Specially trained dogs have been alerting diabetics to decreases in their blood sugar levels for years now — but only now do scientists have a pretty good clue of how dogs are able to do it.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge say what the dogs are able to sniff out is a common chemical called isoprene, which is found on our breath.
Isoprene increases significantly — and sometimes almost doubles — during hypoglycemia.
Medical detection dogs wake up or alert their owners whenever their blood sugar level drops to the point of hypoglycemia, a condition that can cause shakiness, loss of consciousness, and, if untreated, death.
Using mass spectrometry, the scientists studied the breath of eight women with type 1 diabetes, noting changes in the chemical signatures of their exhalations when their blood sugar levels were lowered to the point of hypoglycemia.
The increased in isoprene is too subtle for humans to smell, but with the ability to detect odors at concentrations of around one part per trillion, dogs are able to sense it.
The scientists aren’t sure why isoprene increases as blood sugar levels drop, but they suspect it might be a byproduct of cholesterol.
Their findings were published in the July issue of the journal Diabetes Care.
The research could lead the way to developing medical sensors that replicate some of what diabetic alert dogs do, providing diabetics with an alternative to frequent blood testing, said lead researcher, Mark Evans.
“It’s our vision that a new breath test could at least partly – but ideally completely – replace the current finger-prick test, which is inconvenient and painful for patients, and relatively expensive to administer.”
Posted by John Woestendiek July 1st, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, blood sugar, breath, detection, diabetes, diabetic, diabetic alert dogs, dog, dogs, hypoglycemia, increased, isoprene, levels, medical, pets, research, science, scientists, sense, smell, sniff, university of cambridge
Sure, a $50,000 sport utility vehicle can help you find women.
But not as good as a dog can.
In this Range Rover ad, an unnaturally handsome man finds a scarf, lets his dog sniff it, then follows in his Baroque — through winding streets, around various urban obstacles and even down some stairs — as the dog tracks down the owner.
The carmaker says the ad showcases the “contemporary design and extraordinary versatility” of the Range Rover Baroque, but we think the dog wins out, at least in the latter category.
The commercial, entitled “The Scent,” was filmed in Girona and Barcelona, and its tagline is, “Cut a path through civilization.”
Not to give away the ending, but the dog finds the scarf’s owner, and, miracle of miracles, it’s an unnaturally beautiful woman.
We think the ad would have been better if it were a wrinkly, 99-year-old great grandma, who was missing her babushka. Or better yet, if the camera showed the dog running toward a beautiful young woman, then past her to deliver the scarf back to the great grandma.
While some of its models have shrunk, the Range Rover still has a bit of an image as a big, road-hogging, view-blocking gas guzzler (though the Baroque averages 23 miles per gallon and is much less offensive than, say, a Humvee).
Given that image, the ad could have used a little more humor, a little less hubris — of the “I-can-drive-my-big-imposing-car-anywhere-I-want” category.
Needless to say, don’t try this at home, whether home is Barcelona or Brooklyn. Roving the range is one thing; roving urban sidewalks and steps quite another.
One must be careful not to mow down pedestrians when cutting a path through civilization, which, by the way, already provides us with paths for cars.
They’re called roads.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 24th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, automobiles, barcelona, baroque, big cars, cars, civilization, commercials marketing, dog, dogs, dogs in advertising, girona, humvee, image, media, pets, range rover, road, scarf, sniff, sport utility vehicle, stairs, steps, streets, suv, the scent, woman, woof in advertising
Suddenly the shih tzu began going in circles, nudged her in the left breast, then got down on the floor and howled.
It was unusual in several ways. For one thing, Taffy never barked.
Granato, as the dog continued yapping, reached for the spot Taffy had nudged and found a lump.
She visited doctors, had some tests done, and was told she had nothing to be concerned about. To be safe though, she underwent a biopsy. It confirmed what she suspected Taffy was trying to tell her — she had breast cancer.
“I did listen to the dog, but I also listened to me,” she told the South Jersey Times.
The ability of dogs to detect cancer is well documented, if not completely understood. But it’s unusual for one who hasn’t been trained to do so to make what seems to be a diagnosis.
Researchers believe what dogs are smellling are the chemical changes that occur when normal cells are altered by cancerous ones.
Granato found out she was in the first stage of breast cancer. Doctors removed the lump and she underwent chemotherapy. During her treatments, Taffy provided some emotional support, she said.
Granato said she has been in remission for four years. Doctors detected another lump last September, but she says she wasn’t too worried.
“I kept saying, ‘The dog didn’t bark,’ ” Granato said. “It can’t be.”
Results showed the lump was benign.
(Photo: Nancy Granato and granddaughter’s dog, Taffy; by Lori M. Nichols / South Jersey Times)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 9th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, biopsy, breast cancer, cancer, detection, detects, dogs, health, lump, medicine, new jersey, pets, pitman, scents, shih-tzu, sniff
In a collaboration between Penn and the Monell Chemical Sciences Centers, Ohlin and McBain (above) and Thunder (left) will use their noses to detect the disease in humans.
Ovarian cancer kills more than 14,000 women every year and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the nation.
The collaboration, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, takes aim at the silent killer with a combination of chemistry, nanotechnology — and dogs.
Canines have been detecting lung and breast cancer for years. With an $80,000 grant from the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation, the new project will assess their effectiveness in sniffing out ovarian cancer, and continue an investigation that has been underway in Sweden.
The Swedish professor behind that project, who was using his own dogs for the study, is retiring. But he’s lending his expertise to those involved in the Penn project.
“He’s been advising us along the way to we don’t repeat the same mistakes he made along the way,” said Dr. Cynthia Otto, director of the Working Dog Center and Associate Professor of Critical Care at Penn Vet.
While the disease is often difficult to diagnose, ovarian cancer’s victims have a survival rate of 90 percent. No effective screening protocol yet exists to detect cases in the early stages.
In the new program, scientists from Penn Medicine’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology will take tissue and blood samples from both healthy and ovarian cancer patients. The samples will be analyzed by chemists, scientists, computers and the puppies at the Working Dog Center, who will be exposed to healthy samples and cancer samples in vented containers they can’t access, but can smell.
The dogs began their training at 8-weeks of age.
“They’re all fabulous and they are very strong in olfaction,” Otto said.
(Photos: Philadelphia Inqurer)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 9th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cancer, cancer sniffing, chocolate labs, collaboration, detect, detecting, detection, dog, dogs, Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation, mcbain, medicine, Monell Chemical Sciences Centers, ohlin, ovarian, ovarian cancer, penn, pets, project, research, science, sniff, sniffing, springer spaniel, study, thunder, university of pennsylvania, working dog center
Humans need a play stance.
I came to this conclusion yesterday — adding yet another item to the list of things dogs do better than us — as Ace and I arrived for the first time at the only dog park in Winston-Salem proper (and Winston-Salem is pretty proper).
Being new and mostly friendless in the town in which we’ve decided to temporarily base ourselves, we left our quarters in the basement of a mansion and, for a little socialization, headed a couple miles down the road to Washington Park, where dogs can run and play in a fenced-in area.
Of course, Ace hardly romped at all. It being a new scene for him, his first priority was to give all things a good sniffing – other dogs included. But, on this day, he was more the sniffee than the sniffer.
The second I closed the gate behind us, five other dogs — realizing there was a new face — bounded over for a whiff, following so close behind his rear end that, when he stopped abruptly … well you know the rest.
Butts aside, it’s an intriguing thing to watch, this seeming welcome, and one I noticed often back at Ace’s old park in Baltimore. When a first-timer arrives, all the other dogs come over to give the new guy a sniff. To view that as an act of kindness is, of course, anthropomorphic. But still it’s kind of sweet.
This weekend, Ace — though he was used to being the dean of his old park — was the new kid on the block.
He courteously sniffed those who sniffed him, but was more interested in checking out the space, the water bowl and the humans than in playing with the other dogs. We’d been there a full hour before he even chased another dog — all of whom were playing energetically with each other.
Dee Dee, a beagle, and Bailey, a whippet mix, (both pictured atop this post) had great play stances and used them often: Butts pointed skyward, front legs stretched all the way out, heads lowered. It, in the canine world, is a universal signal, a way of saying “You don’t need to be afraid of me, this is all in good fun, it’s playtime, let’s go.”
I can think of no counterpart when it comes to human body language — no gesture or stance we have that is as easily noticeable and understood. The handshake? No, that’s just standard procedure, basic manners. Perhaps the one that came closest was the peace sign.
Rather than having a universal play stance, we resort to words, which often only make things more confusing. We try to make sense of subtle body language and interpret what we think are queues, neither of which we’re that good at, either.
All that could be resolved if we only had a human play stance — a position we could place our bodies in that signifies we’re open to getting to know a fellow human.
We’ve got the war stance down. We all know the fighting stance, or at least enough to put our dukes up. But there’s no simple gesture or motion we humans can make — at least not without possibility of criminal charges or restraining orders — that sends a signal that peace, harmony and fun are ahead.
But why can’t we come up with a play stance — one that says I’m open to getting to know you better, and perhaps even frolicking a bit?
Because that would be too easy for a species as complex as ours? Too honest? Too direct?
It was easier when we were children. A simple “Wanna play?” sufficed. Somehow, on the way to becoming adults, we started opting instead for far less direct, far stupider comments, like “Do you come here often?” and “What’s your sign?”
Adopting a play stance for the human race, at this point — with all that we have evolved, with how sophisticated and suspicious and manipulative we as a society have become — would be difficult. It might be too late.
Two thumbs up and a grin? Standing with arms outstretched, knees bent, while waving people toward you? Most anything I can come up to signal you are accepting new people into your life would have the exact opposite effect, and send them running.
In the final analysis, being human, maybe we’re stuck with words, and small talk, and being less straightforward, sincere and, quite likely, pure of heart and motive than dogs.
Ace will make friends his way, and I will make friends mine (which is most often with his help). But between him and my conversational skills, I’ll be fine. And by the way, do you come here often?
(Story and photos by John Woestendiek)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, behavior, butts, crouch, dog parks, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, friends, humans, interaction, interpret, meeting, north carolina, park, people, pets, play signal, play stance, queues, reaching out, road trip, signals, sniff, sniffing, social, socialization, socializing, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, winston-salem, wshington park
Ace made a big impression on pre-k and kindergarten students at Baltimore’s Lakewood Elementary School yesterday, dazzling them with tricks, soaking up their pats and hugs and swearing in two classrooms whose students took the “Oath of Kindness,” a pledge to be kind to animals.
How this latest stop in our continuing travels came to pass was actually pretty simple, and amazingly bureaucracy-free.
A teacher friend asked if we’d visit. We said yes. She got the necessary clearances and, before you know it, a 130-pound Rottweiler-Akita-chow-pit bull mix was being snuggled, stroked and hugged by a bunch of children half his size.
Karma Dogs, the therapy dog organization of which Ace is a member, came up with two more volunteers who visited the school along with Ace and me — Janet Shepherd and her dog Tami, and Kathryn Corrigan and her dog Puddy.
Together, we covered six classrooms in just over an hour, administering the oath, passing along some basic dog safety tips and stressing the importance of treating animals kindly.
Karma Dogs developed the “Oath of Kindness” after the death of Phoenix, a pit bull puppy who was set on fire by Baltimore teenagers in the summer of 2009 — not the first, or last, case of its type in the city.
The oath reads: “I … pledge always to be kind to animals. I promise never to hurt an animal, be it dog or cat, furry or fat. I promise to tell my friends to be kind to animals and if I see an animal that is being hurt I will tell an adult right away. Scaly or slimy, feathered or blue, to this promise I will be true.”
After reciting the pledge, the children receive a certificate,which is “pawtographed” by the dog, in this case, Ace. The hope is that children who have openly declared they will not be violent towards animals will remember that, tell their friends and inform adults when they see an animal being taunted or abused.
Of the students Ace and I appeared before, about a dozen raised their hands when I asked who was afraid of dogs. But only one declined a chance to pet Ace. Several more had some trepidations, but those seemed to melt away as they watched the other children interact with him.
They were eager to ask questions, and talk about their own pets. One girl spent three minutes talking about her Chihuahua, which she said had the same name she did. Not until the end of her dissertation did she reveal that her dog was a stuffed toy.
I cautioned them against approaching stray dogs, told them to always to ask the owner before approaching a dog, showed them how to let dogs sniff their hands as an introduction and encouraged them to treat dogs as they’d like to be treated — calmly, kindly and lovingly.
Ace made an impression on the children in several ways, I think –through his size alone, his gentleness and his back story: a stray adopted from the shelter, like most of the other Karma Dogs, who went on to try and help humans.
The teacher behind the event (who also took these photos) was Marite Edwards, a longtime friend of Ace’s. When she took the idea to her principal, she learned that the school and district were looking at ways to add dog safety and kindness to animals to the curriculum.
That another case of animal abuse surfaced in Baltimore over the weekend — that of a cat set on fire by two teenagers — confirmed just how much those lessons are needed.
You can find more information about Karma Dogs at its website.
(Photos by Marite Edwards)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animals, approach, baltimore, certificate, children, city, compassion, curriculum, dog, dogs, hand, karma dogs, kids, kind to animals, kindergarten, lakewood elementary, marite edwards, mittens, oath of kindness, pets, phoenix, pre-k, safety, schools, sniff, teacher, therapy dog, violence, volunteers
For all those who fret obsessively about dogs leaving environmentally damaging messes behind — not that it’s not a valid concern — here’s a story of a dog who’s helping clean up the messes we leave behind.
Sable, a discarded German shepherd mix adopted from an animal shelter, has been trained to sniff out illegal sewer connections, which dump billions of gallons of bacteria-filled water into rivers, lakes and streams each year, leading to closed beaches, contaminating fisheries and costing millions to clean up.
Scott Reynolds adopted Sable with the idea of training him to sniff out illegal sewer connections. Now, after a year of work in Michigan’s Kawkawlin River, Sable has earned enough praise to be top dog at Environmental Canine Services, the Detroit Free Press reports.
“In the mornings, he runs to the back room and looks to the hook where his harness is, as if to say, ‘Do we get to do this today?’ ” Reynolds said. “He loves to work.”
Sable is scheduled to do his thing next in Santa Barbara, California, then head to Maine next spring to help track pollution that has closed shellfish beds along the coast.
Sable sniffs water in drains and pipes — often buried in deep woods or under fallen trees — to detect illegal sewer connections. He barks when he smells raw sewage.
Sable also has his own website, sablethesniffer.com.
Sable has an 87% accuracy rate measured against lab results, Reynolds says.
Normally, municipalities send human employees to detect illegal sewer connections — a bit of a guessing game, and a process that requires lab tests that can take weeks.
The dog was turned over by owners who mistreated him, said Autumn Russell of Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary, near Grand Rapids. “No one had any idea of his potential,” she said.
Reynolds, who has trained other rescued dogs for search and rescue and narcotics detection, spent more than a year training Sable to sniff out waste, ammonia and detergents that signal illegal connections.
(Photo: By Robert Domm, courtesy of Environmental Canine Services)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 24th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: bacteria, connections, contamination, detection, dog, environment, environmental, environmental canine services, hookups, illegal, michigan, sable, scott reynolds, sewage, sewer, sniff, sniffer, sniffing