Healthy Living

Dogs Being Trained to Sniff Out the Early Signs Parkinson's Disease

Dogs Being Trained to Sniff Out the Early Signs Parkinson's Disease

As of right now, there are no early warning signs for Parkinson's disease. Most people that have Parkinson's only find out after they’ve experienced tremors and excessive muscle twitching that may lead to an increase in clumsiness, such as tripping, increased falling and the inability to grasp or let go of objects. Because the symptoms can be written off easily as just general clumsiness or the byproduct of fatigue, many patients do not realize they have the disease until it has progressed significantly. But what if there were a way to detect the disease before it strikes?

The added time that could be gained from early detection would undoubtedly allow for better therapies and treatment protocols to be put into place so that patients are better able to prepare and cope with the disease.

This may be happening right no. Over the past few years, there have been programs to train dogs to sniff out the disease, sometimes before it starts to show symptoms. As of now, they have an over ninety percent success rate.  Based on San Juan Island Washington, the program is an offshoot of a study conducted at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where a woman Jody Milne is said to have been able to detect Parkinson's on her husband before he had even been diagnosed.

Researchers found that Mrs. Milne was able to detect what she referred to as the oily odor of Parkinson's around the neck and back of a shirt, and was better able to detect it when the shirt was made of one hundred percent cotton. Milne detected the disease in six members of a twelve member group of participants where six had varying degrees of Parkinson's, with the additional six being the control group. She also detected the scent on the shirt of one member of the control group that was diagnosed with the disease eight months later.

Currently the human body’s skin secretions are made up of over nine thousand molecules, making it difficult for researchers to pinpoint the particular odor that Milne refers to as the Parkinson's scent. The program creators in the US thought if a human can detect Parkinson's with that degree of accuracy, then a dog, whose olfactory senses are forty times that of a human so they would be able to do so with even greater accuracy and much sooner. 

The dogs that are being trained to sniff out Parkinson's, along with their handlers, are dogs that have already been trained in some scent work to sniff out other substances. In conjunction with various medical facilities, a pilot program has been launched and has now gone from a small endeavor to one that is gaining community traction.