Animal Caregivers: Cat & Dogs Can Predict Cancer and Disease?
While some people may think of pets simply as companions or playthings, it is coming to the forefront that pets are and can be so much more. My cat, who has been with me for 13 years now, has shown caregiver tendencies. What do I mean by that?
The cat sleeps with me when she chooses to. The interesting thing is that she chooses to do so when I am in need of healing. If I am having digestive upsets, she cuddles in real tight against my stomach. When I have a headache, she sleeps up by my head. If my back hurts, there she is tucked up against my spine. If I'm feeling completely fine, she sleeps at the foot of the bed, or anywhere else in the house. When my husband is the one in need of healing, she will meander over to him and, if he lets her, will share her healing powers with him as well.
There are numerous other instances of pets assisting in the healing process, and also of not only identifying that there is a problem but being a predictor of death.
Oscar the cat knows when the patients on the dementia ward are about to die
There is the cat Oscar who resides on the dementia unit in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence. When a patient is hours away from dying, he will wander into their room, and if they allow it, he will hop up on the bed and snuggle up to them in their last hours.
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"He's a cat with an uncanny instinct for death," said Dr. David M. Dosa, assistant professor at the Brown University School of Medicine and a geriatric specialist." He attends deaths. He's pretty insistent on it." So much so that caregivers on the ward, as soon as they see Oscar hanging around in a patient's room, call the family to let them know that death is imminent.
Oscar makes his rounds daily but will never jump up to snuggle with a patient unless their time has come. And according to the the nurse in charge of the ward, "Oscar's been consistently right."
An article in the Boston Globe states, "Animal behavior experts have no explanation for Oscar's ability to sense imminent death. They theorize that he might detect some subtle change in metabolism -- felines are as acutely sensitive to smells as dogs -- but are stumped as to why he would show interest."
The Cat Who Identified her Owner's Breast Cancer
And then there's the kitten who wouldn't stop pouncing on a woman's breast as she lay on the couch -- a behavior the cat had not shown before. The woman who felt a soreness in her breast decided to visit her doctor. She was diagnosed with a cancerous pea-sized lump and started treatment immediately.
She said: "She saved my life, definitely. No hesitation at all. I was told that if I hadn't been diagnosed when I was I could have died..."
Dog & Mice Diagnose Cancer with 91% to 99% Accuracy
Scientists at the Kyushu University in Japan have studied a Labrador retriever who has a 95% - 98% accuracy in detecting cancer. According to an article in US News: "A graduate of the St. Sugar Cancer-Sniffing Dog Training Center in Chiba, Japan, the dog was initially trained for water rescue and could already detect 12 types of cancer in patients' breath samples before she joined the colorectal cancer study, the researchers said."
Research has also been done in mice and the same ability has been discovered. Animals are able to identify the presence of cancer sometimes before machines can. A diabetic caller on an NPR radio show shared the story of his MedicAlert dog alerting him to his low-blood sugar even before there were any outward signals.
Training Dogs for Early Detection of Cancer
Various other researchers have concurred with the findings of the Japanese. A study in Sweden has stated that a characteristic odor in the blood reveals ovarian carcinoma. And referring to a study done in Belgium, an article at EuropeanUrology.com is entitled "Olfactory Detection of Prostate Cancer by Dogs Sniffing Urine: A Step Forward in Early Diagnosis".
An organization outside of Ottawa, Canada, CancerDogs.ca, is currently training dogs to detect cancer. They are looking for volunteers who have just been diagnosed with cancer -- and have not yet started treatment -- to participate in a trial study. If you qualify and if you live in Canada or the USA, you can call them at 819-209-9460 and they will send you a test kit by mail.
Extra reading on this topic
Read the Boston Globe article about Oscar the cat.
Read the US News article about Marine, the Japanese cancer-sniffing dog.
Video of actual cancer detection dog's training in Canada
Watch David Dosa, MD, as he explains the incredible intuition of the cat Oscar
Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat
by David Dosa.
The story of a doctor who, at first, doesn't always listen; of the patients he serves; of their caregivers; and, most importantly, of a cat who teaches by example, embracing moments of life that so many of us shy away from.
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.