Researchers find that dogs can sniff out seizures, chronic diseases

Scene from "A Dog's Journey"

Dogs have long been man’s best friend, and their companionship proves ever more significant as a study has found that with their exceptional sense of smell they can recognize the scent of seizures, which gives hope that dogs may be able to protect sufferers before a fit takes hold.

Studies in the past have shown dogs are able to detect the scents of certain diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and malaria. Evidence on how if they are able to sniff out seizures before they are about to happen was poorly understood until now.

The dogs in the study

The five dogs used in the study – Casey, Dodger, Lana, Zoey, and Roo – were presented with an array of scents from epileptic patients (including body odor when patients are calm, exercising, or having an attack). Casey, Dodger, and Zoey got the seizure scent 100% of the time, while Lana and Roo got the scent right two out of three times.

This viral video shows an owner with traumatic brain injury (TBI) training her dog to protect her during a seizure

“The results went beyond our expectations by showing that there is indeed a general odour of an epileptic seizure,” said Amelie Catala, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the University of Rennes in France, “We hope it will open new lines of research that could help anticipate seizures and thus get patients to seek security.”

Exceptional sense of smell

Everyone is aware about how extraordinarily sensitive dogs’ noses are, able to detect specific organic compounds at a concentration of less than 0.001 part per billion. Artificial “electronic noses” (which pick up potentially harmful odours that humans can’t smell) are nowhere near that rate, with a detection threshold of around 300 parts per billion.

Catala said that the experiment showed that researchers could potentially diagnose acute health episodes that last just a few minutes, not to mention that dogs can also sniff out chronic diseases. “The study of odours by the use of dogs constitutes a fast, low-cost, non-invasive, and effective screening method of diseases that can be difficult to identify normally,” she ended.

Story from AFP

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