How dogs protect humans from illness

Dogs’ superior sense of smell allows them to detect compounds secreted through human pores that signal health problems such as low blood sugar or an impending seizure. Diane Papazian is grateful to her Doberman pinscher, Troy, whose incessant nudging at her left side led her to find a breast lump that was malignant. “Dogs are a wonderful part of the development of new technologies,” says veterinarian Cindy Otto, executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. “Their incredible sense of smell allows them to detect very low concentrations of odors and also pick out specific odors from a tapestry of smells that can confuse standard technology.” (Philadelphia)

Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2014, 3:01 AM

 DIANE PAPAZIAN was allergic to dogs and she didn’t especially want a second one, but her husband, Harry, persuaded her to let him purchase Troy, a 3-month-old Doberman pinscher. Not long afterward, Troy was in bed with the couple one evening and began insistently nuzzling Diane’s left side. It caused her to start itching, and that’s when she discovered the lump in her breast. It turned out to be malignant, but Diane is now cancer-free after a double mastectomy and chemotherapy.

The Papazians credit Troy with saving Diane’s life. And he’s not the only pet who has helped owners make such a discovery. A number of dogs and cats have alerted their people not only to various cancers and dangerous infections, but also to oncoming seizures, allergic reactions and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Our dogs and cats may not have been to medical school, but their superior senses of smell, as well as their habit of closely observing us 24/7, put them in the catbird seat when it comes to recognizing that something in our bodies has changed, even if we’re not always sure what they’re trying to tell us.

Scientific studies have confirmed the canine ability to sniff out lung, breast, bladder, prostate, colorectal and ovarian cancer, in some cases before it’s obvious through testing. They do this by taking a whiff of urine or breath samples from patients. Dogs have also been trained to alert people to oncoming epileptic seizures and assist them to a safe place until the seizure is over.

What’s their secret? Dogs and cats live in a world of smells, and their olfactory sense is far more acute than our own. Physiological changes such as lowered blood sugar or the presence of cancer produce or change volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted through the pores of the skin. Animals smell the difference and respond to it by licking, poking or pawing at the area.

Your doctor won’t be sending you out for a “Lab test” or “CAT scan” any time soon, but scientists are working to determine the exact compounds that dogs are scenting, with the goal of developing an electronic “nose” that could detect cancer

“Dogs are a wonderful part of the development of new technologies,” says Cindy Otto, DVM, Ph.D., executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, in Philadelphia. “Their incredible sense of smell allows them to detect very low concentrations of odors and also pick out specific odors from a tapestry of smells that can confuse standard technology. Unlike some of the other members of the animal kingdom with a highly developed sense of smell, dogs are also willing collaborators in our work.”



Veterinarian studies intersection between gorilla and human health

Veterinarian Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka has been studying mountain gorillas in Uganda for two decades, and she founded the nonprofit group Conservation Through Public Health in an effort to educate people about the critically endangered mountain gorilla population. Her work involves monitoring and treating diseases in gorillas and educating the public about the connection between gorillas and human health. Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka works to strike a balance between conservation and economics, noting that while ecotourism helps the local economy, it also exposes the gorillas to human diseases that could have devastating consequences for the species. CNN (4/22)

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda (CNN) — They are the world’s largest primates and yet the constant threat of poaching, deforestation and human diseases means that soon the world’s mountain gorillas could be completely wiped out.Living in the dense forests of Central Africa — in the Virunga Mountains spanning Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda — the critically endangered gorillas face an uncertain future — there are only 880 mountain gorillas left in the world, according to recent census data.On a mission to protect the primates from extinction is Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, a leading Ugandan scientist and advocate for species conservation in Bwindi, a World Heritage Site and home to nearly half of the world’s mountain gorilla population.

One of Africa’s premier conservationists, Kalema-Zikusoka has been working tirelessly for some two decades to create an environment where gorillas and people can coexist safely in an area with one of the highest rural human population densities in the continent.

Can gorillas catch a cold?

When Kalema-Zikusoka first started working in Bwindi back in 1994, gorilla tourism was in its infancy and starting to become a strong financial resource for the local economy.With mountain gorillas sharing over 98% of the same genetic material as humans, Kalema-Zikusoka decided to analyze how increased human interaction could affect the primates.”I could see what tourism was doing for the gorillas — both the good and the bad,” she says. “And of course I realized how the communities were benefiting a lot because they are really poor and the gorillas tourism is helping to lift them out of poverty,” adds Kalema-Zikusoka.”My research at the time was looking at the parasites in the gorilla dam and I found that those actually visited by tourists have a higher parasite load than those that were not,” she explains. “We can easily give them diseases and that’s always a bad thing.”Fast forward two decades and the leading veterinarian is now the founder and CEO of non-profit group “Conservation Through Public Health” (CTPH), continuing her goals of protecting gorillas and other wildlife from disease.”Our current research is focused on disease transmission between people and the gorillas,” she says. “We analyze fecal samples from gorillas regularly, like at least once a month from the habituated groups that we can get close enough to, to try and see if they are picking anything from the livestock or from the people who they interact with. “And then if they are, then we advise Uganda Wildlife Authority and we sit down and decide what should we do about it.

Helping gorillas, helping humans

Kalema-Zikusoka says it is essential to educate the local communities surrounding the gorillas.”We also have a parallel program … where we improve the health of the community,” she says. “And so as we’re improving the health of the community, we’re also looking and saying how is the gorilla health improving.”The CTPH community programs aim to prevent infectious diseases like diarrhea, scabies and tuberculosis which could potentially be passed on to the gorilla population.”We had a scabies gorilla [in] 1996 when I was the vet for Uganda Wildlife Authority and that was traced to people living around the park who have very little health care,” explains Kalema-Zikusoka.”That same gorilla group almost all died if we hadn’t treated them. The infant gorilla died and the rest only recovered with treatment.

The power of ecotourism

As part of their efforts, the CTPH is now trying to raise funds to build a larger gorilla clinic, as well as a community education center.”I really feel that everyone should come out and protect the gorillas,” says Kalema-Zikusoka. “Actually the community over here, they love the gorillas — one is because of the economic benefit they get from them, but I think also they’re really gentle giants.”Kalema-Zikusoka admits that gorilla tourism is a financial lifeline for locals — each gorilla group brings a minimum of $1 million annually to the surrounding communities, in addition to providing employment in the tourism industry, says the scientist.”It goes down to a certain balance between conservation and economics,” she says. “And that is why we try to make as far as ecotourism experience where you limit the number of people who visit the gorilla groups.”Through her continued advocacy and the continued endeavors of the international conservation community, recent figures indicate the mountain gorilla population is increasing.A 2012 census conducted by the Uganda Wildlife Authority identified 400 mountain gorillas now living in Bwindi National Park bringing the overall population estimate up to 880, up from 786 estimated in 2010.”There’s so few of them remaining [so] we are pleased that the numbers are beginning to grow,” says Kalema-Zikusoka.”Bwindi is actually a World Heritage Site and we have to do as much as we can to protect them.”

HSUS: Pet euthanasia rates decline at US shelters over past 40 years

As Reported on FOX News – ATLANTA –  The number of dogs and cats put to death in U.S. shelters is about one-fifth of what it was four decades ago.

“They were euthanizing about 15 million pets back in 1970,” said Betsy McFarland, vice president of companion animals at the Humane Society of the United States. “We’re now down to about 3 million every year. Of course, that’s 3 million too many. But that is tremendous progress that’s been made over the last four decades.”

During that same time period, the number of dogs and cats in the U.S. increased from 64 million to more than 160 million, according to Humane Society estimates. McFarland attributes the decline in euthanasia rates to spay/neuter campaigns targeted to underserved communities, better coordination among animal welfare organizations and changing social attitudes toward pets.

“I mean pets are really considered part of the family,” McFarland said. “And that has been a shift over the many decades where maybe pets were a little more utilitarian.”

Although the number of pets entering shelters has decreased nationwide, euthanasia rates at these shelters average close to 50 percent. But the Humane Society and other groups say their goal is to bring the number to zero, and they’re finding creative ways to head in that direction.

In the Atlanta area, the non-profit LifeLine Animal Project has helped two shelters lower their euthanasia rates from historic highs of 85 percent to less than 20 percent. LifeLine, which now manages shelters for Georgia’s DeKalb and Fulton Counties, brings its pets to adoption drives at shopping malls and other areas with large crowds. LifeLine also keeps many animals from entering shelters by offering “surrender counseling” to owners who are considering giving up their pets.

“What we found was that so many of the calls from the people who wanted to surrender their pets, they didn’t actually want to surrender their pets,” said Debbie Setzer, Lifeline’s community outreach director. “They may have had some financial hardship where they couldn’t afford dog food. They may have had a fence complaint where the dog was getting out.”

Pet owner Adrian Robinson, who’s already caring for a foster child and two adopted kids, says she felt overwhelmed when a highly energetic puppy joined her household.

“Keno doesn’t know his own strength,” Robinson said. “He was running around, jumping on the kids.”

LifeLine arranged free neutering, vaccinations and a training crate for Keno that helped calm him down and made it possible for Robinson to keep him. The mother and pet owner says she’s grateful to LifeLine’s staff for their assistance and advice.

“I love them,” Robinson said. “They did something for me that I couldn’t do for myself.”

Lifeline has helped other owners by repairing fences and helping them obtain donated pet food.

“Anything that we can do to keep that animal from coming into the shelter, we’ll try to do,” said LifeLine CEO Rebecca Guinn.

Before helping to create LifeLine, Guinn worked as a lawyer specializing in white-collar crime. While assisting a neglected dog in her neighborhood, she learned about the high euthanasia rates at her local shelter. Reducing those rates became her new passion (and full time job).

“There are more pets in American households than there are children. So, they’re a part of our lives,” Guinn said. “The idea that we use taxpayer dollars to round them up and then end their lives, to me, is not the right way to do it. And we’re working on a model where a shelter is truly a shelter — where the pets come in here, receive the care that they need and then can be re-homed — and where the community at large becomes a better community for pets to live in.”

Fox News’ Chip Bell contributed to this report.

Jonathan Serrie joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in April 1999 and currently serves as a correspondent based in the Atlanta bureau.

Critter Gets New Lease on Life With Help from Angel Fund

Picture Critter Henderson 002Jim Henderson is a Torrance-based “lawn doctor” who aerates and dethatches lawns.  He’s also a cat lover.  Some 18 years ago, the two interests came together.

“I went to this client’s house and I see cats scurrying all over the floor in the garage which has a lot of Amway stuff and boxes – all these cats running around,” he said. “There were 13 of ‘em. And I go in there and try to catch  ‘em as fast as I can.  I pick up a black one. Then I see this little critter running across with no eyes – his eyes aren’t even open yet.  And I picked him up and put him in my pocket.”

Henderson took the tiny feline home, bottle fed him and nurtured him – and named him Critter. “I think he was a little retarded.  He was a male cat who would not fight. All my other male cats were frisky.  And this cat would let just anybody beat him up. He would lay down on the ground he wouldn’t fight back.”

But Critter had a wonderful disposition and the two became fast friends.  “His attitude was so great and he was so lovable. He was a lover boy,” Henderson said.

A few years ago, however, Critter developed a mass on his right rear leg. Henderson took the cat to a veterinary hospital.  “I kept taking him in because this tumor was growing on his leg.  I don’t remember how much it was, 700 bucks or something like that to get that thing cut off.  Did it three times, I think, and then finally [in January, 2012] the doctor said, ‘OK, we will have to cut it [the leg] off.’  And I was all upset.  Everybody was saying: ‘Put the cat to sleep. Put the cat to sleep.’

“My business has not been good for a long time and I haven’t had the funds to take my cats to the vet like I used to.  I used to be able to spend thousands of dollars on my cats and it wasn’t a problem.  It was great for my heart. But right now it’s a problem: do I want to pay my rent or take my cat to the hospital?

The staff at Crenshaw Animal Hospital and Cat Clinic suggested seeking help from Angel Fund.  And a grant was quickly arranged.  The fund contributed $500 and so did the hospital.

After the surgery, Critter soon recovered.  But he lived indoors and no longer spent much time outside, Henderson said. “He got around pretty good on three legs and then all of sudden one day he got real sick” and had to be put down.  But the surgery – and Angel Fund – had added more than a year to his life.

Love for Daisy

Daisy AF 4.2014 Nieto

In January, 2013, Jesse and Vanessa Nieto’s pit bull, Daisy, was not doing well. She lost weight and stopped eating. Jesse had lost his job because of the recession, but they took the dog to All Pets Medical & Surgical Center in Phillips Ranch.

“They gave her all kinds of tests and x-rays,” Jesse recalled, and decided that she need pyometra surgery. “But we didn’t have the money for it. There were a lot of things going on in my life. My wife and I were struggling to pay our bills.  I got really scared and I did not want to have to deal with something like that.”

Dr. Charles Mintzer and his staff suggested Angel Fund, which provided $500, as did the hospital, to help pay for Daisy’s surgery.  Jesse and Vanessa were grateful for the help.  After the operation, they took Daisy home but she still was not doing well. “Every day she just seemed to get worse and worse,” Jesse said. “The doctor did the best he could and I really appreciated what he did and what everyone did who helped.  Toward the end, Daisy was just lying down, suffering.  And the doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. So I finally made the decision to put her to sleep. My wife and I cried. We don’t have children and we don’t see our dogs as children, either.  I know a lot of people who do that. But we really loved Daisy.”

The Nietos have another pit bull, a male named Blue, who was close to Daisy. Jesse’s first dog, Scrappy, also was a pit bull.  “I’ve always had pit bulls,” he said. “Regardless of what some people say, they can be trained to be the nicest, most fulfilling, loyal dogs.  I never had a bad experience with them.  I’m a guy who was given a second chance by society.  I spent three years in prison because of a lot of poor choices I made when I was young. And I don’t like people getting a bad reputation – because people can change. And dogs shouldn’t be given a bad reputation, either, because a dog is going to be whatever you want it to be.  It all has to do with the way you train a dog.  And that’s why I’m always willing to give dogs a chance that some other people won’t.”

Jesse remembered the warm welcome he got from his first dog after being in prison for three years.  And, he said, “I ended up turning my life around. I became a Christian. I said: ‘You know what? I ruined the first part of my life and I don’t need to ruin the rest of it.’  If you really want to, you can straighten out your life and you can be a successful member of society, which I am now.”

Daisy lived only about two months after her surgery. “When I told Dr. Mintzer that I was ready to put her to sleep, he told me: ‘You did the best you could and we did the best we could. The best thing you can do is remember and enjoy the time you had with her.’”