Dr. Bow-Wow Friday, Aug 1 2014 

If you are concerned that you may have cancer, see a dog. Several studies are underway with dogs sniffing out cancers. Some of these studies are federally funded, and they come with great hope for early detection.

The University of Pennsylvania researchers say results are 90% successful in identifying the scent of ovarian cancer in tissue samples. Currently, there are no other effective tests for early detection. The dogs also are used in detecting prostate cancer in urine samples with 98% accuracy, where the traditional PSA test gives a high percentage of false positives.

Dogs are long recognized for their acute sense of smell. They have 220 million olfactory cells in their noses compared with 50 million in humans. The studies found that dogs detect chemicals emitted by tumors referred to as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Whether some types of dogs are better than others at detection is still unclear.

The findings of these studies may open up possibilities of use with breath samples to find breast, colon, and lung cancers. There also may be the ability to copy this type of detection with a machine or chemical test. Researches are finding much hope from what they are learning from man’s best friend.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Who Loves You? Thursday, Nov 7 2013 

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No human will love you 100%, 100% of the time. But your dog will.

There is a reason – actually many reasons – why dogs are called “Man’s best friend.” They are known for their affection, loyalty, and assistance. They’re always happy to see us and they don’t care about wrinkles, body odor, or the stupid things we do.

Some of us go way over the top in our doggie devotion showering them with lavish treats and comforts few humans receive. Others barely acknowledge their presence. Still, our four-legged friends stand beside us.

Pets can teach children about responsibility, offer comfort to the elderly, and enhance family activities. They can be quite calming and entertaining. Petting a dog is known to lower blood pressure and ease tension.

When trained to serve, dogs can relieve anxiety, guide the visually and hearing impaired, retrieve objects and turn off light switches for owners with physical disabilities, and promote interaction with others for people with social anxieties. They even can be taught to test breath for low blood sugar.

Some consideration should be taken when selecting the perfect pet. Large dogs require more personal space and food and are harder to control on a leash. On the other hand, their bark and size intimidates intruders and they make great camping, fishing, and hiking buddies.

Small dogs require little space or food. They are easily transported, can be carried in a bag, and snuggle comfortably on our lap. They also can be injured more easily and do not offer much protection.

The temperament of the breed is an important factor to keep in mind. Some, such as retrievers and labs tend to work well with families.

Large or small, dogs are animals and may react unexpectedly if alarmed. They should never be left alone with small children. Even dogs known to be affectionate have severely harmed children in their own family. Owning a dog also will impact your choice of home and may limit your ability to acquire homeowner’s insurance.

Regardless of breed or size, dogs are living creatures and need care and proper training. It doesn’t make sense to own a dog if there is little interaction with it or it’s left alone for extensive periods of time. They are social beings and need love and attention in return.

(The fabulous photo of Tyler and Lois is by the talented Aurelie (Ellie) Cannella)

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Our Favorite House Guest Thursday, Jun 28 2012 

My sister has a practice of warmly welcoming guests by placing fresh-cut flowers in their room prior their arrival. She teases that as the flowers fade so does the guest’s welcome. Hopefully they are on their way back home before the flowers die.

Periodically we have a guest in our home whose welcome never fades. Lois always is happy to see me, loves any food I serve, and looks at me when I talk to her like I am the most interesting person she’s ever met.

Lois is my son, Joe’s, affectionate, well-behaved and fun rescue dog. She is probably a mix of Rhodesian Ridge Back and Rottweiler. Whatever, she’s 100% lovable.

One of my favorite memories of Lois is from Thanksgiving, 2010. We had our usual dinner party of 30+ people and Lois played hard all day. At the end of the evening my husband and I stood in the foyer saying our good-byes, and of course Lois didn’t want to miss out on anything, so she was right there with us. But she was exhausted. She was so tired in fact that she fell asleep with her head on my husband’s foot right in the middle of everyone.

Lois demonstrates why we love our pets so much. How can we not love something that loves us back unconditionally? No matter how crabby we are, our dogs stand by us, quickly forgiving and forgetting any ill behavior on our part. And when we are sick, they comfort and help heal us better than any medicine. Most of the time they just make us happy.

If only people were more like dogs.

©Mary K. Doyle

(Photo of Lois curtesey of Erin Lukasiewicz)

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