I thought I had seen it all until the other night at work when another provider told me about a patient once presenting to the ER alongside his ‘anxiety parrots’.  This pair of birds’ purpose was to peck this individual’s neck when he became agitated allowing him to recognize the onset of anxiety and calm himself.  I have heard of dogs detecting seizures, but parrots foreseeing panic attacks?  This tale of course led me to the question, what else can animals do to assist in the medical field?

My research led me to an interesting discovery- cancer detecting canines.  It turns out, dogs can use their superior sense of smell, which is one million times more powerful than that of a human, to sniff out malignancy.  Researchers have trained canines to detect cancer, such as colorectal, skin, bladder, lung, breast and ovarian cancer.  Dogs are able to detect these diseases by smelling an affected patient’s breath with up to 98 percent accuracy.  These amazing animals are taught to sniff various breath samples and sit in front of the sample indicating malignancy. 

Not all dogs can be used to detect cancer, researchers note.  Pugs, for example do not have this superior olfactory capability.  I suspect my own pooches, although cute, are also exempt from these abilities.  Unfortunately, they refuse to even walk correctly on a leash and I suspect prefer to dig holes in my lawn than assist in human healthcare


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