medical results came back that the person had kidney and bladder cancer. The odd thing was that even if a cancer is in stage 1, their accuracy was the same as if it was at stage 4 cancer.
Much of the research in this area is based on the theory that disease causes subtle chemical changes and a different smell is released and as a dog's nose is 2,000 times more sensitive than a human's , they are able to smell out the changes in our body composition .
Dogs also seem to have an innate ability to detect impending seizures. In a report in a journal titled ‘Seizure’ by researchers from the University of Florida, Andrew Edney, a British veterinarian, studied 37 pet dogs that reacted to their owners' impending fits. Some became anxious or restless; others nuzzled their owners, stood guard over them or ran to fetch people. There is at least one instance of a dog bringing his owner pillows, and another where a dog would grab his owner’s pants and pull him to lay on the ground.
Scientific research that dogs can reliably detect dangerous blood sugar level drops in diabetics is being conducted at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The reports suggest that dogs can detect the early warning signs of low blood sugar by using their sense of smell to ’sniff out’ whether or not their owner’s glucose levels are dropping. According to Prof. Larry Myer of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine who has tested the olfactory capabilities of more than 4,000 dogs, part of what makes a dog's sense of smell so sophisticated is its ability to smell multiple layers of chemicals .
How are they able to detect diseases. Dogs can detect odors 44-times better than humans. They pick up scents through folded membranes right behind their noses -- right in front of their brains. Humans' membranes are the size of a postage stamp, but dogs' are 50-times bigger. However they’re doing it, these sensitive dogs have been found to predict seizures with 90% accuracy and reliability, regardless of their owner's gender, age, race, or type of seizure.
Dogs don’t just warn of impending diseases but also help heal them. I am not talking about your own ability to feel better if you are greeted joyously by your animals or your blood pressure coming down because you patted a dog. Animals are stress busters and certainly important tools of anxiety management. I refer to actual healing powers .
An organization called X-CPR promotes the closeness of small, hairless Mexican dogs as “living ovens” to relieve the pain of arthritis and fibromyalgia . This breed of dogs is known as Xoloitzcuinti, derived from the Aztec Indian god, Xolotl, and itzcuintli, the Aztec word for dog, which combined means the dog has spiritual, god-like powers. Although they have the temperature of a normal dog, they are literally HOT DOGS! In fact, throughout their history, it is well documented that they were relied upon as bed warmers and pain relievers for people with "arthritis" and Fibromyalgia , a painful condition that affects the muscles and joints. Stroke victims benefit from petting a dog as a form of physical therapy as the long strokes are more fun than pushing beads on a wire, and the warmth of the animal helps sooth joints.
Big dogs have a high-activity alpha rhythm, so patients with cardiac insufficiency can hold their hands for at least half an hour a day close to a dog’s heart to feel better. German sheep dog and Central Asian sheep dog help rehabilitate coordination of movements after traumas. These dogs teach patients with locomotion problems to walk. For people with disabilities, animals can be life-altering! Epidemiologist Maryellen Elcock of the Delta Society cites as an example the work of a therapy dog named Zorro who is helping a 5-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. Zorro has helped improve the boy's ability to move around, and the stimulation created by Zorro's licking his face and hands has helped improve the child's ability to eat. Another dog helped his owner recover from Sudek’s Atrophy by licking his leg for long periods.
People have known for many years now that dogs always lick their wounds when they get injured. Now researchers show that dogs' licking is good for humans as well. The science magazine Alaska Science Forum has published an article entitled “Dog Saliva: the Next Wonder Drug?” which brought to light an experiment conducted by research students in California discovering that the saliva of a dog is potent enough to kill bacteria like E. coli and streptococcus.. The saliva of a dog contains lycozyme, an anti-infective agent that helps wounds heal within a very short period of time.
According to a study conducted by researchers at University of Manitoba and McGill University in Montreal and published in "CHEST," the journal of the American College of Chest Physicians , researchers found that the presence of a dog in the house during the first year of life led to a reduced risk of contracting asthma as the infant's immune system becomes much stronger.
Want your own personal doctor ? get a dog.
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