London - Not only are they our favourite pet, but dogs are now being used to diagnose conditions and even recognise dangerous symptoms. So if you thought Pudsey’s dancing on Britain’s Got Talent was impressive, read on for the wonderful ways a pooch can help your health…
Diabetes alert dogs are being used to alert type 1 diabetics that their blood sugar is too low and they are at risk of a dangerous “hypo”. This can happen through not eating enough or from accidentally taking too much insulin, but some diabetics might not notice the warning signs, such as going pale and feeling shaky. Without treatment they may lose consciousness.
A diabetes alert dog can detect a change in body odour that can indicate low blood sugar, says Dr Claire Guest, of the charity Medical Detection Dogs. “We train our dogs to lick, nudge and stare at someone having a hypo, to make sure the person knows they should fetch their medical kit.”
Dogs have been found to reduce anxiety and aggressive behaviour in children with autism within a matter of weeks. Dogs for the Disabled has a free scheme that helps train the family dog to help with an autistic child. ‘”e do things like teach the dog to put their head in the child’s lap, which calms them down when they are distressed,” says Joel Young, of the charity. They also help on outings when autistic children can sometimes wander off.
In the US, a charity called Paws for Comfort uses a dog breed called Xoloitzcuintli, also known as the Mexican hairless or Xolo, to help people with chronic pain brought on by conditions such as fibromyalgia.
All dogs have a naturally high body temperature, but as the Xolo is virtually hairless it feels hotter to the touch. When these dogs snuggle up to their owners, their body warmth provides relief similar to that provided by a heating pad.
Labradors and retrievers are being trained to prompt people with dementia to eat at mealtimes, take medicine, and take rest and sleep when needed. A study published recently in the Western Journal of Nursing Research found having a residential dog had helped reduce agitation in Alzheimer’s patients and boosted social interaction.
Astonishingly, dogs can be trained to act as a warning system when someone is about to have a seizure. They can give as much as 40 minutes’ notice - plenty of time for someone to take medication to prevent the seizure or to get help. It is thought that dogs smell chemical changes in the body that take place before a seizure.
Some dogs are trained to lie down next to the person having the seizure to stop them from moving and hurting themselves, or they may go and get help.
Narcolepsy affects around 25,000 people in Britain and causes sufferers suddenly to fall asleep as they go about their everyday routine. Theo, a cocker spaniel from Chadwell, Essex, has become the first dog in the world to be trained to wake up his owner, teenager Kelly Sears, when she has a sleeping fit. He licks and nudges her until she comes to - and if he is unable to wake her will go and seek help. He is also learning to pick up on a change to Kelly’s scent when an attack is imminent, so she can sit down. - Daily Mail