Dog saves owner by sniffing out her cancer BEFORE she even knew she had it

Image: Dog saves owner by sniffing out her cancer BEFORE she even knew she had it

Dogs have a long history of being man’s best friend. But the story of a Newburyport Police Department officer and her blind dog from Massachusetts, doesn’t merely prove the bond between owner and pet but also proves that dogs are great at detecting illnesses.

Police officer Megan Tierney was reportedly at home with Dude, her blind border collie/Australian shepherd mix, when he started acting a little strange. According to her, she was lying in bed when Dude suddenly became focused on her chest area, placing a paw on her.

Tierney turned her attention on the spot Dude was touching and noticed a tissue swell. But to her surprise, a trip to the doctor confirmed that she has stage two triple negative invasive ductal breast cancer. And although finding out you have cancer is never an easy thing to swallow, the police officer said, “Dude found the lump, and we were never so happy because it just meant that we could get it where it was, rather than not knowing.”

It is known that dogs have a more heightened sense of smell compared to humans. Dude, being a blind dog, has greatly enhanced this particular sense which helped him detect the illness of his owner. Moreover, canines’ olfactory bulbs have 220 million scent receptors; 195 million more than that of humans.

According to dog-cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz from Barnard College, dogs can smell odors in parts per trillion. For example, in a million gallons of water, dogs can detect if a teaspoon sugar was mixed into the water. This means their smelling abilities are 100,000 times better than ours. (Related: Dogs can smell lung cancer in humans.)

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One study, conducted by the Pine Street Foundation, reflects Dude’s exceptional skill. The study involved five dogs that were given breath samples of 31 breast cancer patients, 55 lung cancer patients and 83 healthy persons. All dogs were able to pinpoint which samples came from those who were ill, with approximately 90 percent accuracy.

Can dogs really smell cancer?

According to Tammana Khare of Dogs Naturally Magazine, because of the metabolic waste released by cancerous cells, a distinct smell is also released from the human body. This significant smell can be easily traced by dogs even during the earlier stages of cancer.

Other studies suggest that canines also have the ability to smell traces of skin cancer melanoma through skin lesions, and detect prostate cancer with just a urine sample from a person who is suffering from one.

“Not only does their sense of smell make cancer detection possible, but research suggests that dogs can be trained actively to sniff out the cancer, ” the canine expert shared. “In Berlin, a group of researchers trained some dogs to detect the presence of various types of cancer, including ovarian cancer, bowel cancer, as well as bladder cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer,” Khane finished.

Although some remain to be with the whole idea of dogs being able to sniff out cancer and other illnesses, there are already some field experts who see a future where dogs will be directly used in patient care. More importantly, the special dog ability Dude exhibited helped his owner, Tierney, to manage her sickness and prolong her life.

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The Healing Power of Pets by Chuck Norris

In 2010, at the age of 51, appliance sales manager Eric O’Grey was in a bad place. He weighed 320 pounds and as a consequence was racking up more than $1,000 a month for medications to deal with his high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Doctors told him that if he didn’t turn his life around and lose significant weight, his life expectancy was most likely no more than five years.

Then, at the advice of a doctor, he adopted a dog from a shelter. He decided on a somewhat obese middle-aged dog that he saw as not unlike himself. This dog needed to be walked at least a half-hour a day, something O’Gray did without fail. O’Grey next adopted a plant-based diet and he stuck with it. Within a year, he lost 140 pounds. His dog “Peety” lost 25 pounds. In addition, O’Grey was off his meds for good.

Peety had in fact rescued him — from an old pattern of trying to reform habits only to fall back into his unhealthful ways. “He looked at me like I was the best person on the planet,” O’Grey told NPR, “and I wanted to become the person he thought I was.”

According to the Humane Society, nearly 2.4 million healthy cats and dogs are put down in U.S. shelters each year; about one every 13 seconds.

Can something as seemingly simple as the introduction of an adopted pet into someone’s life bring on renewed health? Animal-assisted therapy has long been used to significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having a pet has proven to help decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and feelings of loneliness. It increases opportunities for exercise and socializing with others. Medical evidence exists demonstrating that interaction with pets helps people cope with challenges ranging from Alzheimer’s Disease, to end of life trauma, to PTSD.

As Dr. Tracy Stecker, a clinical psychologist who works with veterans once noted in Psychology Today, having a dog in the room in many ways mimics the buddy system to which military personnel are accustomed. This pet can help in dealing with symptoms developed in war by immediately letting someone struggling with nightmares — waking in the night, not knowing if they are in immediate danger — assuring them they are safe and they are not alone.

Dogs also help veterans relearn trust, a critically important issue for those suffering from PTSD. Dogs help heal by being a trustworthy companion. In short, a dog can be a loving companion that can lift your spirits, lessen depression, decrease feelings of isolation and alienation, encourage communication and provide needed comfort. This pet can also provide motivation to move more, stretch farther and exercise longer.

At the Mayo Clinic, animal-assisted therapy is a growing field that uses dogs or other animals to help people recover from or better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and mental health disorders. More than a dozen certified therapy dogs are part of Mayo Clinic’s Caring Canines program. It’s not only the ill person who reaps the benefits of such therapy. Family members and friends who sit in on animal visits say they feel better as well.

A concern about animal-assisted therapy — particularly in hospitals — is safety and sanitation. Most hospitals and other facilities that use pet therapy have stringent rules to ensure that the animals are clean, vaccinated, well-trained and screened for appropriate behavior. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has never received a report of infection from animal-assisted therapy.

Sleep experts have long thought that pets in the bedroom are disruptive to a person’s sleep. You may be interested to learn that a recent Mayo Clinic survey found 41 percent of patients who share their beds with their animals find it beneficial. Some say it helps them relax and gives a sense of security. If your pet sleeps on your bed at home, it is recommended you wash your sheets frequently.

While it’s true I’m a dog lover, dogs are not the only pet effectively used in helping people cope with health problems. If you were to take a stroll through downtown Portland, for example, it’s quite possible you might happen upon Rojo the llama and Napoleon the alpaca, prancing along the sidewalk, a new dynamic duo changing the face of therapy animals in the Pacific Northwest. Similar in appearance, llamas and alpacas are both domesticated South American species of camels.

Eight years ago, Rojo and Napoleon went through an extensive process to get certified as therapy animals. Now part of the non-profit Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas, they have clocked more than 1000 clinical visits.

Smiling and laughter are known to be a tonic for health and longevity. That’s exactly what Rojo and Napoleon provide for patients, their families and friends, and sidewalk pedestrians as well.

To this day Shannon Gregory, one of the animal handlers, remembers the first time she took them to visit a medical facility. “Every room we were going in to, it was like seeing miracles happen,” she says.

Why Do Pets Make Us Feel Better?

When we are sad, stressed, scared, or wondering how we can possibly deal with whatever life has thrown our way, animals have the ability to make us feel better. Why else would there be millions of cat videos on YouTube and not one, but four, “panda cams” in the United States alone?

But while Grumpy Cat and Bao Bao can make us smile, our pets can actually have a positive effect on our health.

Studies have shown that interacting with animals (even fish!) helps lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and decrease depression. Scientists have also observedthat interacting with animals increases levels of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin has a number of important effects on the body. It slows a person’s heart rate and breathing, reduces blood pressure, and inhibits the production of stress hormones. All of these changes help create a sense of calm and comfort.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Rebecca Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, Director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, said: “Oxytocin has some powerful effects for us in the body’s ability to be in a state of readiness to heal, and also to grow new cells, so it predisposes us to an environment in our own bodies where we can be healthier.”

This healing can be emotional as well as physical, as oxytocin makes us feel happy, encourages trust, andpromotes bonding. This helps explain why we literally fall in love with our pets.

At the same time, pets offer us their unconditional love—and yes, even empathy—in return. After a cancer diagnosis and during treatment, pets don’t judge or try to give advice. They don’t ask questions or need reassurance that everything will be okay. Pets are just there when you need them, to show affection, to provide companionship, and to offer comfort.

In a study of therapy dogs at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City, researchers followed 42 people who were receiving six weeks of intense chemotherapy and radiation therapy for head and neck cancer. Before each treatment session, all of the participants visited with a trained therapy dog for about 15 minutes. At the end of the study, the researchers found that although the participants’ physical well-being decreased during treatment, their emotional and social well-being increased.

It is no wonder, then, that even Florence Nightingale believed that “a small pet animal is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially.