Animals have a sixth sense. They know when there is danger, illness or even impending death. Dogs have a much more highly developed sense of smell than people do with 220 million times more ability to sense certain smells. In some cases, their nose can even detect cancer. Cats, also known for detecting diseases mysteriously, may also use their noses. However, sometimes, no explanation exists for the way some animals know about disease.
If sniffing is an art, then some dogs are indeed sniffing artists. In a report in the September 15, 2001 issue of the Lancet, a well-known medical journal which was started in 1823, an article on cancer sniffing dogs notes a story about one lucky master and her persistent dog.
Even though the woman with the sniffing dog knew she had a mole on her leg, she ignored it and was not the least bit concerned. That is until her relentless dog, half Doberman, half Border collie, refused to allow that behavior. The dog not only constantly sniffed at her mole, he even tried to bite it off once!
After many sniffs, nips and warnings from her furry friend, the woman decided to have a doctor look at it. After all, if Fido was concerned, maybe there was something there that she should be a concerned about too. The doctor confirmed her dog's diagnosis. This was no ordinary mole, but a malignant melanoma 1.86 mm thick. The doctors removed it. Her dog quit sniffing and everyone lived happily ever after.
This isn't the first and only case of animals finding cancer, nor will it be the last. In fact, because of that story, Dr. Cognetta and expert dog trainer, Duane Pickel, teamed to see if a trained dog could detect cancer. They used a bomb-detecting dog, George, a standard Schnauzer, to be the first trained cancer sniffer. He identified cancer on six out of seven skin cancer patients.
Cat's have an uncanny ability to know illness and disease as well. Almost everyone has heard of Oscar the hospice cat. The Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I. didn't adopt Oscar to identify or comfort the dying patients; it just turned out that way. Oscar makes his rounds and regardless of the doctor's predictions, knows enough to snuggle with the patient in the last hour or two of life. His predictions are early enough that the staff has time to contact the family.
Some people believe that Oscar's ability also stems from his sense of smell. However, how does he know to comfort the patient in their last hours? Animals, particularly cats and dogs, often seem like they are angels sent to protect. Judy Danchura believes this is true.
Ms. Danchura found a stray outside her home and decided that she would give it a plate of food. However, that one kind act led to an abrupt awakening at 3 a.m. when the cat howled loudly outside her door. She let it in, readied the home with a litter box and hoped to get a good night sleep now that the cat was inside the house.
But Sumo, the stray's new name, wanted more. He climbed into her bed and stepped onto her body. As he stepped on her breast, she noted there was unusual pain and realized she had a problem. After a doctor's visit and many tests, it seems her furry angel alerted her of breast cancer. The early alert improved her chances of survival to 95 percent. Did Sumo appear at Danchura's home on a mission? Or, was the cat's arrival simply a fortunate turn of events? No one will ever know for sure. What they do know is that Sumo now has a permanent home with a grateful owner.
Photo Credit: CarulMare