Sunday Times, 28 January 2007, Written by Claire Keeton
As well as being man's best friend, dogs seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to detecting disease , international studies show.
- Some dogs can sniff out cancer early on, a British study found. Urine samples were taken from 36 patients with bladder cancer, and 108 people who did not have the disease, and mixed together. Six dogs trained to detect "tumour-related volatile compounds" successfully identified 41% of samples - compared with the 14% predicted by chance alone.
- A dog in the home is good for a person's physical and mental health, even more so than having a cat, a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology found. It reviewed research papers and suggested dogs could prevent people from getting ill, could help them recover faster, and give warning of early signs of cancer, oncoming seizures and hypoglycaemia. The research also showed therapeutic dogs assisted the disabled, those in hospitals, residential homes and prisons. Overall, pet owners were less likely to have minor and serious health problems.
- A study of the heart health of 102 heart-attack patients found that the 35 pet owners in the sample had healthier hearts. Patients with reduced heart variability are more at risk of heart disease, said the study published in the American Journal of Cardiology. Pet owners, particularly dog owners, had higher heart-rate variability.
- Visits by therapeutic dogs lowered blood pressure, stress and anxiety levels among US cardiac patients, a study found. The researchers measured the physiological responses of 76 heart-failure patients and demonstrated that those visited by therapy dogs did much better.
- Many dogs alert people before a seizure. According to the journal Neurology, interviews with 122 dog-owning families in Canada found dogs would try to protect children shortly before an epileptic seizure by, for example, following a child or pushing a child away from stairs.