It was a quiet night, and Dorrie Nuttall was fast asleep. Her seven-year-old son was sleeping next to her, hooked up to a machine, which was supposed to alert her if his glucose levels were too low. The alert never came. Not from the machine, anyway.
Jedi, Luke’s adorable diabetes-sniffing dog, started jumping on and off the bed. Nuttall didn’t wake up, so Jedi took it up a notch. He lay on top of Nuttall. She woke up and checked Luke’s monitor. His levels seemed to be fine, but Jedi was insistent. Nuttall pricked his finger and tested the blood. His glucose was dangerously low – less than half of what was displayed on the machine’s monitor. Nuttall gave her son a glucose tablet and watched nervously as his levels stabilized. Her dog had just saved her son’s life.
Jedi isn’t the only four-legged hero sniffing out danger. Dogs are being trained to identify early warning signs for many diseases. And even untrained dogs are making a difference.
In 2008, Maureen Burns noticed that her dog, Max, seemed depressed. He was getting old, so Burns prepared for the worst, but it wasn’t Max who was in danger. She began noticing that Max sometimes sniffed her breast. Then one day, when Max was looking at her strangely, she just knew it was cancer. Sure enough, she went to the hospital, where the doctors discovered a cancerous breast tumor. When it was removed, Max’s behavior changed immediately. He was once again his happy-go-lucky self. Burns credits him with saving her life.
Canines have incredibly powerful noses, but some humans can smell diseases too. Joy Milne is a former nurse who can smell Parkinson’s disease. Six years before her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Milne noticed a slight change in his scent. She couldn’t quite place the new odor and told her husband that his hygiene was lacking. It wasn’t until she met a group of people with the same odor at a Parkinson’s support group meeting that she put two and two together.
There is currently no definitive test for Parkinson’s disease. And unfortunately, symptoms tend to show after it is too late. When researchers heard that Milne had detected the disease in her husband years before he had been diagnosed, they were intrigued. They tested her ability to smell Parkinson’s, and the results were incredible. She was consistently able to identify patients with the disease.
With Milne’s help, the researchers isolated ten molecules that are found in people with Parkinson’s disease. The hope is that these molecules will lead to a test that diagnoses the disease earlier. These molecules could even be used to train dogs to smell it in patients.
Dorrie Nuttall was fast asleep. Her 7-year-old son slept next to her. He was connected to a machine that would wake her up if his sugar levels were too low. But the machine didn’t wake her up. Her son’s dog, Jedi, did. Jedi started jumping on and off the bed. Nuttall didn’t wake up. Jedi took it up a notch and lay on top of her. Nuttall woke up and checked her son’s machine. It showed that his sugar levels were fine. Jedi didn’t calm down, so she did a blood test. His sugar level was very low. She gave him some sugar, and his levels went back to normal. Her dog had saved her son’s life.
Jedi is not the only dog who can save lives. Dogs are being trained to find signs of diseases. Even untrained dogs are making a difference.
In 2008, Maureen Burns saw that her dog, Max, seemed sad. He was getting old, so she prepared for the worst. But it wasn’t Max who was in danger. It was her. Max sometimes smelled her breast. One day, when Max was looking at her strangely, she just knew that she had cancer. She went to the doctor and learned she had breast cancer. After the cancer was removed, Max was his happy-go-lucky self again. Burns thinks that Max saved her life.
Some humans can smell diseases too. Joy Milne is a nurse who can smell Parkinson’s disease. Six years before her husband learned he had Parkinson’s, Milne thought he smelled different. She couldn’t place the new smell. It wasn’t until she met some people with Parkinson’s that had the same smell that she put two and two together.
There is no easy test for Parkinson’s disease yet. Symptoms usually show up too late. Researchers heard that Milne smelled Parkinson’s before the doctors found it. They studied her ability. With her help, they found ten molecules that are found in people with Parkinson’s disease. They hope that these molecules will lead to a test that can find the disease. They also hope to train dogs to smell the disease in patients.