Healthy Living

Can Dogs Detect Parkinson's Disease?

Can Dogs Detect Parkinson's Disease?

Key Takeaways

  • Dogs can have the ability to sniff out Parkinson’s disease years before the symptoms show up.
  • A woman from Scotland Perth stated that her husband had developed a particular odor. After six years of noticing the smell, her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. 
  • Some dog breeds with top smelling senses include the German Shepherd, Labrador and Beagle. 

Our dogs aren’t just pets nowadays. Aside from being the man’s best friend, dogs are also excellent partners in improving the medical field. Since the beginning of time, dogs are appreciated by their owners and animal lovers. Not only are they loyal to you, but they are also keen in so many aspects. Their sensitivity makes them great at feeling catastrophes in advance. A lot of cases proved that dogs can tell if an earthquake is about to happen. They can even pinpoint if a person emits danger. Recently, it’s been found out that a dog’s sensitive senses can benefit the medical world. Studies show that they are able to identify certain illnesses in advance with proper training; and one of these illnesses is Parkinson’s disease. How can dogs sense Parkinson’s disease? This is a question asked by people who are interested in getting dogs for this purpose. To know the latest findings, continue reading.

How Can Dogs Sense Parkinson Disease?

According to a recent news report from BBC UK, dogs can have the ability to sniff out Parkinson’s disease years before the symptoms show up. This can greatly improve our health in the future, and diseases such as this will be detected early enough to treat. Scientists can consider this as a legit method of identifying diseases like how dogs do it with cancer. The aim of the scientists is to seek out the specific odor molecules that come with Parkinson’s disease. In this way, the dogs can be trained to smell this specific odor.

This idea started when Joy Milne, a woman from Scotland Perth, stated that her husband had developed a particular odor. After six years of noticing the smell, her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Her sensitive sense of smell over her husband’s condition caused the researchers at the Manchester University to consider that Parkinson’s might contain a noticeable scent. Researchers got hold of Joy Milne and conducted a test. She was asked to smell several skin swabs from people with and without Parkinson’s. Surprisingly, she was able to recognize the disease through her strong sense of smell. She was even able to identify one skin swab from a participant who was not diagnosed with Parkinson’s yet. Joy Milne was considered a breakthrough; then several tests made were promising because of the possibility of the disease to be found out earlier without the telltale symptoms. Joy Milne was considered a “super-sniffer,” but people like her are hard to get by. Because dogs are used today to detect cancer, researchers now welcome the idea of them identifying Parkinson’s as well. Today, Manchester University and the Medical Detection Dogs have collaborated to find out more about this possibility.

The Potential of Dogs

As mentioned by the Medical Detection Dogs, the olfactory system is the most major sense of a dog. It is sensitive even to the most subtle smells and efficient in terms of consistency. Approximately, a part of a dog’s brain that is dedicated to examining smells is forty times bigger than that of a human. They deemed that dogs have the potential to find out human diseases in an even wider scope; though this idea is still in its early stages, research and studies are consistent as ever. As long as they can get an odor from a disease, then dogs can be used to save lives.     

Unlike us, dogs have more smell receptors. Over our meager 5 million receptors, dogs have 300 million in them. This makes them a top-grade bio-sensor. With invested time and effort to uncover their potential, we can work hand in hand with these amazing animals. Parkinson’s is a detrimental disease that can hamper a person’s day-to-day life. However, if detected at an earlier stage, a person’s quality of life may be enhanced.

The Prevalence of this Disease

The statistics done by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation tell us that there are over a million of Americans affected by this. Every year, it is estimated that there are 60,000 Americans being diagnosed, and this does not include those that are undetected. Worldwide, there are 10 million people who are now living with a disease. This causes the brain of the affected individuals to deteriorate, which leaves them struggling to speak or move.

Currently, there are no means of finding out this disease at an early stage. This can only be evident when more or half of the brain cells are already damaged. This means that people will be devoid of any treatment and prevention until they are severely struck with this silent disease.

Current Studies on How can Dogs Sense Parkinson’s Disease

Recently, researchers have been in a stage wherein they are honing the chemical indicators of Parkinson’s. A Cocker Spaniel and two Labradors will be tasked to work on 700 swabs from random people. With a spectrometer, the sample swabs are split into its several component molecules. This way, the researchers can let the dogs scrutinize the main chemical indicator of Parkinson’s.

Dr. Beckie Port from the Parkinson’s UK, the one who’s funding the study, mentioned that Parkinson’s is a disease that is difficult to detect as there are no current methods of diagnostic testing. Pinpointing a particular odor that is connected to Parkinson’s will definitely have an essential effect on our society today. This improvement could slow down the disease or even find a successful cure for it.

Top Ten Dogs with the Best Sense of Smell

While there is still no news about the ideal type of dog being used to sniff out Parkinson’s, here is a list of the best breeds in the world:

  1. Bloodhound – They are famous for their ability to do air scent which makes them an ideal trailing dog. They are one of the best breeds that have the highest smell receptors. They are great for tracking and are even used in the court to identify perpetrators.
  2. Basset Hound – With their short feet and their head low on the ground, they can a follow a scent trail accurately.
  3. Beagle – They are popular in both hunting and inspection services like the military of the police. Although the smallest in the family of hounds, the beagle is not only an adorable partner but an effective one as well.
  4. German Shepherd – They are usually partnered by police and the military. They are also great during rescues since they can smell a human’s scent through the wind.
  5. Labradors – Aside from being the most popular breed, they are also keen on any scent related situations. Because they are a lovable bunch, the scientists have no problem interacting with them.
  6. Belgian Malinois – This is an effective breed both in the police work and the medical field. They are not only good for identifying explosives, but they are also keen in finding out prostate cancer.
  7. English Springer Spaniel – A versatile dog that you can use for sniffing bombs, drugs, and even human remains.
  8. Coonhound – This breed has two types of scenting. Some coonhounds are hot-nosed while the others are cold-nosed. Hot-nosed are for fresh trails while cold-nosed for older ones.
  9. German Shorthair Pointer –They are excellent hunting trackers in the field.
  10. Pointer – These are admired by a lot of hunters for their ability to locate gaming birds.