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Medical Detection Dogs: Sniffing for Diabetes and Cancer

blog header dog detection

We’ve all heard that saying, ‘a dog is a man’s best friend’! But what makes our four-legged canines so special?

There are some that lead the blind, others that assist people with getting dressed and those that go above and beyond our expectations to save people from dangerous situations.

But have you heard of the dogs that detect diabetes and cancer in humans?

Medical Detection Dogs is a charity that trains dogs to save lives. They work with the powerful scenting instincts of dogs to help detect and manage human disease. There are two sides to the charity – one trains and partners dogs to alert and support people who manage life-threatening conditions and the other works in research, in the early detection of cancer. 

We are proud to be covering the costs of the insurance policy of one detection dog in particular that is helping to improve the quality of lives of those that suffer from epilepsy.

As November is National Pet Diabetes Month, as well as Canine Prostate Awareness Month, we took a trip down to the Medical Detection Dogs training centre in Milton Keynes to learn more about the dogs, how they are being trained and what their amazing sense of smell can do to support individuals living with complex, life-threatening health conditions.

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Training dog in action – using the power of scent to perform a carousel demonstration

Medical detection dogs are trained to help people with life-threatening health conditions and give them confidence, independence and the freedom they need to lead a better quality of life. Above all, they save people’s lives on a daily basis! 

The dogs are donated to Medical Detection Dogs by breeders, rescue and welfare charities, or simply because they need a new home. Dogs are chosen for their scenting abilities, which allow the charity to work with a variety of different breeds.

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Training dogs waiting patiently for their treat

Medical Detection Dogs are proud to have a no kennel policy for all their dogs – this means all their dogs live with individuals and families when they are not partnered or working. They work 9am-5pm shifts during the week and have the weekends off to relax! 

The training, partnering and research work provided by the charity is paid for solely by the generous donations of individuals and organisations.

Medical Alert Assistant Dogs

With their amazing sense of smell, medical alert assistance dogs support individuals who live with dangerous health conditions. They are taught to identify the odour changes that are associated with life-threatening medical events.

Most of the dogs are partnered with people living with unstable Type 1 diabetes, whose condition means they are unaware when their blood sugar is rapidly fluctuating or dangerously low. People with this condition are at a daily risk of going into a coma and they can suffer from many complications that can lead to loss of sight, heart disease, stroke, renal failure and the need for amputations.

They can detect minute changes in blood sugar levels and, when these levels fall or rise outside the normal range, they will warn their owner, get up and fetch any vital medication they need. The dogs help improve the management of both short and long term diabetes by helping to keep blood sugar levels within a safe range.

It’s not just diabetes that the dogs can detect – they can also detect narcolepsy! 

In narcolepsy, they will stand in front of their owner when they detect that they are going to fall asleep. Once their owner has fallen asleep, they’ll gently lick their face to wake them up.

Cancer Detection Dogs 

Cancer detection dogs can use their amazing sense of smell to advance research into the early diagnosis of cancer.

Currently, the charity assists scientists through their research into the development of electronic systems that will assist in the early detection of cancer through cheap, non-invasive tests.

In the short-term, the cancer dogs can provide second-line screening for cancers that are currently very difficult to diagnose reliably, such as prostate cancer.

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Training dogs detecting smells outside

Medical Detection Dogs continue to investigate other debilitating and potentially fatal conditions which their dogs may have the ability to help with.

To find out more about this amazing charity and the work they do to help save lives, or even what you can do to help, visit: www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk 

Posted November 6, 2015 by Cara Zaleski in Press

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