Formally established as a charity in 2008, Medical Detection Dogs (UK), based in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, UK, has trained dogs to use their powerful sense of smell to sniff out 28 different types of disease/disorder or a change in a disease/disorder status that could lead to a health emergency.
As of February 2022, these include: Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency), anaphylaxis, asthma, blood glucose (e.g., diabetes), congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS), complicated migraines, cortisol, drop attacks, epilepsy, heart conditions, hemiplaegic migraines, idiopathic pancreatitis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), narcolepsy, non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD), nut allergy, postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS), syncopy, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, colo-rectal cancer, breast cancer, malaria, Parkinson’s, COVID-19, Pseudomonas bacteria, E. coli bacteria and canine cancer.
As we’ve previously posted, many animals have super-powered detecting skills. Dogs are particularly good at this because of their incredible olfactory senses and regular proximity to humans.
The ability for dogs to detect certain diseases or conditions using their incredible sense of smell – between 10,000 and 100,000 times more acute than a human’s – that might otherwise go unnoticed has been gaining traction for around the last 30 years. Dogs have around 300 million olfactory receptors vs about 6 million in humans.
This skill comes in handy for those dealing with medical issues at work or at home.
Medical detection dogs are able to perform two critical roles in this field. In a controlled bio-detection setting, they can be used to indicate the presence of a disease in samples such as urine, sweat or breath. While in a home setting, medical alert assistance dogs can let their owners know of an impending episode or change in condition by noticing fluctuations in their body’s particular “smell print”, enabling the owner to act (e.g., take medication or seek assistance) before it develops into an emergency.