How Pets Save Lives

Most animal lovers have read stories of pets that save lives by “detecting” a problem with its owner just before signs and symptoms begin to show.

There are companion dogs trained not only as guides for the blind, but also as part of the “early warning system” for seizure patients and brittle diabetics. These animals “sense” changes which occur just before an event such as a drop in blood sugar levels or a type of aura in a seizure patient. Often the animal will either alert someone to the impending problem or even put its own body between the patient and danger.

Can a dog “detect” cancer?

There are numerous studies to support this. It is believed that a dog uses its highly developed sense of smell to pick up changes in a persons’ breath or urine.

At least one such story is told by a woman whose dog kept pawing at one of her breasts. That particular spot was later diagnosed as a cancerous tumor. Others have similar stories about their pets and later being diagnosed with lung, bladder/prostate cancer, and melanoma.

Can a cat sense impending death?

Most have heard of the cat in a nursing home that “knows” when a patient is dying and stays in the room until the person passes away. Some say this is just an urban legend, but those who have a close relationship with an animal have seen their own pets respond to a change in condition.

Nurse Rene had a Dalmatian who seemed aware of her surgery, as he would sit beside the affected knee. Also present was a Maine coon cat who would lie beside the same joint. Both seemed to be protecting the surgical site in a way only they could understand.

What do you think?

Are these just tall tales or a fact of biology? We know that pheromones are secreted and sometimes have highly pungent smells as part of the fight or flight response. Gangrene, GI bleeding, dead tissue and certain bacteria have odors which aid in their detection. We also know that most animals have very highly developed senses–particularly hearing and smell–beyond those of humans.

Why then, wouldn’t it be possible for a pet or service dog to detect changes in its owner? The “sweetness” of diabetic ketoacidosis, the “aura” just before a seizure. The animal does not know anatomy and physiology or Biology 101. It only knows what its senses say.

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