Study: Dogs Can Sniff Out Lung Cancer
Dogs can be trained to detect early signs of lung cancer, new research suggests. Two German shepherds, an Australian shepherd, and a Labrador retriever smelled test tubes containing breath samples of more than 200 people with or without the disease. The dogs were trained to sit down in the front of the tube if they detected lung cancer in a sample. They were correct 71 percent of the time, according to a study published Thursday in the European Respiratory Journal. Past research suggests that cancer can be sniffed out, since cancer cells produce chemical compounds that can be exhaled in a gaseous form, BBC News reports. Still, don't expect to see canines in your doctor's office quite yet: More research is needed to determine exactly what role dogs could play in cancer detection.
Your Own Personal Canine Medical Helper
Dogs can be more than man's best friend—they can be lifesavers. From Chihuahuas to Labrador retrievers, dogs are increasingly complementing modern medicine, learning to defuse panic attacks, carry juice bottles to diabetics with low blood sugar, and even dial 911, U.S. News reported in 2010. "So many people with disabilities or medical conditions could benefit from a dog, and they don't always realize it," says Darlene Sullivan, an animal trainer who founded the nonprofit training group Canine Partners For Life in Cochranville, Pa.
Dogs like those paired with people who are blind or hearing-impaired are specifically trained to head off problems and to detect and ease symptoms among those with conditions that put them at risk or compromise their life skills, such as paralysis, seizure disorders, and diabetes. Others make a difference simply by being there. College students who spend time with a dog are less likely to report feeling depressed and find that dogs help them cope with stress, according to a study published in Society and Animals in 2008. At Kent State University, "canine therapists" visit campus dorms, a program particularly popular among those lonely for a family pet. And Penn State University's counseling department employs Ernie, a year-old Affenpinscher who sits in on therapy sessions and spends one-on-one time with students. Ernie's presence makes those with mental and emotional issues feel better about seeking help, counselors say. Dozens of groups train and provide helpful canines, sometimes for free, but it's up to those who think they might benefit to seek one out. [Read more: Your Own Personal Canine Medical Helper.]
Pets Can Pose Health Risks for Children
The bowl of pet food on the kitchen floor can make babies and toddlers seriously ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It turns out that salmonella bacteria in dried dog and cat food sparked an outbreak of salmonella infections between 2006 to 2008. Half of the 79 cases reported were in children ages 2 and under, U.S. News reported in 2010.
Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children and the elderly, and it's no fun for healthy adults, either. People infected with salmonella usually suffer four to seven days of fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
CDC investigators, who reported their findings in Pediatrics, couldn't connect the illnesses to children actually eating pet food. More likely is that the bugs were spread by direct contact with pets, and through contact with the floor and other parts of the home. Infection was more likely if pet bowls were kept in the kitchen.
But dried dog food is not the only pet grub that poses human health risks: Food for pet reptiles can harbor salmonella, too. Last year, the CDC warned that 34 people had fallen ill after handling frozen mice and rats used for feeding pet reptiles. And the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning saying that frozen mice from MiceDirect may be implicated. [Read more: Pets Can Pose Health Risks for Children.]