People have known all about the fantastic ability of a dogs nose and of working dogs for centuries now. Especially any kind of job that requires them to use those wonderful and sensitive noses - we still do that even today in all sorts of ways.
In fact, you can see these kinds of dogs working in various locations all over the world. For example, at the airport you may see many guards walking around with larger dogs such as the German Shepherd, Malinois and maybe even a Labrador Retriever doing such jobs as sniffing for drugs or bombs.
At that very same airport you might also see some much smaller dogs - such as Beagles, sniffing around people's luggage in the crowded areas of the airport sniffing for illegal items brought into the country by passengers such as meats, fruits, vegetables and other food items too that are not allowed in the country. Often times these dogs often sniff out contraband animals brought in from other countries also.
Other times you may see dogs using their noses to even sniff out people. For example, a lot of people are familiar with bloodhounds searching for elderly people who have turned up missing, and young kids as well, and sometimes you'll see them used in the apprehension, tracking and capture of criminals who escaped from jail or prison.
Search and rescue dogs , also called SAR dogs, are often used to search through piles of rubble and debris in the case of natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes for human survivors. Using the powerful powers of a dogs nose, handler and dog teams search for survivors. One example, are the search and rescue dog teams who were used to work just after the September 11th attacks.
And what are other ways dogs use their noses to work with people? Well for one thing there are avalanche dogs to search for people lost during an avalanche. There are also dogs who are trained to search for things like termites in homes or buildings, bombs and drugs, and also even medical conditions like epilepsy dogs who can often alert their masters long before a seizure will occur - all based on scent.
And most recently dogs are being used more and more frequently in the field of medical research, especially in the field of Cancer research. And many veterinary hospitals all over the world are now doing research using a dogs nose specifically - trying to find out exactly what it is about cancer that alerts dogs to it.
It's been suggested in a lot of recent studies that for some reasons unknown to the researchers, that the dogs are picking up on some odors connected to cancer, and these same researchers are now wondering if the dogs can be trained to detect cancer - and to do so consistently. There are many recent studies that suggest this is in fact a possibility.
In fact, researchers in places like Japan and Britain and even the United States have noticed while focusing dogs abilities on scenting samples such as urine, skin and even stool samples that the dog was able to detect cancers almost as consistently and correctly as the doctors performing the procedures themselves.
It's not exactly known, but it seems like, for some reason, the dogs can easily distinguish between the breath of a healthy person versus a person with cancer too. Much more work needs to be done in this field - but wouldn't it be great if when going to the Doctor for testing that you were greeted with a sweet little dog instead of a cold metal machine? I know which one I'd choose.
Now, the next thing to do is to take this ability from a dogs nose from simple parlor trick to a useful medical capability. How? I think in many ways the best idea is to be able to find out exactly what it is that the dogs are smelling. And then next to automate the process and be able to create a usable test that will work under any circumstance.
It's amazing just to think about all the possibilities. And in
many cases the possibilities are simply endless. Being able to use the
wonderful abilities of our best friends nose is a whole new realm of
medical possibility and potential. And all they ask in return is a hug, a
tummy rub, a treat and a comfortable relationship with us. Pretty nice
deal if you ask me! So there really is a lot more to a dogs nose than we had ever thought!
" The best way to get a puppy is to beg for a baby brother — and they'll settle for a puppy every time." -- Winston Pendleton
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